The best smart thermostats may not be the most exciting bits of kit, but right now as I watch my energy prices go further into orbit than one of Elon Musk's rockets I'm extremely glad I've got one. What started off as a minor upgrade has turned out to be a major money saver.
If you're not familiar with the likes of Hive, Tado and Nest and the many other smart thermostat systems, they all do much the same thing: they connect to your heating system and in some cases cooling systems too and they make it more efficient. They do that in various ways: by making it much easier to control your heating times and temperatures, by using your phone to work out if you're home or away, and in some cases by learning your routines and programming the heating accordingly.
Here are three ways my smart thermostat is helping me with the cost of living crisis.
1. It gives me much more control
The heating system in my flat didn't even have a thermostat; instead, it had a simple programmer on the boiler that I could use to program two or three heating times a day. I couldn't control the temperature unless I actually went over to the boiler and turned a rotary control; if I wanted to change it back I had to do the same in reverse.
My smart thermostat is much more flexible. I can set different temperatures for different times and I'm not limited to three programs per day; programming is also extremely quick so it's no hassle to create quite complex heating programmes that ensure the heating is on when it needs to be and off when I'm due to be somewhere else. Less time heating means less money spent.
2. It knows when it's too hot
My initial lack of thermostat meant my home was always either too hot or too cold. Having any kind of thermostat, smart or not, cuts the heating when it gets hot enough and turns it on when it gets too cold, ensuring that you stay toasty without heating rooms that are already hot. And some smart thermostats can do even better: with motion sensors or location services in your phone, they can detect whether or not you're home, heading out or coming back: if you're out, then that overrides the heating sensors so you don't spend money heating an empty home. And in winter it's nice to have the heating warm your home in time for your arrival.
3. It can talk to my radiators
Like many smart thermostats, my Hive also works with smart radiator valves. In many homes that can make a serious dent in your heating bills, because with traditional heating systems you only have manual controls on your radiators; if you're like me you probably set them and forget them. That means you're often heating rooms where nobody actually is, so for example when I'm working during the day the only room that actually needs heated is my front room, because that's where me and the dog are. Smart radiator valves mean empty rooms aren't using energy.
I'll be honest: this one is a "will help me beat the cost of living crisis" because I haven't bought the bits yet. But it's definitely on my to-do list before autumn.
I'm a bit of an evangelist for smart thermostats: mine has saved me a packet in the year-plus it's been here, not least because my previous boiler wasn't very energy efficient so even small reductions in energy use were very obvious in my bills. But even now my landlord's fitted a less ravenous heating system my smart thermostat continues to save me money. Not bad for something that only cost around £200 including installation.