Like everyone else, I'm slightly panicking about the cost of energy – but I'm very glad that last year, I upgraded to one of the best smart thermostats. I live in a rental and until I went down the Hive route I didn't have a thermostat at all; just a programmable boiler with a very basic set of programming features. My Hive has massively reduced my energy usage.
So I'm absolutely sold on smart thermostats, but after many months with my Hive there are a few things I wish I'd known in advance. So here are the five things I wish I'd known before I got a Hive thermostat.
1. Not everyone knows how to install it
When I originally got my Hive, I got British Gas to install it – but even that was a bit complicated because my boiler was quite old and the engineer wasn't entirely sure if the Hive would work with it, so there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing before I was able to get it installed. And earlier this year the boiler failed, and when it was replaced the independent boiler engineer was adamant that Hive wouldn't work with the new one. He was wrong – my Hive is happily talking to it right now – but it's clear that when it comes to smart home stuff, there's still a fair bit of confusion out there among tradespeople.
It's also worth noting that Hive works with a smaller range of devices than some rivals, some of which can control a range of aircon, heat pumps and biomass boilers.
2. Notifications will drive you up the wall
One of the things I thought I'd like about my Hive is geofencing: turn the heating off when I go out and on when I'm heading home. But in practice it felt like my boiler had become needy, so if I nipped out to the shops for five minutes my watch would ping with a notification telling me that my boiler was missing me already.
And that was before I got a dog, a greyhound who needs the house to be warm even when I'm nipping out for bread and milk. So geofencing is something I just don't use any more.
3. It works with HomeKit
This is an important one, because not all smart thermostats work with Apple's home ecosystem – and as an Apple Watch-wearing, iPhone-packing, Siri-commanding Apple user that's a deal-breaker for me. Prior to 2020 Hive didn't work with HomeKit, but that year's Hive Hub added compatibility so my heating is right there in my Apple Home app.
That's important because the Hive app is only interested in Hive products and Hue bulbs; if you want to control any other smart home kit you can't do it from the Hive app. And as someone with multiple smart home things that's a hassle: I want one app and one digital assistant to control everything. Hive's HomeKit support enables me to have exactly that.
4. It's not as smart as a Nest
Google's Nest Smart Thermostat can learn your habits and adjust your heating schedule accordingly, and it can also tell whether you're home or not based on motion detection – so for example my dog's zoomies would tell it that while I'm out, my dog isn't. Hive doesn't have those features.
5. Some features require a subscription
Your Hive smart thermostat can warn you of unusual heating changes, suggest changes to your schedule that would save you money, create a monthly energy budget and provide detailed overviews of your energy spending, but only if you subscribe to Hive Heating Plus for £3.99 a month. That seems like unnecessary penny pinching to me given that the money simply unlocks features the app already has.