The temperature is still rising on app-controlled home heating, so we discovered how easy and rewarding it is to get your boiler online with Hive Active Heating
Everything you need to know
- Control your home heating and hot water from your phone
- Costs £249 (including installation)
- Easy to set up and requires WiFi
- Great for easily setting heating schedules and tracking your heating use
- Should save money in the long term by reducing heating costs
There are two kinds of people in life: those who understand the workings of heating timers, and those who do not (or just can’t be bothered). Even when they take the form of a click-y in and out-y wheel mounted on a wall somewhere, they’re fiddly and not the most user-friendly of inventions ever invented.
But British Gas’ Hive system has revolutionised the way we heat our homes – there, with the tap of an app, we are in full control of the temperature like an overlord of heating. Since its original launch, Hive has introduced a new fancy thermostat and a range of add-on products.
What’s in the Hive Active Heating box
There’s a hub, a wireless thermostat and a receiver, which will replace the existing timer on your boiler. Together they act like one small but highly effective happy family, communicating with each other wirelessly. An engineer will install all three elements for you, with this taking around 30 minutes at most. The hub needs a wired connection to your internet router, and should be placed near a plug as it needs a power supply too. The thermostat takes two AA batteries, which tend to last about 12 months.
The only thing left to do is set up your log in (there will be a unique reference on the bottom of your hub) and download the Hive app. But don’t worry if any problems do arise or you get a bit muddled, as there’s a dedicated Hive customer service team available who are friendly, knowledgeable and there to troubleshoot and will talk you through any issues.
The Hive heating app
The Hive app is free to download and very simple to use, and it’s undergone a smart-looking revamp in the past month. Both Android and iPhone interfaces are for all intents and purposes the same. Once logged in, there are two different icons for heating and hot water, and within these there are several options – including setting weekly schedules for when you’d most like heating or hot water, options to have a manual boost of hot water for anything from 30 minutes to a few hours, and to view the current temperature inside your house and manually turn it on.
You can also log in to the Hive site from your laptop to control. If for some reason you can’t get online, there’s an option of texting your Hive and giving it instructions.
Hive has its sights locked on a smart home takeover, as those sights go far beyond just heating alone. This year they have launched motion sensors, smart plugs and lightbulbs available as add-ons to the original Hive system. Each additional product is easy to set up, and is controlled from the app dashboard on your phone or tablet. They’re also available as stand-alone items from the heating system, but all need to be connected to a Hive hub.
The novelty of being able to check the temperature in your home, turn on the heat (or hot water) remotely doesn’t get old. Bets are, you’ll turn into the type of person who whips out their phone to turn on the hot water to impress people down the pub, just because you can. It’s something that both at once appeals to the show offs and the lazy – the only thing better than switching on your radiators from your phone is turning off lights without having to get out of bed. It’s a wonderful feeling.
Living with Hive
Real User: Keith Walker
Lives: In a Georgian house in Surrey
Works: Full time
What were your first impressions?
The team from British Gas arrived to set up the Hive kit on time, and it took about half an hour to connect to our wi fi router in the living room and the boiler (which is in the loft). I’d downloaded the Hive app from the App Store and played with the in-app demo mode. So once the hardware was in place and switched on it took less than ten seconds to connect the app to the boiler and start using it.
What didn’t work?
Connectivity inside and outside our home has been good. We’ve been using the system for about 18 months and the only time we’ve had issues is when our ISP (Virgin Media) drops the internet connection to our house. This has occurred three times in the last year and a half – but when it does, we have to reboot the Virgin router (turn it off and on again – which you can only do if you’re in the house). The only time this was an issue was in Jan when we were on holiday and couldn’t heat the house up ahead of our return.
What did work?
We have a combi boiler that supplies hot water on demand – so we use Hive for controlling the heating. The biggest benefit for us is the ability to have a schedule that changes either on demand, or by day of the week – so we can now program the heating to come on 30 mins before we get up for work, but later on a weekend. Previously it was on a thermostat and the radiators were always at a constant temp – even when we were asleep. My wife and I both love the convenience of having the Hive app on multiple devices (couple of iPads and each of our phones). I also value the push messages I get when I’m about 250m from home saying things like “You’ve left the heating on, but are leaving home, would you like to turn it off?”
Based on my positive experience with the thermostat I’ve recently invested in three ‘smart light bulbs’ that can also be controlled by the Hive app. Hive is an excellent gateway product to try out the advantages of smart-living in my opinion.
words and pictures by Jen Crothers