We installed a Homekit-compatible Netatmo Thermostat and Weather Station in the home of a real UK user to find out how it changed her daily life. Jim Hill reports...
The Netatmo Thermostat is an appealingly simple way to turn your boiler on and off by using either an app on your phone, or the stylish smart thermostat itself.
The Philipe Stark-designed device looks equally elegant mounted on the wall, or freestanding and although this Perspex box cannot quite match the tactile appeal of Nest’s Thermostat, Stark has imbued it with a charm of its own and he’s managed to do it at a significantly lower price point.
Netatmo Homekit integration
And as we discovered, when we installed one in the home of a real user, it’s also surprisingly easy to set up and operate, especially now that integration with HomeKit adds Siri voice recognition (as well as iPhone and iPad control). Yes, that means you can simply ask your Apple Watch what the temperature is at home and tell Siri to change it for you.
Netatmo also has a range of metrological measuring devices for tracking the weather in your own back garden and they all report back to the Weather Station. We’ve included this device because it also communicates with the Netatmo Thermostat and actually helps it set your indoor temperature.
How does it do this? It takes a certain amount of time for a thermostat to bring a house up to the desired temperature and that amount of time depends partly on the outside air temperature. By taking that temperature both inside and outside your home, the thermostat can calculate the ‘thermal inertia’ accurately and heat your rooms up to the desired temperature at the desired time, rather than some time later.
Even without a Netatmo Thermostat, the Weather Station and its accessories, the Wind and Rain gauges, are lots of fun in their own right and especially useful for gardeners. They certainly give you a very detailed and very local weather report, with plenty of graphical information that you can scroll back through on your iPad, or Android device. For now though, let’s concentrate on the Thermostat.
Can I install the Netatmo Thermostat myself?
Fitting a Netatmo Thermostat to a regular combi boiler is straightforward and doesn’t necessarily require a professional install. As with the Nest Thermostat, the trickiest part is locating the terminals in your boiler’s control panel. But once the relay box is wired in, the Netatmo app can help you get your thermostat and relay box connected to each other by RF (radio frequency) and to your wi-fi network.
The battery-powered Thermostat comes with both a wall-mounting bracket and a rear panel that turns it into a freestanding cube that you can carry around with you. However, the RF connection means you can’t roam very far before going out of range. So if you’re in a far-flung room, you might need to use the app on your phone to change the temperature instead.
How do I connect the Thermostat to the Netatmo Weather Station?
Setting up the Weather Station is a case of installing batteries and connecting both the indoor and outdoor modules to your home network. Again, it’s the Netatmo app that help you here. When they pop up in your list of wireless devices on your phone, your modules will be able to communicate and feed their findings back to the app.
And so long as you register the Thermostat and the Weather Station to the same account, the two will be able to communicate and adjust the heating algorithm accordingly.
The two Weather Station modules measure temperature and air quality, but you can add more sensors to the app very easily. In this case, a Wind Gauge and a Rain Gauge add data to fill out the weather app, although these two don’t actually affect the thermostat.
How can I operate the Netatmo Thermostat?
To turn up the thermostat, you can either tap the top, or bottom of the thermostat itself to raise, or lower the temperature. The simple display tells you at a glance the actual temperature and the desired temperature. And if you’re in another room, or away from home, you can open the app on your phone to adjust the temperature in exactly the same way.
And being a HomeKit-based system, you can also use Siri to send spoken commands to your thermostat via your iPhone, or even your Apple Watch if you install a third party WatchOS app. You need to setup Siri first, but this is easily done by following the instructions given by the Netatmo iPhone app.
This done, you can tell your device to “turn the temperature to 20 degrees”, for example, and Siri will confirm your command and make the change. Spoken instructions only work when you are at home, on the same wi-fi network, unless you have an Apple TV. In this case, you can also issue commands from anywhere you have an internet connection.
Living with the Netatmo Thermostat – is it any good?
Clare has been using a Netatmo Thermostat and Weather Station to control the heat in her three-bedroom house and we asked her how she has been getting on.
- Name: Clare
- Age: 40
- Job: Surveyor
- Lives: South London
- House: Three bed Victorian Terrace
Why did you choose the Netatmo Thermostat?
“When my old thermostat stopped working, I decided to get a smart thermostat, so that I could use my phone to change the temperature and check on my heating when I’m away. The Netatmo looked like the best value because I can fit it myself and I like the way you can choose the colour to suit your décor. It’s an attractive design.”
How was the installation?
“We managed to fit it ourselves once we had worked out where to attach the wires to our boiler. There’s really no need to hire a professional. The rest was easy because you’re just following instructions given by the Netatmo app.”
Do you find it easy to use?
“The thermostat controls couldn’t be simpler: press up to heat up and down to cool down, but I guess that was the same as our old thermostat. What is easier is setting up a weekly schedule thanks to the app. It will set up a schedule for you when you answer a few questions about your lifestyle, so that takes literally a minute or so.
“We run the app on an iPad, where it’s easy to then change the schedule by nudging the times and temperatures to suit us a bit better. Setting the timer on our old dial thermostat was a nightmare and we never really worked out how to do it.”
Did you use the Netatmo Weather Station?
“The weather gauges in the app that brings all the information together is fascinating. I love to see how much rainfall we’ve had and watch the temperature outside rising gradually as we head toward summer. It doesn’t have any noticeable impact on the thermostat, but I understand that it makes the boiler heat our house up faster when its colder outside.”
Do you use the extra features, like Siri?
“We use the app on our iPhones more than the actual thermostat but it’s mainly just to check the temperature and turn it up or down. Sometimes we like to look at the graphs the app generates on the iPad to see how our boiler usage has changed over the week, but I wouldn’t say that it’s particularly useful.
“Asking Siri ‘What’s the temperature?’ made us laugh the first few times and it’s clever when it works, but just as often it doesn’t and you feel like an idiot for trying to talk to your boiler. It’s just a novelty and we tend not to use Siri any more.”
Has Netatmo saved you any money on your bills?
“It’s too early to see any difference, but I’m pretty sure we have the heating on less now because now we can check that it is switched off when we’re away. It’s so easy to control now, that we find we’re always tinkering with the temperature. It’s actually quite fun to use.”
Netatmo Thermostat key features
- Wireless thermostat controls
- Android/iOS/Windows app control
- Energy consumption data available in graph form
- Compatible with HomeKit and Siri voice commands
- Price £149.95 johnlewis.com