One of the perks of being a tech journalist is that sometimes you get to try stuff out early. I was one of the first people in the country to try out the Tado wifi-powered thermostat. It might be tricky to remember now that connected thermostats are more common, but back in 2013, the technology was pretty mind-blowing, and subtly transformative.
I mean, after getting a Tado installed, I never had to leave my duvet until the house was sufficiently warm again. I was an instant convert to a tool that made it easier to be lazy.
Fast forward to last year then, when disaster struck. My partner and I moved house, and moved into a flat which, as part of our rental agreement meant - to my horror - we couldn’t screw about with the thermostat on the wall.
Much to my annoyance, we were transported back to the digital dark ages.
So I was delighted to learn that Tado hasn’t just been improving the main thermostat, but has also invented a new radiator attachment which lets you adjust the temperature on an individual basis in different rooms - and doesn’t require a central thermostat to work.
And brilliantly, Tado sent me a couple to try out.
How It Works
Essentially what the radiator thermostats do is replace the valve that you turn to control how much heat is blasted out. Instead of you having to mechanically turn the knob, the thermostat does it electronically. This means that you can use the app on your phone to fiddle with the temperature from anywhere in the world.
Built into the Tado valve is both a pleasingly-retro LED display, for showing you the current temperature, and also a physical control for adjusting the temperature - essentially a digital click-wheel that feels a bit like the manual valve it is replacing.
If it works, great! But the big challenge when it comes to setting up gadgets that interact with the fabric of your home is setting them up. Luckily, it turns out that setting up a radiator thermostat is much easier than messing with the central thermostat on the wall.
When I first tried to install the original Tado in 2013 I got as far as unscrewing the cover of my old thermostat before getting intimidated by the ambiguous wires and the mains electricity. Wisely, shortly after launch Tado decided to offer a home installation service.
Luckily, the radiator thermostats are significantly more straightforward, and can be done yourself as long as you don’t mind a few moments of low-level anxiety. The devices are powered by batteries, meaning they are low voltage, and I found attaching them to my radiators pretty straightforward.
It was simply a case of unscrewing the old valve, and screwing on both a small grey adapter and a new one. And then wiggling it about to make sure that it was on tightly. Smartly, because the Tado devices are battery powered, the radiator thermostat actually splits into two - so you can easily (but not too easily) detach them when you need to switch AA batteries (which should last you for a couple of years, so it shouldn’t be too annoying).
To fire ‘em up, you simply have to go to attach a wireless receiver unit to an ethernet port on your router, and then follow a step-by-step guide on the Tado website. The guide is pretty decent - and will interact with your hardware to check everything is in working order. So that it knows which hardware is yours, each unit comes with a unique ID number: Key this into the website and Tado will know what hardware is yours.
The most crucial moment is calibration. The instructions say to attach the Tado unit to the radiator cradle you’ve screwed in, and turn it to the right until you hear a click. I wouldn’t describe what I heard as a click, but eventually you should hear some mechanical whirring noises, as the device begins calibration.
This actually took me a few tries to get right: despite having screwed the device on, the setup was reporting errors. But after a a few goes at taking it off and putting on again, it kicked into life for both of the radiators I installed Tados on.
After a nervy start, the devices were working. So how did they perform?
At this point, I’d love to write a lengthy treatise on my experience with the Tado Smart Radiator valves but frankly the answer is simple: they just work.
Like the best IOT technology, once the Tado is set up, it just fades into the background. Your radiators will switch on at the right time of the morning, and switch off at the time you have scheduled too. Similarly, there are manual modes where you can set a specific temperature and the thermostat will stick to it.
Fundamentally, it runs on the same software as the normal Tado thermostats do - meaning that you can use some of the smarter functions if you wish, such as have the radiator valves only switch on when Tado detects that you’re travelling home. You can also hook your radiators up to IFTTT, for if you want to control your radiators based on trending hashtags or something.
Most importantly though, the Tado has made a tangible difference: once again, I no longer have to wake up in a flat that is too warm or too cool. So as far as I’m concerned, this makes the Tado Radiator Thermostat more than worth it.
The Tado Smart Radiator Thermostat starter kit, which contains units for two radiators and an internet bridge, is available now for £179.99.