22 September 2014

REVIEW: Lightwave RF Automated Home Heating

Battle winter with your phone.

It's great to return to a product line we've reviewed in the past, especially one we loved so much the first time round that we still use it today in Test Pit Towers. As our first review of the Lightwave RF Home Automation System shows, this is an incredible line of products that weigh in at very attractive prices. The good news is that Lightwave has also branched out into controlling our home's heating systems; a welcome addition considering how cold it is around here.

The new heating devices from Lightwave include wireless thermostats, boiler control switches and remote control radiator valves. These three new additions to the family can all controlled by the base unit, the Lightwave Link. This, just as it was with the plug sockets and light switches, is the brains of the operation and connects directly to your home router.  We were lucky enough to already have one of these from our previous review, so if you do want to automate your heating system you will first need one of these.

Check out the previous review for details of installing the Lightwave Link and operating it using the free Lightwave app (needless to say it is a total breeze), as we really want to focus on the new gadgets. First up we installed the boiler switch, the piece of tech that integrates into your existing traditional heating system.

It is here that we really ought to make it clear that is not a case of just 'plugging it it'. To properly connect the Lightwave Boiler switch you must first have at least a basic understanding of how your boiler works. In the instructions given by Lightwave it recommends you read your boiler's instruction manual and also that you know how to disconnect the electricity supply. At first we were pretty terrified at the prospect of opening up the boiler to find the right wires but, after reading (and re-reading) the manual from Lightwave, and accepting that this isn't as simple as setting up a new WiFi router, we got our heads around it. Remember, you are making what is essentially a complicated giant kettle compatible with the Internet, so be patient and be careful.

Once that task was complete, and the boiler switch was installed (positioned close by the boiler as it requires a wired connection) you're basically home. Now your heating system can be a controlled by the smartphone and tablet app, but as it is just a switch, switching it on and off is all you can do...  for now. For increased control you need a thermostat.

Lightwave's thermostat is a neat little package that runs on two AA batteries and can be wall mounted anywhere in range of your home's WiFi network. It can be programmed (both in person and via the app) with a weekly schedule for when you most need to be warm. What's also great is that as well as the standard everyday mode the thermostat also has a holiday mode, where the house can be left at a certain temperature for a few days, and frost mode, perfect for keeping pipes from freezing if you're vacating your property for a good long while. But of course while you're away all this can be set via the app and the mobile internet.

So, if you thought those two gadgets were enough to automate your heating, Lightwave have gone one step further. The remote radiator valves screw directly onto your existing radiators and allow you to control the heating in specific rooms and parts of your house. They are compatible with radiators with thermostatic valves, so basically any radiator that already allows you to raise and lower its temperature. Also powered by two AA batteries, the valves then connect via the app and let you set you switch the radiator on or off, and also create a timed schedule similar to what can be achieved with the thermostat. This is especially handy for programming a schedule of where you need heat in your house at a certain time of day, and once the programme is running (and if  you have a similar sort of day each day) you'll never need to even think about your heating controls.

In practice all these systems work very well together. We found that being able to remotely set and control your heating was more practical and useful than controlling lights and plug sockets. It was a real joy the morning after we had installed the system in the house and we woke to feel the first real pang of autumn. As no schedule was yet set, and as the boiler was allllll the way downstairs in the freezing kitchen, we really appreciated being able to open up the Lightwave app and instantly switch on the heating.

Obviously after that we set a timetable of heating to suit our day and, as the days passed, we tweaked this to get it right. What makes the connected system great is that this tweaking was done with a full-screen app more similar to a schedule for a security camera, with it actually showing the days and time you need. Gone are the days of the annoyingly dark LCD displays on your boiler which require you to learn another language to set. As we said, once you have the boiler switch installed the whole system is as simple as jabbing at a very well laid-out app.

It seems that Lightwave RF are trying to get into every nook and cranny of our home to automate it, and if this heating system (and the lighting and power systems we've reviewed previously) are anything to go by, they're very welcome at our place. There are other companies out there making similar products, but for us Lightwave RF stands out not just because they are a British company but because they seem to be able to deliver great results at surprising prices. We're definitely going to continue to keep an eye on them, and we have great hopes about future home automation products Lightwave RF will release.

Stay tuned.

Home Thermostat £74.99
Boiler Switch £74.99
Radiator Valve £49.99
Lightwave Link £69.95

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