16 December 2014


Warm thoughts.

Continuing our attempts to make Test Pit Towers the most modern and connected home this side of anything that Richard Branson owns, we turned to our boiler. Bless that thing; heating our water every day to keep us nice and toasty as we crash test remote controlled helicopters and sport the latest jumper from Norway... if only there was something we could get it, to show our appreciation. Fortunately the 'connected tech' AND 'present for your boiler' bases are aptly covered by British Gas with their new Hive Home Heating system.

For an idea of what Hive is, have a quick scan of our LightwaveRF Home Heating Automation System review because it is essentially the same; you can control, set and monitor your heating via a smartphone app. But whereas the Lightwave system very much left it up to you to install it yourself (which was... erm... tricky, to say the least) British Gas will pop round and sort it all out for you, no matter from where you buy your gas.

Although the process is expertly handled by a British Gas engineer and you never even have to touch the tech being installed, the Hive system comprises three physical parts; a receiver (which is installed into the boiler itself), a hub (which plugs directly into a spare Ethernet port on your wireless router), and a thermostat (which lives on your wall). Then there is the software which is a very pretty free app, available for both Android and iOS.

Once set up (and everything has been explained by the very nice engineer) everything to do with your heating system can be remotely controlled via the app, and by that we don't just mean when connected to the WiFi network. We discovered that there is no greater joy on earth during the winter than being able to put your heating up to full just before you arrive home on a cold night. And the app makes doing so a real pleasure.

Laid out with two main screens (current view and schedule) the Hive app allows you to physically spin up or down the main dial to select the temperature you would like your house to be. As you do this there is a great level of haptic feedback so it actually feels like spinning down or cranking up a physical thermostat.

Our Thermostat working away...

You can set the Hive on a flexible timetable, selecting at what temperature you would like it, and at what time. There is also the option to copy the selected day's timetable, allowing you to quickly set a schedule for the foreseeable future. Then you just sit back and let it all happen autonomously. Of course, should you actually be at home and passing the thermostat itself, or indeed if you phone is dead or missing down the back of the sofa, changing the temperature is a simple case of flicking the + or - buttons by hand and the system will immediately respond.

...and the hub hidden behind the WiFi router.
Having the Hive installed for just a week now has really made a difference. We've set a pretty accurate schedule for what we think we'll want for each day, and it seems to be working very well. But the main advantage to a system like this is that the schedule (which any old boiler with a timer could manage) can be altered effortlessly and from anywhere. Being able to do this is what home automation is all about, and the Hive is a very welcome addition to our increasingly high tech home.

£199 including installation

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