Home Services is a wing of Electric Ireland that does all sorts energy related stuff like insulation, draught proofing and boiler maintenance. Late last year, they were looking at adding a new heating control product called the Climote to their lineup, and they asked me if I’d have one installed, trial it for a while and review it.
I was a bit hesitant at first. I do plenty of reviews for bonkers.ie sure, but usually I look at personal finance products, utility tariffs, broadband and stuff like that. I’d never done a “gadget” review before, so I wasn’t too sure about starting with this Climote thing. I mean, how do you review a heating controller? And what if it wasn’t any good? Could I get them to take it away again and put my old controls back? And if it was good, could I keep it? And if I kept it, could I still write an independent review?
Anyway, I like to think of myself as a polite enough chap, and the folks at Electric Ireland seemed pretty enthusiastic about their new product, so I let them pitch it to me. They said it was a “smart” heating controller. It could handle loads of schedules. It could be operated over the internet. It had an iPhone app. It could even be operated with any old mobile phone. In its simplest form, they said, you could turn your heat on and off again with a quick text message from anywhere in the world.
Now before getting on with it, I should admit that the idea of being able to turn on my heat with a mobile phone is what really caught my attention. What Electric Ireland didn’t know at the time is that I live in an odd old house, and my heating controls were in an outdoor boiler shed. To boost the heat, someone had to pull the bolts and open the locks on two doors, then brave the elements and fumble with some switches (usually in the dark) just to get the heat going again. Being able to turn on the heat with a text message from inside the house sounded pretty good to me, so I told Electric Ireland to go right ahead and install the thing.
The Climote was installed without much fuss a few days later. The guy was nice, he was on time and he stuck around to give me a tutorial. Unfortunately, wiring issues and “sixties house syndrome” meant that the controller couldn’t be moved from the boiler shed to the house without a ton of work. It’s a pity, because the first thing you notice about the Climote is that it’s very slick looking - a bit like an iPod with the click-wheel on the side. But I reckoned that keeping the Climote out of reach was a good thing. After all, I’d been asked to review it, so this meant I’d really be putting the remote control and internet features to the test.
The Climote works like a regular digital heating controller. You can set schedules, boost the heat, turn on the water and so on - just like any other modern controller. In fact, I could do all that stuff with my old one. What makes the Climote different is that it has its own mobile phone number and it can send and receive text messages. This sounds complicated, but it’s not really. It’s just how the Climote communicates with you when you’re not standing beside it.
The online and iPhone apps both look great and are really easy to use. They both have graphic representations of the old circular crunch-button heating timers, and you can use a mouse or your thumb to move them around and set schedules. Once you’re done, these apps then send text messages to the Climote and tell it what to do.
This all means that when you’re away from the controls you can use the Climote iPhone app to turn on the heat and water, or use the online app to set schedules. But you don’t even need to do that. A quick text from any old mobile will do the trick. And that’s the beauty of the Climote – it’s sophisticated, but it’s simple too.
For the first couple of weeks after it was installed, my wife and I operated the Climote entirely by text just to get used to it, and once you learn the commands it works exactly like they say. That’s not to say the commands are tricky though. If you want to boost the heat without leaving the couch, just text “boost heat 1” and it’ll pop the heat on for an hour. It’ll even reply to let you know that your message has been received and it’s doing what it’s told. If you forget what to say, just text “help”, and the Climote will respond with a list of sample commands.
A text relationship with the Climote would probably be enough for many people because the wall mounted thermostat can be pretty comprehensively programmed. But it’s the web interface and the iPhone app that really show off what this thing can do.
One feature I like is that you can set up schedules - lots of them – and they can vary from day to day. It’s easiest to do online, and the first one I set up was “Winter”. I set the heat to come on at 6:30am on weekday mornings before everyone gets up, and later on weekend mornings. Then I set it for weekday evenings when everyone comes home. For all other times, I figured I’d boost it as I needed it.
After “Winter” was sorted, I created one for “Spring” even though I don’t need it yet. But that’s another thing about the Climote. You can create and store your schedules and just turn them on when you do need them.
The Climote folks claim you can save around 20 per cent on your bills by only heating your house when you need to. It’s a big claim and you’d need a year to test it, but they do help. There’s a reporting feature online that lets you review your past usage, which should help identify when the heat doesn’t need be on in future. And with fuel prices going in just one direction, anything that helps cut those bills will be welcome.
I’m not sure my bills will be going down by 20% though. When I told my wife I was writing this review and would be interested in what she thought, she said she loved the Climote – “because I can sneak the heat on whenever I want without you noticing!”
Still, with everything that it does, it’s the simple things I like best. Wondering if the house is warm enough before leaving work? Just launch the app, or text “Report” and it’ll tell you. On the way home early on a cold and rainy day? No bother. Just pull out the phone and turn on the heat. And that’s one of the nicest things about the Climote - never having to come back to a cold home.
Some useful information:
- The Climote costs €299 through Electric Ireland Home Services, and includes installation if you pay up front.
- The Climote works for both gas and oil central heating.
- To make the remote features work costs €36 per year, but the first year is included for customers that pay up front.
- If you’re an Electric Ireland customer, you can put the Climote on your bill and pay for it over 2 years at €29 every two months for a total cost of €348. This includes 2 years of remote access.
- If the claim that you can reduce your heating bills by 20% is accurate, the Climote should pay for itself in two years.
Yes, I did get to keep it. Yes, I do really like it. And no, I don't want my old controls back.
More info is available from Electric Ireland here