I love gadgets, I’m lazy, and I live in Scotland, where it’s cold. All the time. So, if there was a gadget which could keep me warm while also encouraging my laziness, you’d think I’d be on board with it, wouldn’t you? If you answered ‘yes’, then you’d be correct! Although it has been available since 2013, I’ve only recently decided to get Hive by British Gas.
Hive is, at its simplest, a central heating thermostat. However, it’s a thermostat with a twist. When you buy Hive, you can buy it for self-install or you can have a British Gas engineer come and install it for you. I went for the engineer installation as I didn’t want to screw up my boiler and have to get an engineer out anyway!
There are a few components to the Hive system. The first is the thermostat itself. It has a couple of functions. The first one is simply to monitor the temperature of the room where it has been installed. There are rules you can set in the Hive system, the main one being the ideal temperature you would like the room to be at. If the thermostat detects a lower temperature, it will turn on your heating. Once it reaches that temperature, the heating will be turned off. The aim here is to maintain a constant without having to constantly have your heating on.
The second component is the receiver. This is the part which is connected directly to the boiler. It acts like a switch, turning your heating on and off as required. It’s controlled wirelessly by the thermostat and also by the hub. This is where all the powerful functions run from. The hub connects to your home network with a network cable and then to the Hive online service. At the time of purchase, you will be sent an email from Hive with your username and password to access the online service.
Once you connect your hub to the Hive service, you’ll be able to set schedules for your ideal temperature. For me, the schedule generally means that there is no heating on during the periods when I’m at work or overnight when I’m sleeping, but it’s entirely configurable and I can change it at any time. You can connect with a browser to the Hive service, but I prefer (and I think British Gas also prefer) to connect using the iOS app (there’s also an Android app).
Using the app gives you loads of functionality. You can set and amend your schedules, you can set your Hive to one of three statuses – Scheduled, On or Off, and you can also use geofencing to give you the option of turning your heating on or off. Geofencing doesn’t actually change the state of your heating – it just prompts you with a friendly note: “it looks like you’re coming home, would you like to turn the heating on?” – it’s then up to you whether you’d like to do anything with the prompt. As I said at the start, I’m lazy, so I’d like to at least see the option of geofencing actually controlling your heating rather than just prompting you to manually intervene, but that’s a minor thing.
There is a final piece to the Hive system, but not all customers have/need it. The Hive Smart Plug. At the moment, these (I have two) were given to me as signal boosters so that the thermostat could talk to the receiver through all the solid brick walls I have in my home. They plug into a normal wall socket, but you can then plug another appliance into the Smart Plug. They say its so that the Smart Plug isn’t hogging a wall socket you could be using for something else. I have a lamp plugged into the Smart Plug and can turn it on and off by pressing a button on the top of it.
I have my suspicions that the Smart Plug may be used in another way in the near future. British Gas recently purchased the company which created and manufactures Hive, and I suspect that British Gas may now be dipping their toes into the Smart Home market, expanding beyond just heating. The Smart Plug can control whichever device is plugged into it. It’s a manual control at the moment, with the button on the top of it, but it already communicates wirelessly with the thermostat, receiver and hub, and I reckon the ability to control these Smart Plugs remotely may already be built in, just waiting for a software update. For those of you who know a little about home automation, think about the X10 appliance and lamp modules – these are a lot like that.
The Hive system is £199 and can be purchased from British Gas directly at hivehome.com, or rather strangely, at any UK Apple Store.