Review: Hive Active Home
Hive moves beyond simple heating to challenge on the smart home front
Product name: Hive Active Home
Where to buy: https://www.bordgaisenergy.ie/homecare/hive-products-overview/
From €14.49 per month (heating); €59 for pack of three bulbs; €49 for Active Plug
When it comes to smart home products, there is one essential requirement for most people. Obviously they should work as intended, that’s a given; but they should be easy to set up and use.
There was a moment when I was installing the Hive hub that I thought: this is not going to end well. Despite my best efforts, it wasn’t connecting to the app, which wouldn’t usually be a good start. The hub is the key component of Hive’s Active Home system, and without it, nothing will work as it should.
But less than 20 minutes and some plug-in-unplug-reboot moves later, the hub was connected and ready to start controlling my home lights and appliances through the Active Plug.
The problem, a live chat customer support rep for Hive told me, was that the hub had got stuck in an upgrade loop. I was told it should all be up and running within an hour, but it took far less time than that. That already notched up points in its favour: when a problem arose, it was easy to sort out.
Hive, which is part of Centrica and offered by Bord Gáis Energy to Irish customers, started out as just a way to control your home heating, but the latest product additions see it take over your lights and plugs, and throw a few sensors in there to look after doors and windows too.
They all work off the same app, an easy to use bit of software that puts all your devices in one easy to find place and lets you see at a glance what’s turned on or off at any particular time.
If you have Hive’s Active Heating already installed, getting the rest of these products up and running takes very little time. You already have an account, which would have been set up at the time the heating control was installed, along with the necessary hub, and it’s simply a matter of adding the new devices to your existing set up.
The heating control can be installed (by a professional in this case) in very little time, under half an hour in this case. It consists of the thermostat – a slick update that is wireless and can be placed anywhere in your home – a link to the boiler and the Hive hub, which connects to your modem. You can turn your heating on and off through the app or set a schedule. The one thing that Hive won’t do? Unlike Nest, it doesn’t learn from your schedule so you’ll have to give it explicit instructions.
If you aren’t a heating customer, you can still use the smart plugs and lights. The hub is the only essential piece of kit you need to add.
The bulbs come in a few different varieties, from straightforward white LEDs to dimmable, colour temperature changing and even colour changing bulbs that allow you to match your colour scheme to your mood.
I likes the look of the plugs in particular. Some smart plugs can be bulky and a bit on the ugly side. Hive has kept it simple: white plug, glossy finish, with a button on the front that gives you manual control when needed.
Once all the new devices are added – a simple process that involves instructing the app to scan for new devices in the vicinity – you can place them on the dashboard in an arrangement of your liking.
Pricewise, they’re similar to other smarthome products – bulbs cost from €59 for a triple pack, plugs around €49, the hub is €99 – with the heating plans starting from – and if you get the balance right, they may end up saving you money by cutting down on wasted energy – particularly on the heating side of things. It’s too soon to tell if Hive will make a difference to energy bills here, but it has certainly made things more convenient.
If you are already a Hive heating customer, the set up is more than halfway there. If you aren’t, it takes a bit longer but unless you have the upgrade loop issue mentioned above, it will only take a few minutes to get up and running.
The app is also easy to use, with a dashboard that you can customise with your smart home devices, and new products can be added in a matter of minutes.
The not so good:
If you have a larger property or one that seems to kill off wireless signals of all types, you might find it harder to get a signal from the plugs or light bulbs, similar to wifi “blackspots” in your home. There is a solution – a Hive signal booster – but that’s more money to shell out.
Hive’s smart home system includes a range of screwfit and bayonet fit lightbulbs, plus smart plugs that can be controlled manually from outside the home, or scheduled according to your needs. You can also add a motion or door sensor to your set up, so your heating can be activated or a light turned on when someone walks through the door. It also links in with other systems such as IFTTT or Amazon’s Alexa, expanding its capabilities further.
If you have the Hive Home Heating installed, this one is an easy decision.