Smart-home products may be second nature to some people but to others they are a complicated world of baffling gizmos that they can sacrifice convenience to avoid. But the benefits of some of these products – lower energy bills, increased security and more control over your home – can be worth persevering. So with this in mind, we took a look at the Hub Controller, a competitor for the Hive, Nest and Climote, and a new way to reign in those fuel costs while still keeping your home above freezing.
The device replaces your existing thermostat or wall-mounted controller, linking a touchscreen input with an app on your phone that gives you control as long as you have a decent internet connection. It’s designed to be installed in minutes, and even comes with its own tools in the box so you can do it yourself.
But if you aren’t that confident about it – and we weren’t – you can always get a professional to do the job. Because it’s designed to work with your existing wiring, there’s nothing new to put in – apart from the controller – and you won’t have to punch holes in the wall. The less mess, the better really.
Once it is installed and connected up, it will take over the job your regular thermostat did – showing you the current temperature in the house, what your target temperature is and whether the heating system is active. It’s all done on a clear touchscreen, so even if you aren’t the most tech savvy person, it will make it easy to boost your heating, set temperatures and turn things off completely.
Simplicity is key here, especially if you are trying to convince an older generation or less technically inclined customer that this controller will benefit them. The Hub Controller passes muster on this. The user interface is clear and easy to read, with a five-inch touchscreen and easy to follow graphics.
You don’t have to use the Hub Controller app; the touch screen controller will work fine by itself. But if you want to control your heating remotely, it’s easy to get it set up. Once your controller is up and running you can pair it with the app. You need to be in front of the controller to do this, because it will generate a unique code that will pair the app and the controller, but do it once and then forget about it.
You can then use the app to control your heating schedule and make changes while you are out of the home, set holiday mode to on or off – the Hub will remember your desired schedule when you get back – and submit meter readings so you can keep track of how much, if anything, you are saving through using the Hub. That works best for gas meters.
There was one hiccup – when the system lost connection overnight – but a quick call and some easy-to-follow instructions and everything was reconnected within a few minutes.
The Hub gets two thumbs-up for simple installation. It was on the wall in a matter of minutes, and the installer was back out the door in under 15 minutes. It doesn’t require any extra cables, simply replacing your existing controller or thermostat on the wall.
The biggest benefit is that it’s easy to use, which is important if you want to persuade anyone but the most tech-savvy person to use it.
Updates are pushed out regularly to the device, so once you have it in, you will continue to get updates. And on top of that, it’s made by an Irish company.
The not so good:
You’ll need to have decent internet access in your home to use the Hub controller remotely. That holds true for a lot of smarthome products though, so this particular product is not alone.
If you are used to Climote, the lack of SMS might be a dealbreaker. Ditto if your wifi is a bit on the dodgy side.
You’ll get more out of the energy usage predictions if you are on natural gas heating rather than oil, but it doesn’t mean they are completely closed off to you either. If you are the type of person to fill an oil tank once a year, it will take longer, but your heating system will eventually give up the goods.
Easy to install, simple to use: the Hub Controller ticks a lot of the right boxes. Just make sure your home broadband is up to scratch.