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Hive mini review: A cheap smart thermostat with a few clever features

We review the latest smart heating solution to see whether it’s as good as it sounds

Alex Lee
Tuesday 12 April 2022 12:45
<p>The little device blends into the background thanks to its mirrored finish </p>

The little device blends into the background thanks to its mirrored finish

Energy prices have just shot up. On 1 April, Ofgem increased the energy price cap by 54 per cent, and households will see a steep spike in their gas and electricity bills this spring.

Many of us are looking for ways to save money as a result, and smart home tech like smart thermostats (which aren’t just a lazy person’s dream come true, by the way) could help do just that.

Hive, one of the leading smart heating companies – who is owned by British Gas – has recently launched the Hive smart thermostat mini (£119, Hivehomeccom). It is one of the cheapest smart thermostats we’ve seen so far, and might be a decent solution for turning your current heating setup into a smart one, even if you’re on a budget.

Of course, smart home tech can’t save you enormous sums of money in isolation, but using a smart thermostat could help take off the pounds in the long-term and help you create better energy-saving habits to boot.

Hive claims that it could save you up to £110 per year. But affordable as it is, how good is the device actually?

Read more:

How we tested

We’ve been using our Hive thermostat mini for over two weeks now. We’ve looked at the device itself, crawled through the Hive app to see how easy it is to heat up our home, set schedules and boost the temperature when it gets a bit cold. We’ve also tested out actions, which turned off the heating when it detected motion and reviewed the smart thermostat radiator valves, which help you control the heating in specific rooms. Here’s what we made of it.

Hive thermostat mini: £119, Hivehomeccom

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Hive mini dimensions: W84mm x H83mm x D22mm
  • Receiver dimensions: W90mm x H90mm x D36.8mm

Design

The Hive mini is a sleek, minimalistic little thing. It’s square in design and has a polished touch-screen mirror surface that wouldn’t look out of place in one of those clinical science fiction films, where all the floors and ceilings are marble white or mirrored. Basically, it looks modern, and tucks away neatly on your wall without attracting too much attention. It runs on four AAA batteries, however, which means you can’t power it through the mains.

When not in use, you’ll see just a central menu circle button and two arrows for increasing and decreasing the temperature. And when you tap the screen, you’ll be able to see whether your heating and hot water are turned on, as well as the current and target temperature in your home. You’ll also be able to switch between manual mode, your schedule (set in the app) or turn it off completely. Anything more in-depth, you’ll need to head to the app.

The device is pretty no frills, so if you want something slightly more comprehensive, you’ll have to go for the older Hive thermostat (£161.10, Hivehome.com), which placed in our round-up of the best smart thermostats. It has a physical dial and you can boost your heating and set schedules right from the device itself.

Read more: 8 best smart lights that are a bright idea for your connected home

The Hive mini itself isn’t the only thing you need to get set up with smart heating. You’ll also need a Hive hub, which is included in the cost of the mini. Without the hub, the thermostat on its own costs £59. Just be aware that the Hive hub plugs into your wifi router via an ethernet cable, so you’ll need a spare slot and space next to it. It’s a small square box that works with other Hive products, and you’ll need it in order to use the app, take advantage of the smart features or combine the thermostat with other Hive products, like motion sensors.

You also get a receiver in the box, which needs to be wired up to the boiler – this white box is bigger than the mini itself. While it isn’t exactly ugly, it’s a pretty chunky bit of equipment, so you’ll want to hide it away if you can.

Installation

Hive says that its active heating system should work with most gas and LPG central heating systems, as well as oil boilers and electric boilers which connect to standard room thermostats or programmers, but you can check whether your boiler is compatible on Hive’s help page. It also works with multi-zone systems, giving you control of six heating zones.

There’s a lovely mirrored finish with three simple touch buttons

If you have the technical know-how when it comes to electrical wiring, you can install the device yourself. For the rest of us normies, Hive recommends you add on the installation, which is done by a qualified British Gas engineer. It does cost an extra £90 to do this, but installation is something you would have to pay out for with a Nest thermostat (£199, Google.com) anyway, so it’s worth the money in our eyes.

Installation does take a couple of hours, sometimes less if your heating setup isn’t too complex, but the engineers are incredibly thorough. They quickly removed our current wall thermostat and chatted through where the receiver could go, then fitted the receiver in the old thermostat’s place and nailed the wireless Hive mini to another wall.

Features

As mentioned above, all the smart features are controlled through the Hive app, which is a relatively clean and clutter-free experience. Obviously, the biggest benefit is being able to turn your heating on and off from wherever you are in the world, whether that’s on the sofa in the house or outside in the wild.

Read more: 8 best smart plugs to save on energy bills and cut your costs

One neat function is the use of geolocation services, which alerts you if you’ve left the house but forgotten to turn the heating off. This is an opt-in feature for those concerned about their privacy, but quite a good one, so we’d recommend it.

The app also acts as an interface between your Hive mini thermostat and other smart Hive products, like smart plugs, smart lights and motion sensors. So if you affix a Hive motion sensor (£29, Hivehome.com) up near your front door and set up an action in the app, you can get your heating to turn on automatically the minute you walk through the door or turn off when it detects that you’ve exited.

There’s also a very detailed scheduling system in the app. By default, there are six time slots with a start and end time already pre-set. You can assign a specific temperature you’d like your home to reach during that time slot. We set it up so that the heating turned on at 6.30am and turned off at 8.30am, for example, which ensured our room was nice and toasty by the time we got out of bed.

These time slots are completely customisable, you can add as many as you’d like, and one day’s schedule can be copied over and pasted on to another day, so you don’t need to set up each day one by one. Your heating will go into frost protection mode when your heating is off and the temperature falls below 7C to help stop your pipes from freezing over.

You can set schedules and boost the temperature for a set period of time right from the app

There’s also a boost function in the app, which turns on the heating for a set period of time before shutting off. It’s a convenient way to heat up your home without having to keep it constantly turned on if you’re feeling a little chilly.

If you want to take things a step further, you can invest in Hive’s smart thermostatic radiator valves (£54, Hivehome.com). While these aren’t cheap, they’re a good way of cutting costs because they allow you to heat up just one room instead of an entire house, and can be scheduled just like the main thermostat. This can help you save money in the long-run. You can also view the temperature on the mini screen on the valves themselves, though the screen doesn’t turn on automatically when you walk by, so you’ll have to wake it up.

If you’re going to be stuck in the office all day trying to reach a deadline, schedule the heating to come on for the radiator valve in the office in the morning, so it’s warm when you get in. The radiator valves also detect when a window has been left open, and cleverly shuts itself off so you aren’t wasting any energy.

Read more: How to save money on your energy bills with smart home devices

Because the Hive mini is so heavily reliant on the app, it really has to be top-notch, and we ran into a few bugs while using it. Flipping the temperature up or down in the app sometimes had to be done slowly or it freaked out and toggled all the way up to 32C or down to 7C.

There was also an issue with the Hive heating history feature, which allows you to view your daily usage and track your home’s temperature on a day-to-day basis. It’s a great way to monitor the amount of energy you’re using to heat your home... when you have access to it. Weirdly, the button to access this feature vanished from the app, and we weren’t able to access any of our heating history until we had our Hive Heating Plus subscription activated.

Thankfully, it seems like this is just an unfortunate bug in the latest version of the app, so it’s not locked to Hive Heating Plus customers. Last week we identified an issue in the Hive app that was affecting some Hive Heating customers trying to view their heating history. “This was unfortunately caused by an update we made within the app,” a Hive spokesperson said. They added that the issue was affecting those with multiple heating zones and that the team were currently working to get this fixed.

Speaking of which, is Hive Heating Plus any good? It’s a subscription service (£39.90 per year, Hivehome.com) that helps you save money thanks to personalised tips based on your heating habits. There’s a heating efficiency monitor which analyses how well your home is heating itself up. If it’s heating up too slowly, you’ll get a notification, along with tips on how to rectify the issue.

Read more: 7 best books about money for advice on personal finance, saving and investing

Arguably the most useful feature is the budget tracker, which forecasts how much you’re likely to spend based on your heating usage. You set a budget that you’d like to aim for and Hive will then give you tips on how you can reach that goal.

Hive Heating Plus subscribers also get more granular Hive history information, such as a “cost view” which shows your usage in pounds and pence, as well as weekly and annual usage stats and weather reports. There’s a new Schedule Assist feature as well, which provides you with advice based on your current schedules and what you can do to lower the cost without feeling the pinch, then puts in place an adapted schedule if you agree. Heating Plus needs 30 days worth of data before it can start forecasting how much you’ll be spending on your energy or providing tips though.

The verdict: Hive thermostat mini

Hive’s thermostat mini certainly isn’t the smartest one out there. Compared to Google’s nest thermostat (£199, Google.com) – which is able to implement schedules on its own based on your heating habits (so you don’t have to manually enter it in yourself), and can also turn on the heating when it drops to a certain temperature outside – it’s barely able to compete. But it is cheaper than the Nest.

The real question is, will it save you money? While you might not feel it straight away, if you tend to leave your heating on, forget to turn it off, or aren’t currently setting schedules, then investing in a cheap smart thermostat like the Hive mini could help you save cash here and there.

Most crucially, a smart thermostat helps you create better habits so that you aren’t wasting your energy by putting the heating on full-blast at all times of the day. You’ll get the most out of the system by investing in the radiator valves (£54, Hivehome.com), which do have an added expense, as well as the Heating Plus subscription (£39.90 per year, Hivehome.com). But there’s no requirement to invest in these extras. You’ll still be able to start making your heating smart with this cheap set-up even without those things and save money.

Hive thermostat mini

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on heaters and other household appliances, try the links below:

If you’re looking to save money on your heating, have a look at our round-up of the best smart thermostats

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