Honeywell Home evohome review: The “Sonos of heating” for your home

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(Pocket-lint) – Once upon a time heating your home efficiently involved getting thermostats, but in today’s smarthome there are now several ways you can heat your house intelligently.

Honeywell Home evohome is more expensive than a single controlling unit from the likes of Hive, Nest, Tado, or Netatmo but takes things further by allowing you to control and schedule individual radiators around your house via an app.

But is the “Sonos of heating” really that good, is it easy to instal and run, and how does it all work? We’ve been using the system since 2014 and here’s our long-term review of the product that promises to save you cash on your heating bills.

What is evohome?

Honeywell Home evohome is a complete heating control system that will allow you to manually control individual zones within your home. This can be achieved either via a dedicated Wi-Fi enabled touchscreen panel or via an app on your smartphone.

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Unlike traditional systems, or even intelligent ones like Nest or Hive, where the temperature of your house is taken from a single sensor in a single room, evohome works by having every radiator connected to the central control unit on its own mesh system. In doing so you can have different temperatures in different rooms at different times giving you very granular control over how you heat your house compared to other systems on the market. 

What you don’t get however is the same “learning” approach of Nest or Hive that look to heat your home in a way that doesn’t involve you based on your settings or previous actions. This is still very much a “schedule first” approach.

How much does evohome cost?

There are various starter kits available. An essential three radiator starter kit costs around £330. Each radiator controller costs another £50-£60 although you can save money if you bulk buy.

Here’s the best deal we can find

Installing evohome

Honeywell Home recommends that you have the system professionally installed by a heating technician. This does, of course, ramp up the price – but we wouldn’t recommend doing it yourself.

The system works via a wireless relay box connected to your boiler and then individual intelligent battery powered thermostats on your radiators.

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You can have up to 12 zones in your house, but multiple radiators within those zones. Two radiators in your lounge? No problem, that’s one zone for example. The easiest way to go about it is to treat each room as a zone, or if you’ve got more rooms than that have rooms combined into a single zone, like your hallway and landing radiators under the same zone.

There are two types of radiator thermostats available, both of which won’t win any design awards, but are easy to use. The Honeywell Home evohome HR92 Radiator Controllers and Honeywell Home evohome HR91 Radiator Controllers. The only difference being that the HR92 comes with a screen and can be controlled on the radiator itself, while the HR91 is completely controlled via the central controller unit or the app.

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The HR91 is great as a secondary thermo in a room where there is more than one radiator, or as we’ve found in a kid’s bedroom where you don’t want them ranking up the heating to 25 degrees because they are cold before they head off to school for the day. If you can afford to, it’s better to go for the HR92 purely for that one the spot controlling aspect. Battery powered; you’ll get about 18-months off two AA batteries for the HR92.

The system also supports your hot water system if you have a traditional hot water tank, underfloor heating systems, and most types of boilers including OpenTherm, heat pumps, district heating and even pellet burners.

Honeywell Home evohome works on its own low-frequency mesh network meaning that you shouldn’t have any problem with the individual thermostats being able to communicate with each other even if you live in a house where you experience “spotty Wi-Fi” coverage.

Controlling evohome

There are two ways to control evohome. Either via a traditional main wireless controller or via a smartphone app.

The later obviously has its benefits including the ability to control your heating away from your home or from the comfort of the sofa.

The app is basic, but very effective. Rooms can be ordered by preference, and then controlled accordingly. Turning up the temperature is as easy as selecting the room and then swiping up with your thumb until the desired heat setting is reached.

There’s a brief delay as the signal is sent and hearing the battery powered motor whirring into action before moments later feeling the warmth coming from the radiator in question.

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The system also allows you to check your radiators individual scheduled timetable, opt for several quick presets like “Away” and even control a second or even third home. For setup and scheduling decisions, we would recommend the Wi-Fi Connected Controller.

The Honeywell Home evohome Wi-Fi Connected Controller is the other main way of controlling evohome and takes a robust simple approach rather than a Californian design style approach with swish graphics and charts.

The interface, like the smartphone app, is focused on your rooms and changing the temperature with most other features tucked out of sight.

You can also control the whole system via Alexa and Google Assistant as well as IFFT – handy for creating shortcuts with other devices.

Heating your home

The biggest change to how you currently heat your home is that now each room and therefore each radiator can be individually controlled rather than your whole house being on or off. That’s a game changer.

The colourful interface of the dedicated controller is easy to use, and you can opt to go through a wizard for each zone or manually create a timed schedule. To make things easier you can copy and paste schedules between rooms if you aren’t looking to go as granular as individual schedules straight from the start for every zone.

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The timer can be set multiple times with multiple temperatures in each zone. If you like it hot in your lounge at night but cold in your kitchen that’s not a problem; if you want to make sure your kid’s bedroom is a little warmer in the middle of the day for the afternoon nap but not the rest of the house, you can set that up too.

Each radiator sensor replaces your old thermostatic valve (if you had them, plus you can get further room sensors if the radiator value is hard to reach) and that gives you a far greater temperature gauge for the home. It’s great having this detailed control, but evohome still offers human elements: the HR92 radiator controllers have physical dials on so you can always twist them to turn down the temperature if it’s too hot or cold in a room.

These sensors can detect whether you have a window or outside door open in the room. If you do, then it will automatically shut off that radiator as it predicts that you want to cool the room down. You can override this if you’ve got the radiator next to a front door, or a draughty room. The feature has proven valuable time and time again.

Setting the temperature on evohome

With all this information and new-found power, it changes your relationship with temperature in your home. For most houses the temperature of your house is never really known if you’re used to positioning a radiator dial between 0-5, you just work on feel. With evohome you have detailed information and can experiment with what suits you and your family in those individual spaces with greater accuracy.

In our system, for example, we tend to opt for our living room to be warmed to 19C, while the master bedroom is slightly cooler at 15C. The system goes one step further and will tell you the temperature of your water. This means you can more accurately make changes to your hot water settings, as well as knowing if you’ll have enough hot water for your bath. Handy.

The evohome system has another cool trick too: timings, or as Honeywell Home call it; Optimum Start and Optimum Stop.

The temperatures that you set it to will be maintained to a point whereby if you want it to be 20C at 6pm on a Tuesday then that’s what you get. The system doesn’t turn on at 6pm to heat the room, but will be 20C at 6pm – a vast difference to how most traditional heating systems currently work and can take some time to get used to, but hard to go back to the older way of thinking once you are.

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The system works by analysing over time how quickly it takes to heat the room and therefore works to efficiently get to that point at the right time. It’s very clever.

The system doesn’t “turn off” per se, as you can set a lowest temperature threshold per room, whereas other systems you’ll be setting a lowest temperature for the whole house in most likelihood. That means that if your room drops below that comfortable minimum the boiler will fire up to heat that room again, but your boiler won’t be running constantly.

The timing and zone-based nature of evohome means that you don’t have to waste energy heating parts of the house that don’t need to be heated. That’s a big step over traditional on/off systems, meaning that when you’re feeling chilly in the living room in the evening, you don’t have to heat the kitchen, dining room, office and everything else unnecessarily. It’s all down to how you schedule your own set up.

Heating with Quick Actions

Beyond the scheduling system available, there are several Quick Actions that can also be performed. Economy reduces all zone temperatures by 3 degrees Celsius, for example, while a Heating Off preset will turn your heating off but keep your hot water on.

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There is an Away setting that reduces the temperature, and a Custom one that we have set to Snuggle – this pumps up the heating in the lounge at the press of a button. You can count the Quick Actions available on one hand and it would be good to have more or to have geo-fenced support that could detect whether you’re out of the house for the day and therefore turn everything off. You can work this in with IFTT, but it’s not an out of the box feature.

Baby it’s cold outside

Honeywell Home evohome also features something it calls Cold Weather Boost, that understands the temperature of a room isn’t always directly related to how warm a room feels.

According to Honeywell Home “By proactively reading the outside temperature and detecting factors like draughty windows, evohome changes the programmed setpoint, keeping your comfort levels exactly where they should be.”

Again, it’s all about the heating system working for you without you having to really worry about it and the system can be set on a room-by-room basis – ideal if you know a certain room in your house feels drafty compared to say, that new kitchen extension you’ve had put in.

As you might have guessed, there’s the opposite feature too – a Warm Weather Boost, which ensures the radiators don’t kick on a hot day even though you’ve requested them to because you’ve forgotten to change the schedule.

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