Google Nest and British Gas Hive Active Heating are two of the smart home technologies we supply at Graham Direct. They are smart heating controls – better known simply as smart thermostats – that allow new ways to control your central heating remotely.

If you’re just trying to save money on your energy bills, then the cheapest smart thermostat might do the job, but when you start to factor other things into the equation, both smart thermostats have different features.

In this article we’ll dive into some of the different characteristics of the two smart heating systems, to help you decide which one to install in your own property.

What is a smart thermostat?

A smart thermostat adds certain features to your boiler that are not possible using a regular thermostat or even with a standard wireless thermostat. Combined with a modern, energy efficient boiler, smart thermostats can save you a good amount of money. 

They do this by giving you remote control of your heating and hot water, usually via a smartphone app, as well as by tracking how much you have spent on your energy bills in detail.

What are the advantages of having a smart thermostat?

There are lots of benefits of smart thermostats – here are three of the biggest.

Saving money

Smart thermostats improve efficiency, and that can save both money and energy. You can monitor your energy usage, turn off the thermostat when you don’t need the heating on, and spot any unusual spikes in consumption and associated cost, which could be a sign that your boiler needs maintenance or that part of your home is not insulated properly. 

Reducing energy wastage

Remote control via smartphone apps and intelligent scheduling means your thermostat can be turned off easily when you’re not home, or when your heating isn’t needed. You can switch it on shortly before arriving home for a toasty entrance, and turn it off after leaving the house if you forgot to do so before.

Taking control 

A lot of users enjoy the added visibility that comes from installing smart thermostats. Their connectivity means you can often see exactly how much energy you are using in both kWh and financial cost. Intuitive smartphone apps put all the thermostat’s features literally at your fingertips, so there’s no complicated or confusing interface to learn.

Are there other ways to reduce energy costs?

Smart thermostats are just one of a range of smart home technologies that can help to reduce energy costs. These include:

  • Other heating and hot water controls
  • Smart lighting and power outlets
  • Smart smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors

You can save energy in other ways too, for example by turning down the temperature on your conventional thermostat, using less hot water, insulating your home or installing a high-efficiency boiler that recovers heat from its own exhaust gases.

What is the difference in features of the Nest and Hive?

It’s no surprise that the core capabilities of smart thermostats are broadly the same. However, with a company like Google behind the development of Nest, you might wonder whether it’s packed with any extras.

What they have in common

Nest and Hive smart thermostats share some common features. For example, both are GPS equipped so they can tell where you are by tracking your phone’s location, and turn off the heating while you’re out of the house. Both also have apps available on the major platforms i.e. iOS and Android.

Nest

Google Nest is now the name used not only for Nest products, but also for former Google Home products. A Nest smart thermostat typically offers more capabilities than a Hive heating control, including a motion sensor to activate heating when you walk through the door, and AI learning to automatically schedule the heating to match your daily activities.

Hive

Hive Active Heating has a slightly shorter list of features, but the price reflects this. It still supports iOS and Android, and although it’s incompatible with Google Nest and Microsoft Cortana, it works with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and the hugely flexible IFTTT platform.

How compatible are they with heating?

Smart thermostats are designed to be compatible with a range of different boilers – so how do you know if yours is supported?

What they have in common

Any mass market smart thermostat should be compatible with the most common types of boilers, including combi boilers, system boilers and regular boilers. But there are some differences to look out for – check the product specs if you have a non-standard boiler type just in case.

Nest

As well as system and conventional boilers, Nest is compatible with condensing combi boilers and heat pumps.

Hive

Hive Active Heating also supports some electric boilers, as well as boilers that run on gas, oil and LPG. 

Do they both have easy usability?

Usability means different things to different people. Some want simple, intuitive controls while power users might prefer to plough into pages and pages of settings.

What they have in common

Nest and Hive are both designed to be usable out of the box, so you can expect their apps to be relatively straightforward to get started with.

Nest

Nest has the edge if you want to control multiple areas separately, with the ability to define up to 20 zones – they can even be in two different properties. Its Farsight feature illuminates the touchscreen display when it detects that you have walked into the room. 

Hive

Hive only supports three zones and is not touchscreen – it has a dial for scrolling menus and three buttons for navigation and to confirm your menu choice. Remember it is also app-enabled though, so you might not need to use the physical device directly very often.

The difference in the design

The difference in direct usability is probably the most visible variation in design, with Hive adopting a more traditional mechanical interface and Nest opting for an illuminated touchscreen. 

It’s fair to say Nest’s design benefits from Google’s cutting-edge technologies, so if you want as many features as possible and you’re a fan of Google’s other products, a Nest Learning Thermostat could be the choice for you.

Focusing on the prices

At Graham Direct, we always aim to offer the lowest possible prices, especially on smart home technologies which we know you might be installing to save money on energy bills. British Gas Hive is the slightly cheaper of the two systems, coming in at about £45 less than Google Nest.

But there’s not a lot in it, and with different generations of each to choose from, you might be surprised by how affordable they are, especially once you count the cost savings you’ll achieve on your heating bills.

Are they both easy to install?

Once you get your Hive or Nest home, how easy is it to install and set up? Both can be installed by a professional, or if you’re confident you can attempt it yourself.

Installing the Nest

Installing a Nest thermostat is a little more complicated, as it needs a mains electricity connection. However, its location is more flexible as it can be placed on a stand in a convenient location in the room. 

Installing the Hive

Hive installation is made easier because the smart thermostat module itself is battery-powered, so you’re not restricted to where you can get a mains supply. But the thermostat must be wall-mounted, so paradoxically it’s less flexible than the mains-powered Nest. 

Closing thoughts

Hive and Nest each have their advantages. Hive costs less and has a simpler feature set that you might prefer if you’re a novice with digital technologies. Nest is probably the power user’s preferred option and is actually not that much more expensive – and both systems should pay for themselves over time thanks to the energy savings you make.