Devolo Home Control
While companies are releasing smart home products left, right and centre, offering to control everything from your kettle to your light switch, Devolo is one of the few we’ve come across that offers an accessory that allows you to control your radiators via your smartphone or tablet.
Home Control isn’t just a smart heating system though, it’s a collection of smart home products that will likely expand over time. You can buy just the Starter Kit (see the image below), which includes a main hub, door/window sensor and a smart metering plug. But there are other components, including a smart thermostat, smart radiator valves, smoke detector, motion sensor, key fob and wall switch. Here we’re focusing on the smart heating components.
Regardless of how many devices you buy, you’ll need a Starter Pack as a minimum, which will set you back £179. Home Control is similar to other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, with a central unit communicating to accessories all over the home. One interesting point about the Devolo system is that it uses Z-Wave technology, which has both a large range and will work with non-Devolo branded accessories.
This is a great idea because if smart home kits explode in popularity, chances are that not all accessories you want will come from a single manufacturer. No-one wants to switch between multiple apps to control different gadgets in their homes, but that’s the reality today. In theory, Home Control should be one of the more compatible systems, with good integration with other products. We’re told that Nest integration, for example, is on the road map.
The basic process is to sign up for a free My Devolo account and then connect the central unit to the internet. When creating an account, the company recommends using a device with at least a 13in display. We used the 12.9in iPad Pro with no problems, but when we tried to do the same on a smartphone it was almost impossible.
Once you’ve created an account, you’ll need to place the hub in a central location and connect it to your home internet. You’ll be given two option: either connect to an existing Devolo dLAN system (powerline adaptors), allowing you to place it anywhere in the home; or directly connect it to the router via an ethernet cable. The only issue with the latter is that unless your router is centrally placed, your central unit won’t be either. Luckily we had a dLAN system already set up, so it was as simple as pushing a few buttons on each device to connect it to the internet.
Once you’ve successfully connected the device to the internet, you’ll need to head back to the My Devolo website and add it to your account. While we found the on-screen prompts very user-friendly, including embedded YouTube videos for each step, it took us three or four attempts to connect before it was successful.
Once the central unit had been set up, we were free to install our Devolo smart radiator valve (TRV) on our radiators, which turned out to be a lot easier than we’d originally thought. Unscrewing our old TRV was simple and thanks to Devolo including two adaptors for different radiator fittings, we were able to attach it quickly and easily. The most interesting feature of the smart radiator thermostat during the setup was that after we screwed it into place, the accessory continued to tighten itself up until it was completely secure. Once it was attached, it was just a case of following the on-screen setup instructions and within minutes, it was connected and ‘talking’ to the central unit.
The smart TRV turns any radiator in your home into a smart one that can be controlled in a number of ways. It has an LED screen that is bright and clear, displaying the current temperature of the radiator in degrees Celsius, which is so much better than conventional TRVs, which just have a dial from one to five. It also has physical buttons that allow you to tweak the temperature by 0.5 degrees at a time, which is ideal for guests who won’t have the My Devolo app.
As well as being able to control radiators individually, you can group them together in the app, allowing the temperature between radiators to be synced up. For example, we have two smart radiator thermostats connected to two radiators in our front room and we’ve paired them together using the app, allowing us to tweak the
temperature of the front room without having to repeat the process for each radiator. It’s the small things that Devolo has added that make this system so nice to use.
The company also provides a room thermostat that can be synced with specific radiators, allowing for a more traditional way to change the temperature for those that want it.
As well as controlling the temperature yourself, you can set up schedules to automate the process. Get up at 7am every morning? Now your front room can be nice and toasty, without you having to waste money on heating up the whole house when you’ll be heading out to work within the hour. It’s easy to set up and it can be as complicated or as simple as you want, depending on how many smart accessories you want to automate.
The great thing about the Devolo system is that it isn’t just to control the heating in your home. There’s a wide range of other accessories available, from smart plugs to Window/door detectors and even smoke alarms. You’re able to set up IFTTT-esque rules within the app, which can trigger the heating system to change whenever an event occurs. For example, if we had a window sensor in our front room, you could set up a rule that if the system detects that the window is open, the radiators turn off and once it’s closed, they turn back on.
Now, we have to be clear that this system isn’t the same as the likes of Nest or Hive, as they can control the heating system directly via the boiler, allowing you to control the heating of the whole home via the app. However, while they offer whole-home control, you can’t control the heating on a per-room basis like you can with the Devolo smart home system. On the other hand, if you wanted to turn your Devolo-enabled smart radiators up to 25 degrees but the boiler temperature is only 20 degrees, it’ll only reach 20 degrees and there isn’t much (apart from physically adjusting the settings in the boiler) you can do about it.
With this being said, we believe that a combination of a Hive/Nest heating system and Devolo’s smart thermostat controls would provide users with complete control over their heating systems, allowing them to control heating both on a whole-home and a per-room basis.
My Devolo app
The setup of rules, groups, schedules and scenes has to be done via the My Devolo website, while the accompanying iOS and Android apps are used to add new devices, toggle switches, tweak the temperature of radiators and other actions of a similar nature.
The My Devolo website is extremely well laid out and looks simple, which is an achievement when you think about how much you can do with it. It uses moveable widgets for the majority of the rule/schedule creation, which feels like a much more natural way than, for instance, selecting a name of a device from a list. Each widget has its name, an icon and a specific colour, so you know exactly what it is, at a glance.
It also has a Dashboard, which offers an overview of your smart home. There are a number of widgets available, including the weather (so you can adjust temperatures accordingly) and quick access to smart plugs, heating
controls and more, depending on which accessories you have.
While we found the My Devolo website easy to use on a desktop computer and iPad Pro, things were not so good when we tried using the app on a smartphone. It soon became clear that instead of developing a native app for mobile users, the company has instead used a scaled-down version of the My Devolo website.
While this is nothing new, and many manufacturers have similar ideas, we’ve found that the app feels a slow and laggy when compared to the ultra-responsive website. It’s not as convenient either, as you have to first load the app, select ‘Home Control’ and the name of your central unit (ours was called ‘Home’), then tap on the item you want to control before being taken to another page where you can activate/deactivate it. Convenience is the key to a mobile app, and Devolo hasn’t cracked it.
Smart Home accessories
As we’ve touched upon, the Devolo home control system isn’t designed to be a smart heating system. Instead, the Devolo home control range offers a variety of smart accessories that will turn your home into a smart home, one at a time.
The company currently offers smart metering plugs, which both controls a plug socket and monitors the electrical current being used. For example, when combined with Devolo’s motion sensor or door contact, it can make your lights turn on automatically when you walk into a room and turn off after a period of no movement.
Along with the above, users can also get a smart wall switch. Instead of toggling the switches up and down to turn lights off, they can be programmed to control different things. For example, pushing one switch could turn on the TV and a lamp, while another switch could be used to turn off all lights and turn down the heating when you’re about to leave home. It’s only limited by the amount of accessories you have available, and the amount of time you want to spend customising the system. If a wall switch isn’t for you, the company offers a handheld fob with four programmable buttons for easy one-touch controls.
The firm also produces a smart smoke detector that functions in the exact same way as a standard smoke alarm would, but with the extra benefit of being able to notify users via email, text and push notifications. Ideal for when you’re away from home.
As mentioned at the start of this review, the Devolo system works using Z-Wave technology, which allows it to communicate with nonDevolo smart home accessories, such as the Piper NV home security camera. This means that if it spots an intruder with its built-in night vision, it can try and scare them off by turning on all the lights and sounding its 125db siren. We’re huge fans of Z-Wave technology, and we hope it becomes the standard for smart home accessories.
Even though it was designed with the whole home in mind, the heating accessories make the Devolo system a great smart heating system. You don’t need an engineer to install it – in fact, it only took us minutes to do it ourselves. It provides perroom temperature control, though to control the boiler you’ll need the smart thermostat as well.
The app experience lets it down a bit, but the full website more than makes up for a frustrating mobile app. Devolo’s additional accessories can turn a dumb home into a smart one, and it can be a gradual process as they are all sold separately.
Devolo Starter Pack
Using the app