Devolo Home Con­trol

Tech Advisor - - CONTENTS - Lewis Painter

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.

Setup

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.

Ra­di­a­tor ther­mo­stat

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.

Ver­dict

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

Cre­at­ing rules

On­line tu­to­ri­als

Get­ting started

Us­ing the app

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