Thermostats explained: a beginner’s guide

How to get started with your smart thermostat

Close-up front view of Hive Thermostat on a thermostat stand sitting on a brown wooden sideboard with orange bowl in the background

The humble thermostat is an essential part of our homes. But with so many different types available it can be tricky to know what’s what. Here’s a short guide to help you tell your electronic thermostat from your smart thermostat:

There are four main types of thermostat available (and all of them can be used as a gas or electric boiler thermostat):

1. Manual thermostats

Also known as a non-programmable or analogue thermostat, this is the most basic thermostat you can get. Easy to operate; most come with a simple dial you turn to set the required temperature. Once set, it keeps the room at exactly the same temperature until you turn it off again.

A manual thermostat needs to be fixed to the wall to work properly. It operates by using a mechanical device to detect changes in room temperature. When it does, it triggers a metal coil inside the thermostat to move and connect or disconnect the electric circuit. Think of it as the light switch of the heating world – you can turn it on, you can turn it off but that’s really about it.

2. Electronic room thermostats

If you haven’t got a smart thermostat, chances are your house will have an electronic room thermostat. They can either be fixed to the wall or moved around from room to room. When the temperature drops below a set level, the thermostat will turn the heating on – and back off again once its warmed up.

You will also hear them referred to as programmable thermostats, because as the name suggests, they allow you to set schedules in advance. There are various different options out there, with different levels of programming. Most of them will offer one of the following:

  • 7-day programming: this allows you to program a different setting each day.

  • 5-two programming: set one schedule for the week and a different program for the weekend.

  • 1-week programming: by far the simplest, this lets you set one schedule for the entire week.

3. Smart thermostats

A smart thermostat connects your central heating to your smartphone via the internet. This means you have complete control over the temperature in your home, wherever you are. It makes it really easy to set and adjust schedules and it’s great for heating individual rooms too.

This is the basics of what a smart thermostat can do but most come with lots of other useful features as well. For instance, many have a geo-location function, so it will send you an alert if you’ve gone out and left the heating on. Some will also learn your movements and set up heating schedules for you based on your comings and goings.

4. Electric radiator thermostat

This thermostat works with an electric radiator to give you more control over how it heats the room. It’s really simple to set up. All you do is plug it into your socket, plug your appliance into the thermostat, set the required temperature and that’s it. It’s great for rooms that don’t have central heating or if you have spaces, like a garage or study, that you don’t need to heat all that often.

Hopefully that gives you a clearer idea of the different types of thermostat currently available. For more on all things thermostats, head to Hive and check out our full range of smart thermostats.

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