Jump to content


Recent Columns

  • James Norton's Photo
    The James Norton Column: MoDaCo reviews and battery tests

    The James Norton column

  • James Norton's Photo
    The James Norton Column: Camera Shoot-out

    The James Norton column

  • James Norton's Photo
    The James Norton Column: The MoDaCo Man

    The James Norton column


Recent Articles

  • icon
    Decrypt and (optionally) add double-tap to wake on your Nexus 6

    PaulOBrien -

  • icon
    Sonim XP7 Extreme hits crowdfunding target + Ask MoDaCo

    PaulOBrien -

  • icon
    MMW 89 - Does it spring?

    PaulOBrien -

  • icon
    MMW 88 - So much to discuss

    PaulOBrien -

  • icon
    Motorola Moto G 2nd Gen Review

    Mark Dearlove -

  • icon
    MMW 87 - Sweeter than an apple pie

    PaulOBrien -


Recent Article Comments

  • andybarker's Photo
    Sonim XP7 Extreme hits crowdfunding target + Ask MoDaCo

    andybarker -

  • PaulOBrien's Photo
    Decrypt and (optionally) add double-tap to wake on your Nexus 6

    PaulOBrien -

  • 8eaker's Photo
    LG G Watch R Review

    8eaker -

  • dakarli's Photo
    Motorola Moto G 2nd Gen Review

    dakarli -

  • andybarker's Photo
    Nexus 9 Review

    andybarker -

  • 8eaker's Photo
    MMW 90 - L's bells!

    8eaker -


Recent Topics

  • Gaby95's Photo
    G510 Headset problem

    Gaby95 -

  • jazzuk777's Photo
    Heads Up - 4X HD (Black) only £99.99 with additional £10 off until tomrrow night!!!

    jazzuk777 -

  • state-it's Photo
    Chainfire's LiveBoot, on Boot [root]. Could interest some people.

    state-it -

  • jonnyguitar's Photo
    Remote support app needed for Hudl

    jonnyguitar -

  • karenkreative's Photo
    Recovery Screen is black after unlocking and rooting G510

    karenkreative -

  • dakok's Photo
    AOSP 4.4 by maucat

    dakok -


Recent Replies

  • farfix's Photo
    [ROM][4.1.1][B209] AOSP MOD [09/12/2014]

    farfix -

  • milekolev's Photo
    [ROM] [4.4.2] Emotion UI 2.3 & 3.0 (Huawei UI)

    milekolev -

  • Nasse's Photo
    [ROM] [ALL] [KK] Mahdi Rom 2.9 Final

    Nasse -

  • davef7's Photo
    [JB] [4.2.2] CyanogenMod 10.1 [ROM] [19/12/2014]

    davef7 -

  • tool_king's Photo
    Nightly Kernel 3.4 (Based 100% on Mourta's, updated 12/19, REUPLOADED TO V2)

    tool_king -

  • emotty's Photo
    [DEV][ROM] [5.8] CyanogenMod 11.0 (Android 4.4.4)

    emotty -


Sponsored Links



- - - - -

Inspire Home Automation Thermostat Review


Introduction

Regular MoDaCo readers will know that I have something of an obsession with hooking stuff up to the Internet. Power sockets, security cameras, devices, even Christmas trees - if it’s IP enabled, I want to be able to get to it from outside! But for me... there’s always been one piece of the puzzle missing - it’d be fantastic to be able to control the house’s heating when not at home. The thinking behind this is pretty obvious and it’s much more than just a gimmick - how often have you been out for the day and left the heating on in an empty house? How often have you gone away for the weekend and come back to a cold house because you turned the heating off? The reality is that heating schedules are generally limited, inflexible and a bit of a pain to manipulate, so an Internet (and thereby mobile) enabled heating controller seems the perfect answer.

It was with this in mind that I stumbled across the Internet Room Thermostat from Inspire Home Automation which at first glance seemed to answer my prayers. Internet enabled? Check! Android enabled? Check! Well priced? Check! Compatible with my rather ancient heating system? Surprisingly - check!

I contacted the company behind the exciting gadget with a view to finding out if it lives up to it’s potential - read on to find out!

Pricing / availability

The Internet Room Thermostat (IRT) is priced at £124.99 including delivery and a 1 year warranty, with extended warranties available at a price of £10 per year, sold directly from the Inspire Home Automation website. While this is more expensive than the simple ~£20 ‘dial’ thermostat it replaced, it’s actually very competitively priced when it comes to programmable thermostats. For example, a 7 day Honeywell programmable thermostat will set you back more than Inspire’s offering, with no connectivity options whatsoever, so i’m pretty impressed with the price point - I think it’s good value.

Thermostat vs timer

One of the first things I had to get my head round was that the IRT replaces the thermostat in the heating system and not the timer. My heating setup is fairly typical in that it has a timer hidden away somewhere where I set what times that the heating / hot water comes on, then a thermostat ‘dial’ in a high traffic area of the house which controls when the heating is activated based on temperature (within the constraints of the periods set on the timer). The way in which the IRT works is by replacing the thermostat and using it’s control to manage not just temperature based switching, but time based switching too. This means two key things for your timer - first of all that the hot water is not affected / controlled in any way and secondly that the heating should be swithed to ‘always on / constant’ on your timer, delegating control to the IRT.

Package / installation

The IRT is a 2 wire thermostat, making installation as simple as possible with only a switching circuit. This was initially a concern to me as my thermostat was hooked up to 5 wires, but after discussion with the excellent Inspire technical suport team (and me sending them a photo of my existing thermostat wiring) they confirmed that I only needed to hook up 2 of the wires and could seal off the others. Simple!

When the IRT box arrives it contains 3 main parts. The first part is the wireless controller which plugs into your Internet router via a supplied Ethernet cable. Easy! The second is the backplate for the new thermostat. This fixes to the wall using supplied screws and rawlplugs (the instructions even tell you which drill bit size to use, useful for a DIY idiot like me) and is home to the connectors for the aformentioned 2 wires. Easy! The final piece is the controller itself, which is powered by 2 AA batteries (supplied) and clips onto the backplate, secure by two small screws. Really easy!

Installation really is just a case of drilling 2 5mm holes and connecting 2 wires - that’s it. The controller is surface mount (yet just 22mm deep at it’s largest point). A comprehensive installation manual is provided both in the box and online (PDF) - the usual caveats apply, check for buried cable locations before drilling, get the unit fitted by a qualified electrician if unsure etc. etc.

Build quality

Before we get into the specifics about how the device is in operation, it’s worth a quick paragraph about build quality. This thing is beautifully engineered. When you fit the backplate, attach the wires and then add the thermostat it’s evident at every step that a lot of thought has gone into the design of the product, It’s all very high quality and very well made. Very refreshing!

Setup

After the thermostat is installed, the next step is to hook it up to your router. The thermostat and the gateway (the part that connects to the internet) are pre-paired at the factory for ease of installation. A pairing button on the back of the gateway performs manual pairing should this need to be carried out (for example your gateway or thermostat is replaced), used together with a button combination on the thermostat itself. The wireless connection is at 2.4GHz - if you have other devices in this range then it’s probably worth siting the gateway for minimal interference, although I haven’t found this an issue personally despire a whole host of 2.4GHz around the house and the IRT is designed to provide robust communication between the gateway and thermostat using transmission acknowledgement (the devices don’t just ‘fire and forget’, unlike my Bye Bye Standy kit for example).

After the thermostat and gateway are paired (power, internet and link status are indicated by 3 LEDs on the gateway and an icon on the thermostat), the last step is to register the device online. Pressing a button combination on the thermostat displays a registration code which is entered at the Inspire Home Automation website - then you’re ready to go!

Posted Image


In use

The thermostat itself has a large display and 4 buttons which allow you to carry out all of the main functions without resorting to your web browser / phone. You can set the current time / day, set the on / off times, set the target temperature for the programmes and set the current target temperature. In it’s idle state the display shows current day / time, current function (i.e. off / programmes / on), gateway connectivity status, low battery indicator (if applicable) and the current temperature. Pressing the buttons allows you to view the currently configured timings and temperatures. The display is not backlit.

When setting the heating programmes, the device can be configured with independent settings for each 7 days of the week or with different settings for weekday / weekend depending on the granularity you require. The thermostat currently allows you to create 2 control times (e.g. morning on / morning off and afternoon on / afternoon off), with independent temperature settings for each. This means you can effectively have 14 different activations in a week, each with it’s own on / off time and temperature.

You can of course override the settings manually from the controller - you can turn the heating off or turn it on continuously, states which remain active until you switch the thermostat back to the timed programmes. You can also choose whether to run just the first programme of each day (P1), the second programme of each day (P2) or both (P1 + P2).

Everything you can do on the thermostat itself is replicated on the website. On the main page, 5 large buttons let you set heating to ‘Off / One / Two / Both On’, a slider lets you choose the current target temperature and the current temperature is displayed. A text area gives you the current status of your heating - for example mine currently reads ‘Your heating is currently turned off. You have a 5/2 day program set. Your heating is next scheduled to switch on Today at 15:00, until 21:00 and heat your home to 18°C’. The ‘Advanced’ tab on the website is where you set up your programmes. You can also turn ‘automatic time’ on and off. The ‘User’ tab lets you manage your login credentials.

There is one option on the main page of the website that I haven’t mentioned yet, the ability to set up a ‘scheduled start’. The scheduled start allows you to choose a time and a target temperature and what happens is that your heating will turn on at the specified time and stay on until the house reaches a specified temperature before reverting to your set programme - quite a nice feature!

So that’s how it all works in theory... how does it work in reality? Brilliantly actually! Everything works exactly as you’d expected, switching is very reliable, temperature measurement is spot on and remote commands are delivered very quickly. I have seen the gateway lose connectivity a few times due to issues with my Internet connection but in every case it has managed to reconnect on it’s own just fine and without losing any commands I sent while it was disconnected - exactly what you want. The website, while deceptively basic in a appearance, gives access to everything you need to do and is simple to use.



Mobile app

The Android app for the IRT (as seen here in the Play Store) echoes the website in that it looks a little simple, but gives access to all the same features meaning that everything you could need to do you can do from your phone. The handy scheduled start option is present too.

The only issue I initially had with the Android application was it occasionally requiring me to re-enter my login credentials, but that was due to me using it on multiple devices, an issue that has now been resolved.

I was about to write that the app could do with a bit of ‘Holo love’ to bring it up to current Android ICS user guideline standards, but actually the flipside of this is that the app runs just fine on Gingerbread - which is rather important!

An iOS app is also available in the App Store, a Windows Phone application is not currently available.


Direct access / server dependance

When I tweeted about the IRT, one of the concerns that potential buyers raised was that the whole service is dependent upon the Inspire Home Automation servers and that, should anything happen to the company (something people seem to be extra concerned about in the currently cliemate), that might cause a problem.

The reality is that yes, the IRT is using a server based solution so should that server disappear, the Internet functionality would stop working. Should that happen, the thermostat would of course still function perfectly as an offline device, so it’s not a case of ‘your heating wouldn’t work’. I raised this concern with Inspire themselves and while, of course, they don’t ever see this happening (as you’d hope), they did give me assurances that should this ever occur (again, hopefully not!) they would ensure that they allowed users to continue using their devices either by issuing a patch to allow users direct access to their gateway / thermostat or by releasing the server software for someone in the community to run. To be fair, this is a server dependency that is evident in a whole host of consumer electronics nowadays, so for me personally this is totally a non issue.

Conclusion

When I installed the Inspire Home Automation IRT I had very specific ideas about what I wanted it to achieve - I wanted to upgrade our old, ‘dumb’ system with an Internet connected system that I wanted to control from my phone. I wanted it to ‘digitially’ provide all the functionality of the ‘analogue’ setup it was replacing. I have to confess that at £124.99 I thought it perhaps couldn’t be that good or might have failings . But I was wrong. The Internet Room Thermostat is a great product that does exactly what I want it to do.

It’s well made, thoughtfully engineered, competitively priced, has great potential for future development and it’s made IN BRITAIN by a small British company based in Bournemouth.

Every house should have one.

Future

While the IRT is a great device today, the scope for the future is even greater! I would love to see the ability to have more than 2 control times during a day, intelligent features such as learning when to turn on to heat to a specific temperature by a set time, an API to allow programmatic heating control, additional hardware that can be connected to the gateway... the possibilities are endless! From my conversations with Inspire I definitely get the impression that they too plan to extend and improve their offerings as the IRT becomes more and more popular... i’ll be watching with interest!

About the author

PaulOBrien's Photo
Paul O'Brien founded MoDaCo in 2002 as a site focused on Windows Smartphones and has grown it since then by concentrating on providing a friendly community for both experienced and beginner mobile enthusiasts.

  • 0


25 Comments

Photo
James Norton
Dec 10 2012 04:02 PM
Sounds really interesting. What is the trigger range on the thermostat? By which I mean, if you set your heating to be 21 degrees, at what displayed room temperature will the thermostat switch on or off?
    • 0
Hmmm, I don't understand the question...

P
    • 0
Very interesting
I've recently installed a new thermostat.
It has a 7 day timer and 5 different settings through the day, but I've been wishing I could access it on my phone.
    • 0
Paul,

How do you get to your thermostat? The 'mythermostat' link on their homepage gives a 404

http://www.inspireho...co.uk/login.php
    • 0
@Paul: What "The Jones" meant is what's the threshold for the activation/deactivation. E.g. you set a temperature, let's say 21. If the threshold is +/- 1, then the thermostat will start the heating when the temperature goes below 20 degrees and stops when the temperature goes to 22. This is to avoid to start/stop the heating all the time.
Also there's usually a minimal time, e.g. if the heat is on, then it goes off, there's a minimal time when the heat won't go on again, even if the temperature drops under the 20 degrees, but that's a setting present only on some thermostats.
Also, do you know if they ship outside UK? I wasn't able to find this info on their website, but when I tried to install their Android app I got the error that it can't be installed in my country, so I assume it's UK only.

[later edit]
Ok, I just lost my edited text, because I pressed "back" by mistake, so I lost everything :(
So, the short version:
- can you set a custom temperature, for a limited period of time? Let's say I have a party and I want to set the temperature to 21 degrees for the next 7 hours, then return to the programmed schedule. Is that possible?
- the "Advanced" tab is a hour-by-hour schedule? Maybe I want to set more than 2 change points, or maybe I want a different schedule on Saturday vs Sunday. I agree that most people will be happy with the 5+2, 2 change points schedule, but if I want a more flexibile scheduling, is this possible?
- is it possible to change the settings directly on the device? Maybe my internet connection is down, or their server is temporarily down; I have to rely only on the custom settings, or I can reprogram it directly on the device? A web server on the device/gateway would be great, but I assume they don't have one.
- their website seems to be down, I logged in with demo/demo and it's stuck on "No device found, please check connection.".
    • 0
Photo
T39andcounting
Dec 10 2012 05:11 PM
Looks like an interesting device, and definitely going on my wish list! It does seem a shame, however, that it can't also control the heating as well. I don't understand why they can't replace the timer, as it seems to replicate a lot of the functions. In the example about being away from home, I'd definitely like the ability to remotely turn off the hot water while I'm on vacation, then turn it on remotely so it warms up for when I get home!

How is this powered? I assume there's a battery in the Thermostat? Is there any indication of how long that will last? And does the wireless controller need a plug? Does that draw a lot of power? Thinking of this as a 'green' product, it would be a shame to replace my dumb, mechanical thermostat with a device that eats batteries and sucks power from the wall!
    • 0

Paul,

How do you get to your thermostat? The 'mythermostat' link on their homepage gives a 404

http://www.inspireho...co.uk/login.php


Here - https://www.inspireh...lient/index.php - their bottom link is broken, i'll let them know!

P
    • 0

How is this powered? I assume there's a battery in the Thermostat? Is there any indication of how long that will last? And does the wireless controller need a plug? Does that draw a lot of power? Thinking of this as a 'green' product, it would be a shame to replace my dumb, mechanical thermostat with a device that eats batteries and sucks power from the wall!


The controller is powered by 2 AA batteries and the gateway plugs into the mains. Sorry, I can't measure the power draw as I don't have anything that can do so!

P
    • 0
Photo
T39andcounting
Dec 10 2012 05:43 PM

The controller is powered by 2 AA batteries and the gateway plugs into the mains. Sorry, I can't measure the power draw as I don't have anything that can do so!


Thanks. My worry is that in the next few years there will be lots of these devices coming onto the market, each with it's own gateway. We're going to need more ethernet ports and plug sockets! If only there was some kind of standard...!
    • 0
T39 - there is another WiFi thermostat, also made by a UK manufacturer (heatmiser), that has an inbuilt WiFi module and its own web server, so you don't need the gateway; that one is battery-less, but it needs a 230V cable to power it.
Right now I'm investigating which one should I buy, but since the Inspire doesn't seem to deliver outside UK...
    • 0
re: some of the questions raised above...

IPv6 - TBC. Are you actually running an IPv6 only network? :-S

The threshold is +0.5 degree / -0 degree. So if the set point is 20 it will switch off at 20.5 and switch back on at 20.

There isn't any minimal time which the thermostat will stay on for.

Inspire do not ship outside the UK, they are not insured for selling products outside the UK.
    • 0
Photo
unrandomsam
Dec 11 2012 09:03 PM

Thanks. My worry is that in the next few years there will be lots of these devices coming onto the market, each with it's own gateway. We're going to need more ethernet ports and plug sockets! If only there was some kind of standard...!


The standard is X10 has been for ages.
    • 0
Photo
InspireHomeAutomation
Dec 12 2012 02:49 PM
Good afternoon everyone. I am one of the developers of this product. Many thanks for the comments. We read and take note of all comments about the product.
Obviously we cannot please everybody as if you ask 10 different people what they wanted from the system, we would get 10 different answers. From the beginning, our aim with this product was for it to be easy to use at a sensible price, and I hope that we have achieved this.

Now to answer your questions.
What is the trigger range on the thermostat?
Currently +0.5 – 0. This may be adjustable in the next software release.

Is there a minimal time?
Currently not. This could be added if there is a need for it. However unless you have your thermostat located somewhere very draughty (eg by the front door) then I don’t think this would really serve any purpose. There is a 10 second averaging filter on the temperature measurement.

Do you ship outside the UK?
Currently not due to insurance. However if you had a uk friend you could ship it to…
Hopefully this will change in the future.

Can you set a custom temperature, for a limited period of time? Let's say I have a party and I want to set the temperature to 21 degrees for the next 7 hours, then return to the programmed schedule. Is that possible?
Nearly. Yes you can switch the device to “ON” and set the required temperature for your party, then switch it back to your normal program schedule. However you could not set it to be “ON” for x hours, then revert back to normal programming automatically.

maybe I want a different schedule on Saturday vs Sunday. I agree that most people will be happy with the 5+2, 2 change points schedule, but if I want a more flexibile scheduling, is this possible?
We didn’t do this as we thought it made the unit too complicated. However we have had several requests for this, so it will be going in the next software version. However there is a 7 day scheduler so you can have different times/temperatures for each day of the week.

- is it possible to change the settings directly on the device? Maybe my internet connection is down, or their server is temporarily down; I have to rely only on the custom settings, or I can reprogram it directly on the device?
Yes everything apart from the scheduled start is settable on the thermostat itself.

A web server on the device/gateway would be great, but I assume they don't have one.
No there isn’t one, however it is possible. What would you want it to do? Replicate our “my thermostat” webpage?

I don't understand why they can't replace the timer, as it seems to replicate a lot of the functions.
This was considered at the concept stage. Two problems. First you would only be able to switch heating on/off, not adjust the temperature. Other major problem is there are different types of timers. Some are external, many combis have them built into the boiler, with a different design for every boiler manufacturer. The thermostat seemed to be the obvious part that was fairly generic across all heating systems.
Yes we could have included hot water on the thermostat, but that then involves additional wiring. We will consider a module in the future if there is enough demand. A good boiler should be able to produce hot water in 15 – 20 minutes, while you are unpacking the car J

Power requirements.
Thermostat 2x AA batteries (supplied) Should last a year, however we think this can be improved upon with some software tweaks.
Gateway Plug in. Will measure the power usage, but I would guess about 2-3 watts.

Is there a “Standard” for home automation?
None that are really suitable. X10 is insecure and obsolete.
Zigbee is very expensive.
In order to achieve our “easy to use” and “sensible price” goals, we had to create our own custom protocol.

there is another WiFi thermostat, also made by a UK manufacturer (heatmiser)
Heatmiser uses wifi so do not have a “gateway” however you need the neutral at the thermostat. Wifi is very power hungry so not suitable for battery operation, and is definitely not compatible with our future plans hence why we chose not to use it. Another thing to bear in mind is that Heatmeiser requires some IT knowledge to set up (open up ports, static IP etc).

Any other questions/suggestions we will be more than happy to answer.
    • 1
Photo
T39andcounting
Dec 12 2012 03:40 PM
@InspireHomeAutomation

Thanks for the responses!
    • 0

Ok, I just lost my edited text, because I pressed "back" by mistake, so I lost everything :(

Chrome? You NEED this!

https://chrome.googl...fmgopdkppkifgno

P
    • 0
Photo
princeotter
Dec 12 2012 08:10 PM
The number of timing settings per day seems low (my current one has 6 settings per day and can be set differently for each day) but then I suppose if you can access it over t'internet then you don't need lots of settings.... £125 seems steep for a programmable thermostat though - decent non wireless ones are £30-£50 (mine's £31 currently) .
    • 0
I think more settings per day would be a good add, I maintain the price is pretty reasonable imho!

P
    • 0
Photo
InspireHomeAutomation
Dec 14 2012 10:43 AM
Good Morning
An update on the power consumption.
The gateway draws 1.3 watts from the AC supply.
(Or 3p per week)

The number of timing settings per day seems low
We will fix this shortly.

£125 seems steep for a programmable thermostat though - decent non wireless ones are £30-£50 (mine's £31 currently)
Not much we can do about this at the moment I'm afraid. We have two boxes for our system, which immediately doubles the price, then the wireless modules (£10), then the AC power supply (£5), Also your £30 unit was probably produced in 10 - 100k quantities in china. We are producing in the 100's. Obviously as quantities go up, the price will come down, but it will never be £30 i'm afraid.
    • 1
This sounds like a great device and I would have one now. However, currently I have a wireless controller to our old combi (must be 25/30 years old, but efficient and strong!!) and no wired thermostat.

Are there plans to include a wireless connection to the boiler itself in the future?
    • 0
Photo
InspireHomeAutomation
Dec 20 2012 08:09 AM
Hello Alasota.
Yes we do have plans for a fully wireless version, however it probably will not be ready until Autumn 2013. Also it will push the price up by another £40 - £50.
    • 0
What do people think of BGs offering £149 fully fitted. Looks a good option for us in the UK.

http://www.britishga...ml#.UNcO0Kx3PpE
    • 0
Photo
T39andcounting
Dec 23 2012 02:13 PM

What do people think of BGs offering £149 fully fitted. Looks a good option for us in the UK.
http://www.britishga...ml#.UNcO0Kx3PpE

Is that a British Gas rebranded Inspire device, or do they have their own version?
    • 0
Photo
InspireHomeAutomation
Dec 23 2012 04:46 PM

What do people think of BGs offering £149 fully fitted. Looks a good option for us in the UK.

http://www.britishga...ml#.UNcO0Kx3PpE

The £149 price is only when installed as part of a new system. Their prices are as follows:

"£199 for those customers with existing British Gas Energy or British Gas Services accounts.
£229 for customers who are new to British Gas.
Please call the number above for more information.

A price of £149 is available when Remote Heating Control is installed as part of a new
Central Heating Installation from British Gas."

Is that a British Gas rebranded Inspire device, or do they have their own version?

No, the Inspire device is our own design and is not sold to anyone else.
    • 0
Photo
T39andcounting
Dec 29 2012 06:07 PM
Slightly off topic, but I've just used the MyJoulo service (https://www.myjoulo.com) to measure and get feedback on my house temperature and thermostat settings. Neat service that sends you a logger, which you leave on top of your thermostat for a week, then upload the results via USB. It then gives feedback on how your thermostat settings compares to the national average, and what difference increasing/decreasing temp would make.
Given that the Inspire is connected to the web and (I assume) measuring temperature, adding similar functionality in would be pretty cool.
    • 0
Photo
The Soup Thief
Aug 17 2014 08:10 AM
Apologies for reviving such an old thread but I'm about to move house and am interested in getting one of these or something similar. Wondering if anyone has any recommendations. Thanks
    • 0