How a wireless thermostat can transform your heater

Controlling your plug-in electric heater remotely will make you more comfortable and save money.

Heatermate remote thermostat paired with a heater.

The thermostat on your plug-in heater measures the heater’s temperature, not how warm it is where you sit. Could a remote thermostat help you to find your comfort sweet spot? We tried one to find out.

Adjust a heater’s thermostat and sometime later you’ll feel the difference. You’ll be using trial and error to make your room comfortably warm, but not too hot.

Going remote

Heatermate thermostat unit.
Heatermate Plug-in Digital Thermostat (AU$49.95 plus AU$18.95 shipping).

A remote thermostat has a controller you place in the room and a switch you plug into your heater. You set your desired room temperature on the controller, and the switch turns your heater on and off to achieve it.

We sourced a remote thermostat from Heatermate in Australia – we were surprised they aren’t more widely available here. Our head of testing Paul Smith and technical writer James le Page trialled it in two Wellington homes.

Convection and oil-column heaters

James le Page, Consumer NZ technical writer. James le Page, Consumer technical writer

Set-up

I was disappointed to find it needed a couple of AA batteries – not supplied. It was even more annoying to find I didn’t have any.

I had to follow the instruction manual, which I hate, as the Heatermate isn’t particularly intuitive. Even setting the clock took me a couple of goes, and I didn’t get to programming its timer. At least the two parts come pre-paired, with no tech knowledge needed to get them communicating wirelessly.

Performance

The first heater I used was a new convection model with a digital controller. It was a disaster. The heater would get switched off by the Heatermate when the room temperature was met. But when it turned on again, it’d beep and power on but wouldn’t begin heating.

After that failure, I tried my old-school oil column heater. It has a dial thermostat that doesn’t mean much, so I generally put it on full-whack and promptly forget about it until I wake up in the middle of the night, dried out and roasting. I put the Heatermate thermostat on my bedside table and set it to 18°C. I was pleasantly surprised, as I didn’t overheat and the room stayed at a nice temperature.

Verdict: A modern revamp for an old heater

Heatermate wall plug.
The plug takes over a double-stacked wall socket.

Having a thermostat near where you are in the room makes total sense. I’ll continue using the Heatermate in my bedroom with the oil column heater – I think that’s its best application. However, the plug part is bulky and completely takes over a double-stacked wall socket, so I can’t charge my phone at night.

You’ll need to check your heater before buying the Heatermate. If it has a digital display and resets when it turns on, you won’t have any joy with this device.

$500 panel heater

Paul Smith, Consumer NZ head of testing. Paul Smith, Consumer head of testing

The Heatermate box claims the product is a "New design", yet the 1990s-era white plastic device that emerged isn’t something I'd want to display on my sideboard.

I attached it to a pricey Nobo panel heater fitted with an on/off switch and an analogue thermostat. I handed it to my daughter to trial while studying in her bedroom.

Performance

Before the Heatermate, her room would overheat and much thermostat tweaking was required to make the room comfortable. With the Heatermate attached, she just set the remote unit to 20ºC and got on with her schoolwork.

She noticed the room temperature was reported as more than 21ºC. I hypothesized that was due to a lag between the heater turning off and convection warming the room. She wasn’t convinced by my extra-curricular science lesson. She tried it again with the heater thermostat set a bit lower, which seemed to help with the overheating and her understanding.

Power saver

I measured power use over three hours on two consecutive days. The difference was striking. With the Heatermate, the Nobo heater used 0.4kW compared to 1.8kW without it. 

Verdict: Overpriced but essential

This is a great upgrade. It’s not cheap, but the Heatermate should save you money and improve your room comfort. I can’t fault the Heatermate’s function, but I wish the device felt more “Apple” and less “AliExpress”. It makes it feel overpriced, though I know it’ll pay for itself in the long run.

Specifications

Heatermate Plug-in Digital Thermostat Wireless Model WTS2000

Thermostat and wall plug units.

AU$49.95 plus AU$18.95 shipping

https://www.heatermate.com.au/

  • Temperature accuracy +-1°C
  • Programmable daily timer (4 heating and 4 cooling times)
  • Child lock
  • 20m maximum range (between display/thermostat and plug units)
  • Powered by 2x AA batteries (not supplied)

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Member comments

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Brentleigh B.
27 Jun 2020
HeaterMate

I purchased a HeaterMate a couple of years ago and use it to control the temperature in my bedroom and for travelling with my caravan. I set the heater well away from any combustibles, turn the heater thermostat to full and set the timer to 24 hour operation. Then plug the HeaterMate into the power socket, plug the heater cord into the HeaterMate, and adjust the HeaterMate to my ideal temperature. Turn the HeaterMate on when retiring for the night and off when getting up in the morning. Brilliant.

John T.
11 Jun 2020
Heatermate HY02TP - no batteries

I bought a Heatermate model HY02TP online. It is both a thermostat and a timer. You plug it into the wall socket, and plug your column heater into it. Set the temperature you want to achieve, the time to come on and the time to turn off. It does the job well. It tends to turn off the heater a degree or two lower than what I set it to, probably because the proximity of the electric current to the thermostat distorts its reading.

Vivian Coll
08 Jun 2020
Temperature Controlled Timer

Arlec Temperature Controlled Programmable Timer - please can you add a review for this timer from Bunnings? Thank you.

https://www.bunnings.co.nz/arlec-temperature-controlled-programmable-timer_p4420584

Chris W.
20 Jun 2020
Arlec thermostat

I looked at the heatermate and it just seemed over complex. So I have three of these Arlec thermostats now, and they work brilliantly. I just set the temp, position the heater well away (a full cord length) from the thermostat, and forget about it.
The only niggle I have is when the thermostat is reset, the default temp is 22c, which is a bit too warm for me sleeping.

Bill H.
02 Jun 2020
Plug-in heater thermostats

In 1970, one of the earliest facts Consumer taught me was the impossibility of controlling room temperature if the thermostat is part of the heater. I tracked down a real thermostat from a trade electrical supply shop. A friend helped me rig it up with the various cables and fittings -illegal then, just like it would be today! But we were young graduates and "knew it all."

That thermostat kept me comfortable through several student flats and bachelor digs. And that same thermostat, now in a proper set up, is entering its 49th winter of faultless performance.

Marriage gave me a wife who likes hosting guests and boarders. I bought two more portable thermostats and as before I had to add my own cables, junction boxes and electrician. People staying in our house enjoy the steady, comfortable temperature and the power bill stays comfortably in control too.

All my thermostats are wired , not wireless. Very intuitive, very reliable. The wireless model you reviewed is a step in a good direction, but it's not there, yet. The controller sounds fiddly to use and the sensor isn't at the recommended 1.7 m wall height.

Bill Horton, Hamilton

Paul S.
03 Jun 2020
Ahead of the game

Hi Bill,

Looks like you were there way ahead of the rest of us - nice one! I was amazed that remote thermostats were so hard to track down. This Australian product was the only one we could find. Perhaps a market opportunity for a smart tech company?

cheers,
Paul

Mike & Erena B.
31 May 2020
Would this work in a remote location?

How does the wall mounted thermostat talk to the heater, obviously a wireless connection but is it using a wifi network or bluetooth? I have been to the Heatermate web site for more details on the specifications but the information supplied was not helpful in this regard. I could use such a device in my tunnel house for frosty mornings but the tunnel house is out of range for the house wifi so would require bluetooth. Can you please explain a bit more about how it works please.

Rachel B.
31 May 2020
No wifi needed

It looks like the plug and thermostat communicate on radio frequencies, not wifi or bluetooth. I checked the product specifications and a radio frequency was given for each component.

Matt F.
01 Jun 2020
20 metre range

The specifications say it has a 20 metre range.

Paul S.
03 Jun 2020
How it communicates

Hi folks,

The two parts communicate using a radio frequency connection (433.92 MHz according to the box). They come pre-paired, there's no bluetooth or wifi to set up.

I haven't tested the range - as I only used it in a smaller room, but Matt F is right, the specs say "20 meters in open area". I'll set them up in the office tomorrow to test that, and post the result here.

The practical limit will be down to the heater itself. If you plug the wall unit in to a 2400W heater, it's unlikely to be able to heat a space that stretched 20m away.

cheers,
Paul

Reid B.
30 May 2020
Science or magic?

You say that the Nobo in your daughter’s room used 1.8 kW without this add-on thermostat but only 0.4 kW with it, tested on consecutive days. Totally unscientific - firstly the energy consumption should be in energy units, such as kWhr (and how did you measure this), secondly, it is totally implausible that this added control device can somehow generates the same usable heat with only 22% of the electricity input, and thirdly, the idea that you could get a sound result comparing a few hours of two different days, without consideration of other factors like room starting temperature, humidity, drafts, doors open or not, outside weather conditions. The huge disparity in initial result should have been a starting point for some basic questions as to why, and not broadcast as magic. Consumer really expect readers to trust such nonsense?

Carolyn B.
31 May 2020
I appreciated the information . . .

I assumed this was carried out during lockdown. As a reader of Consumer for decades, I have to admit I was more than happy that the team had continued their efforts to enlighten us as to their experiences.
Normal testing is rigorous, so, for the thermostat to have a trial in two homes I felt was beyond what I expected (during lockdown). The variables did not need to be stated - (at least to me) they were obvious in a home setting.
Reid’s criticism I felt was unwarranted, I’d like to thank the team for sharing their experiences with us. I was not aware of such a device, and will look further into their practicality.
Many thanks team.

Paul S.
03 Jun 2020
Magic!

Hi Reid,

Thanks for your feedback - it's good to get into this detail and have our assumptions and methods questioned. It keeps us honest, and we're always willing to listen and adjust what we're doing to give the best advice we can.

I didn't suggest this was a scientific lab-based study. I'll test this thermostat in our heater lab to see just what difference it makes later this winter, when we've caught up with the heater testing we're doing that was delayed by our Covid-19 lockdown.

For now, you'll just have to accept this is a less-than-scientifically-controlled trial that I hope provides some advice that's of use. It certainly made me think about how much power my plug-in heaters use.

The two consecutive days of my trial were similar in weather (though I didn't analyse it) and the trial was done in the same room over the same time period. I didn't control for drafts and door opening, unfortunately. That's because the biggest variable in the trial was my teenage daughter (who is most definitely not scientific). Despite my nagging, I'm sure she forgot she was part of a controlled experiment and got distracted.

It was quite a difference in power used, aye? I was surprised too. (Note: to get kWh just divide the kW power used by 3, as I ran the heater over 3 hours). My hypothesis is that the room was overheated using the heater thermostat, because there was a lag between the heater warming the air around it, and the temperature rising across the room (convection heating from the panel was uneven), which meant the human variable in the room didn't adjust the thermostat as often as she should.

And that's really the point. The remote thermostat made such a difference because it removes the human variable. The Heatermate didn't "generate the same usable heat" - it generated much less. Without it, the room was overheated. The Heatermate isn't magic, it is just more efficient because it removes the biggest inefficiency in the system - the human who controls the thermostat. When that inefficiency is a teenager, I think an 80% saving in power is actually plausible.

cheers,
Paul