How a wireless thermostat can transform your heater
Controlling your plug-in electric heater remotely will make you more comfortable and save money.
By Paul Smith
Head of Testing
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.
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 technical writer
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
Heatermate Plug-in Digital Thermostat Wireless Model WTS2000