0

We have a simple analogue dial-based room thermostat. The sort of thing that costs about £15. I'm considering replacing it with a programmable one - which would cost maybe £30.

When I recently went to buy a timer plug for an electrical appliance, I could buy a wifi-enabled one for much the same price (£10) as a normal programmable one, but that allowed me to set the schedule, etc using an app, which I found much more convenient.

How come this isn't a thing for a room thermostat? Instead I seem to need to buy an expensive thermostat, some sort of hub, etc, etc. Easily £100+.

Is it because a typical room thermostat doesn't have a mains connection and so having normal wifi built-in would drain the batteries too much? Or something else?

3
  • 1
    Voting to close as this is an opinion-based question.
    – jwh20
    Oct 28, 2020 at 16:10
  • @jwh20 is it? I'm just wanting to know the technical reasons why such things aren't available. I assume if it were possible, there would be such products out there.
    – xorsyst
    Oct 28, 2020 at 16:11
  • 1
    off topic, but check out wyze, new wifi thermostat for $50
    – Jon
    Oct 28, 2020 at 18:16

2 Answers 2

4

Simple programmable thermostats use so little energy that they can run a meaningful amount of time on batteries.

WiFi requires a considerable energy budget. That characteristic of WiFi is why Bluetooth was created, to make earbuds, headphones etc. possible. You'd have to change batteries twice a week if you had a battery powered WiFi thermostat!

As such, a WiFi thermostat needs to have a means to sap its own internal power needs off of the power going to the furnace etc. That's actually a bit tricky, especially to get past regulators (i.e. to have a TUV, BSI or genuine, earned CE mark.)

Also, you are comparing apples and oranges. Many of the "WiFi smart plugs" you are seeing are cheap Cheese junk that is direct-imported, or direct-imported using Amazon's warehouses as a free-trade zone drop ship point. The upshot is that the CE certification is worthless and faked. That the item has earned its CE mark is the responsibility of the importer. That's you. If you got it from Amazon, don't look at them - they insist they're "just a platform" for the third party seller you actually did buy the item from... And that seller has no presence in Europe, so not responsible for safety compliance.

Apparently our far-Eastern communist buddies are not that keen on offering dirt cheap WiFi smart 'stats for sale, or else they'd hit your price point too, I'm sure. Probably for the best.

4
  • 1
    Actually, it's no longer the case that the bulk of the wifi smart plugs on amazon are uncertified junk. Many of them are actually advertising their UL listing now, such as this $15 two-pack: amazon.com/TP-LINK-HS103P2-Required-Google-Assistant/dp/…
    – Nate S.
    Oct 28, 2020 at 21:09
  • 1
    @NateS. TP-LINK is a "real" company. But there are others that are not. Oct 28, 2020 at 23:30
  • 1
    For sure, but also that's not the only one. Basically, now that real companies are making them at scale for low cost, the fake ones are going away to some degree. They're still out there, but they're no longer in the top results on Amazon like they used to be.
    – Nate S.
    Oct 29, 2020 at 1:58
  • One of the many reasons I don't buy from Amazon unless I really need to! Thankfully Argos is doing a decent job these days of stocking lots of the same stuff and near comparable price points.
    – xorsyst
    Oct 29, 2020 at 9:21
1

Mass Production/Supply & Demand

The electronics in a WiFi "anything" are actually pretty complex. Computer (microcontroller), non-volatile memory, radio transmitter/receiver, etc. The reason these things are at anything close to an affordable price is mass production. With many products, especially consumer electronics, that actually includes both individual components and the complete product.

A plug-in WiFi timer, WiFi thermostat, WiFi video camera, WiFi doorbell, etc. all rely on mass produced components, such as WiFi chips that include a radio as well as "glue" circuitry to connect to a computer and microcontrollers that include a processor, a little bit of RAM, a little bit of non-volatile memory, etc.

However, the second part matters too. If you produce 1,000 of a product it is essentially bespoke - and expensive. If you produce 10,000 you can get the price down quite a bit as many of the components (e.g., cases) can be produced more efficiently, though with a higher initial cost (for molds, etc.) spread across the production run. Get up to 100,000 or 1,000,000 and the effective per-unit cost drops dramatically. What I suspect you are encountering is a much larger market for plug-in timers (anyone can use one easily, at any time) than thermostats (most people replace them only once every several years, only have 1 or 2 per house, etc.).

Demand for a product influences production directly and also introduces competitive pressure. If more companies are competing to produce an item, some will try to compete on price, which generally lowers prices for all. (Not 100% - some companies will produce a "premium" product and keep their prices up through exclusivity - e.g., Apple vs. "everyone else".)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.