I love tech. I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘geek’ in regards to understanding the intricacies of how things work and I’m not up-to-date on the latest innovations in Silicon Valley (is that still a thing?). However, I do enjoy the practicalities of technology – how can I use things to make our lives easier, less distracted, increased choice and more enjoyable? One of the areas I particularly enjoy is around smart technology in the home.
I’ve tried out a number of connected home kits before – mainly consisting of smart plugs, sensors and cameras controlled via an app – and have enjoyed getting to gips with using tech in this way to monitor and secure the home. However, I’ve been well aware that I’m using bits from multiple systems when what I’ve always wanted is one that will do everything.
Step forward Hive. Made famous for their Hive Active Heating which allows people to control their hot water and heating via an app, they’ve since expanded the Hive family to include smart plugs, sensors, lights and cameras – thus giving folk the ability to control, manage and connect with their homes through tech.
As part of their Special Moments campaign – which aims to aims to show how Hive can help make special, everyday moments even more memorable – we were lucky enough to get our hands on various Hive devices to test and review at home. This included the Hive Hub, Hive Active Heating, a Hive Active Plug, a Hive Window or Door Sensor and two Hive Active Lights – one dimmable and the other colour changing.
There’s a full, detailed review below of our experience with using the Hive products, but as way of a summary, they’ve been a great addition to our home. We’ve been able to control many aspects of our house – heating, lights and other appliances – automatically and remotely which helps to make life that bit easier. Not only that, but the products have added to our daily lives, providing opportunities for things like enjoyment and being together.
Let me give you a few examples. We let Toddler L turn on the Christmas lights on our tree using the app and the Hive Active Plug, the Hive Active Heating has meant that we’ve not had to get out of bed to turn the heating on and can instead all snuggle up and read kid’s books from beneath the covers, and I’ve even used the colour changing Hive Active Lights to create a festive ambience for Christmas movies.
Christmas season is upon us and we’re trying to get through as many Xmas movies as we possibly can. Today’s offering was a present from the Guncles – Mariah Carey’s animated film All I Want For Christmas Is You. Yes, that’s right, she has a movie named after her iconic hit which features a little girl called Mariah – I wonder how long it took her to come up with that. . On a day like today, there’s nothing better than sticking the heating on full blast, drinking a hot chocolate and having a toddler cuddle as you watch a Christmassy film. I even took it one step further by creating our very own revolutionary 4D cinematic experience by sticking on the heater, lighting a scented candle, flicking water from a distance and cycling through the rainbow of festive colours using our new @HiveHomeUK colour changing smart light bulbs. Who needs the IMAX, eh?! . We’re currently reviewing Hive smart products including light bulbs, door sensors, smart plugs and the thermostat, so this is just one of the many ways which I’ve been able to make our ordinary moments more special. The fact that I can control stuff in my house from my phone and via Google Home is awesome – who knew turning lights on and off was so exciting. Keep an eye out for the review coming soon. . #HiveHome #LetsGetLiving #hivespecialmoments #ad
The Hive Hub is the central part of the connected home – the Paul Pogba of the system, if you like. Through the Hub, all of the other smart devices are connected and controlled. In the box, you get the hub (which is surprisingly compact), the power cable and the Ethernet cable.
Setting up the Hive Hub was really simple. You need to plug the Ethernet cable into your router then plug the power cable into a plug socket. Next, you need to activate the hub – this required me to download the Hive smartphone app, register with Hive to get an account, then enter my Hub ID which is on the bottom of the hub. The whole process took no more than five minutes – I was now able to add the devices through the app.
Hive App / Online Dashboard
The smartphone app and online dashboard are basically the same thing, albeit one is an app on your phone and the other is through an internet browser. Both provide the same functionality to allow you to install devices, manage devices, create Actions, set Schedules and control your connected home. As they’re basically the same, I’m just going to refer to the app below.
The Hive app is pretty intuitive to use and took me very little time to become comfortable with it. Once the Hub was setup, I needed to add devices through the app via ‘Install Devices’ > ‘Add Another Device’. The system then looks for your new devices, and if found, shows them on the app display. I’ve added multiple devices to the system and had no issues in them being found – on average, it probably takes around 45 seconds for the device to be found.
Once identified and added to the system, you’re then able to use the app to actually control that device. Obviously, what you can do depends on what the device is – so, for instance, this includes things like turning on / off the Hive Plug, changing the brightness and colour of the Hive Active Light or turning up the heating.
Each device can be added to the homescreen of the app in the beehive-shaped grid – see what they’ve done there?! This gives you a quick overview of what devices are turned on and off in your connected home. Clicking on one of the icons then opens the device manager for that device. From here, you can manually control it, as well as set up Actions and Schedules which add an element of automation to the system.
Actions are basically telling your system ‘if X happens, then do Y”. Again, this is pretty easy to use and setup because the options are already defined, so it’s just a matter of selecting what you want. We have a couple of Actions setup which is really useful from a home security perspective. For instance, I receive an instant push notification if either the front or back door sensors are opened and I have it setup so that a light turns on if the front door is opened.
Schedules allow you to define when you want the system to do something based on time and day. Again, this is useful when you want something to happen automatically. As a few examples, we have the Active Light in our hallway – which we use as a nightlight for L – turning on and off during the hours when she’s (hopefully!) asleep in bed. Similarly, during the festive period, we have our Christmas tree lights connected to the Hive Plug so that they automatically turn on at the time it’s getting dark, then off again when we’re heading to bed. Then there’s Active Heating which turns on and off in both the morning and evening.
Something I particularly like is just how quickly the app is ready to use. Within 2 seconds of tapping the app, you’re in a position to do whatever you’re entering the app to do, be it manually turn on a light or change a Schedule. When, for instance, manually flicking a light switch on the wall takes no time at all, the last thing you want is to be waiting 30 seconds to carry out that command via the app. I’ve used other smart home tech from other companies where this delay is a problem, but had no issues with Hive. Similarly, I’ve had no connectivity or functionality issues with the app.
Hive Active Heating
Hive Active Heating allows you to control your heating and hot water remotely via the app or with the very stylish thermostat – as we have a combi boiler, we only need it for heating. Installation was really simple – mainly because we had a fella from British Gas visit the house and fit it for us. Why does that service not exist for flat pack furniture?!
Anyway, as I already had the Hive system installed and this was being added on, Dan was with us for about 45 minutes. He replaced our existing wireless thermostat with the Hive one so that it was correctly connected to our boiler in the garage.
He then came inside and fitted the thermostat. He gave me the option of having it freestanding or actually attaching it to the wall. Our old thermostat was freestanding so we could move it around, but considering we’d be able to control the temperature with the app, I decided it’d be best to have it fitted. We located a good space on the wall and he did the necessary fitting.
I have no issue in admitting that the Hive Active Heating 2 is a very sexy looking bit of kit. With it’s sleek design, LED display and highly reflective front, gone are the days of the cheap looking plastic thermostat. We haven’t – yet – but you can also buy fascias in different colours to match it with your decor.
You can control the heating via your phone app or the thermostat – they both do the same things. Personally, we tend to use our phones more, but it’s good to know that you have the same functionality on the thermostat if needed. You can configure things in a number of ways. For instance, you can turn the heating on manually and change temperature, set up a Schedule to do it for you or use Actions, e.g. if the Door Sensor triggers. We have it on the Schedule setting so that it turns on and off in the morning and the evening.
If the Schedule isn’t quite right, then you have the ability to tinker with this as you see fit. You can also ‘Boost’ which turns the heating on for a particular length of time, e.g. one hour. I really like this feature as it means you can turn the heating on just to take off the chill, then not have to worry about it as it’ll turn off on its own.
Something that’s pretty cool is that Hive can use your phone’s GPS to detect your location. If Geolocation is switched on, the heating will turn itself off when you’re phone is out of the house, then back on when it returns – this can result in savings as you’re not unnecessarily heating the house. There’s also a holiday mode where you can set the dates you’ll be away – however, we’ve not used that yet. Finally, it also has frost protection which will turn the heating on if it drops below a certain temperature.
We’re still getting used to Hive Active Heating, but I can already see – and feel – a difference in the house temperature. We don’t have the hot and cold extremes we did and the house tends to stay at a regular temperature. I’ve noticed this the most in the morning when the house would always be cold when we got up. What’s more, with claims such as saving up to £130 per year on heating with Hive, I’m looking forward to saving the pennies in my nice, warm, efficient house.
Hive Window / Door Sensors
The Hive Window / Door Sensor is designed to alert you when said window / door is opened. In the box, you have two parts to the sensor – I’m going to call it the big one and the small one. To get it working you install via the app – you pull out a tab, which makes the LED flash and search for the Hub, which you in turn use to scan for new devices. Once identified, you need to fix the Sensor in the desired location with the included adhesive strips.
You stick one side of the sensor on the door and the other on the door frame (or window, or cupboard, depending on what you want it to monitor) no more than 10mm apart. Then, when the door is opened, the two parts of the sensor are moved away from each other, which breaks the connection and changes the status from ‘Closed’ to ‘Open’.
With the aforementioned Actions, you can set the system to do certain things when the sensors are Open or Closed. For instance, I get a push notification whenever the front or back door is opened to alert me to the fact. I also have an Active Light turn on for 30 seconds when the front door is opened to act as both (1) a deterrent for unwanted visitors who would see a light turn on if they opened a door, and (2) a welcome for us when we get home so that we’re not entering in the dark.
Hive Active Light Bulbs
There are three different types of Hive Active Lights which you can add to your connected home – there’s (1) Dimmable, (2) Cool To Warm and (3) Colour Changing. We have the Dimmable and Colour Changing versions. As the names suggest, the former allows you to change the brightness from 0% to 100%, whilst the latter allows you to not only do this, but also choose a single colour from a rainbow of choices.
Available in both screw and bayonet fitting, they simply replace your existing light bulb. Once inserted into the socket and the switch is turned on, you install the Hive Active Lights via the app. Once it’s found, you’re then able to use the app to control the lights – for instance, altering the brightness, changing the colour or setting a schedule.
As well as providing brightness, the Hive Active Lights provide additional benefits. As they are LED, they are more efficient than normal bulbs, thus are cheaper to run over the long-term – they also last longer. I’m also now able to control bulbs individually – due to the wiring in our house, our two hall lights always had to be on or off together. Now though, we can control them separately. Finally, although a bit gimmicky, the colour changing bulbs have provided plenty of entertainment for the toddler, plus helped her with her colours!
The one thing to remember is that you need to leave the light switch turned on at all times. Due to habit, you will find yourself reaching for the switch, then remembering that this is now defunct. Something I really like though is that if you flick the switch, it doesn’t disconnect everything. I’ve had previous bulbs (Bluetooth), which disconnect if you turn off the light switch. This is very annoying and something I’m so relieved doesn’t happen with Hive Active Lights.
Hive Active Plugs
The Hive Active Plug allows you to turn appliances on or off remotely via the app. As with the other devices, you add this to your connected home via the app – just put it into your chosen plug socket, turn it on and search. Once linked to your system, you then plug your appliance into the Hive Active Plug and have control over when it’s turned on or off.
Since owning the Hive Active Plug, it’s mainly been used for our Christmas tree lights. This has allowed us to turn our lights on and off remotely, as well as set up a Schedule to automatically switch them on and off at set times. As the Christmas tree is only up for a few weeks of the year, we’ll often forget to turn it on, so having it done automatically gives us the festive cheer despite our poor memory.
The beauty of a smart plug is that you can move it around and control any appliance – so, in a way, the possibilities are endless based on what you own. As well as the Christmas tree lights, I’ve used the Hive Active Plug to control a lamp in the living room so the dog wasn’t left alone in the dark when we were out and I’ve switched on our slow cooker when I wasn’t at home to start cooking a stew I’d prepped earlier in the day.
Google Home Integration
Obviously this only works if you own one, but something I LOVE is the integration with Google Home. The smart speaker and home assistant allows you to link up your Hive system (lights and plug, not heating), thus meaning that you can also control your connected home with your voice. It’s the stuff of the future…today!
Setup is done via the Home app and allows you to configure Hive via ‘Home Control’ – you simply select Hive from the list and authorise connection of your Hive account. You’re then prompted to assign each device to a room – this is brilliant and actually gives you more control over your connected home.
For example, by saying “OK Google, turn on living room”, I’m able to turn on three devices at once – both Active Lights and the Hive Plug (which currently controls the Christmas tree lights). Similarly, saying “OK Google, turn off everything”, literally turns off every device at once – great for when you’re heading to bed and have multiple devices turned on.
Google Home therefore makes life that little bit simpler. As the Hive app doesn’t have the functionality to group devices together – which would be a great addition and something I’d like to see – the fact that this can be done through Google Home is awesome. Similarly, because it’s voice controlled, you don’t need to have your phone, and the Hive app, to hand – great for if your phone battery has died or if you’ve misplaced it down the back of the settee.
I’m also eagerly awaiting the ability to control the Active Heating via Google Home – I can boost the heating via an IFTTT applet, but hope that full Active Heating integration with Google Home is on the cards in the not too distant future.
Like most smart home systems, creating a connected home isn’t something you can do on the cheap. Hive does market itself as an affordable solution and it is in line with other top quality smart home systems from that perspective. In terms of price, it’s £249 for Hive Active Heating (including installation and a Hub), £19 for a dimmable Active Light, £44 for a colour changing Active Light, £29 for a Door / Window Sensor and £39 for an Active Plug.
There’s no doubt that this adds up, particularly if you’re looking to replace all existing bulbs or have sensors on all windows and doors. However, I think it’s important to look at it as an investment over the medium to long-term. There’s also associated savings, for instance, LED bulbs last much longer and smart thermostats reduce energy usage.
After trying multiple other smart home kits and finding that they don’t quite do everything I’d like, I’m very chuffed to have Hive in my life. It’s, without doubt, the best smart home kit I’ve tried and it’s added another dimension to what I considered an already connected home.
The fact that I can control heating, lights and appliances (via the smart plug) remotely and through automation, as well as be alerted to whenever the front or back door is opened, shows just how incredible technology has become. Throw in the integration with Google Home, which allows me to control devices with just my voice (although Active Heating is lacking), and it does pretty much everything I want.
Setup is quick and easy, the app is intuitive and simple to use and I’ve not experienced any of those little annoyances that ruin the experience, such as connectivity issues or the app freezing. I genuinely love having Hive and would have no qualms about recommending. In fact, I’ve already purchased an additional Door / Window Sensor and a few extra Active Lights to expand our system, which I think says it all really!
The DADventurer Star Rating
5 out of 5 Stars
Disclosure: This is a commissioned post in collaboration with Hive. The smart home products were sent to me by Hive with the purpose of writing an honest review.