Smart Heating Controls: How you can become richer, save the world, and get smart

Smart Heating Controls: How you can become richer, save the world, and get smart

October 4, 2018 0 By Nicola Litchfield

Since the new Boiler Plus legislation was passed in April 2018, the industry and installers now are not only responsible for keeping their customers warm and boilers ticking over. Now, they also have an obligation to ensure that every boiler is efficient, doesn’t waste energy, and meets the legislation standards.

Boiler Plus was launched to make the UK Eco-friendlier and to meet fuel reduction targets. A great step in reducing carbon usage. However, this doesn’t mean limited heating or hot water in the depths of winter, it just means we need to get smarter.

The new legislation states that gas and oil boilers must have the following to ensure that they meet the new energy standards:

  • All gas and oil boilers must have working temperature and time controls.
  • A new gas boiler must have a heating efficiency of at least 92% ErP.

And for combi boilers, all installations must have at least one of the following:

  • Weather Compensation – a device that automatically adjusts your heating in accordance with the weather and temperatures outside.
  • Load Compensation – a device that reduces your fuel consumption by adjusting your flow temperature.
  • Flue Gas Heat Recovery (FGHR) – reusing the heat from flue gases that would normally get lost to preheat your hot water.
  • Smart Heating Control with Automation & Optimisation – a smart thermostat which can in most cases, does all the above – handy right?

These changes have been put in place to not only save energy – and hopefully in small ways the environment – but they also have benefits for installers and their customers.

It is important that installers and plumbers know what is what, as it is now a legal requirement to ensure every new boiler fitted meets these requirements. So, making your customers aware of smart heating controls is a great way to educate people on the new energy standards, as many ensure a boilers efficiency level. Additionally, consumers will be saving money, energy, and get the benefits of a smart system! For home owners, these smart systems should be on your radar. Technologies are constantly advancing and changing to make our lives more convenient, and in this respect smart heating controls are looking to be the systems of choice in the future.

In 2017 Forbes magazine predicted that the ‘Internet of things’ (IoT)* market will grow from being worth $157b in 2016 to $457b in 2020, with an annual growth rate of 28.5% – the market will receive financial investment and boom.

* For those who don’t know (don’t worry I myself had to google it) the Internet of Things market includes home devices that use the internet to collect and send data. In the case of smart controls this is to improve energy usage, costs, and save our general time. 

Reporting for HVP on the modernisation of heating controls, Kevin Stanley comments that:

“The emergence of third-party control companies developing products with enhanced style and aesthetics has led boiler manufacturers to react and offer devices with similar visual impact and functionality.”

Admittedly, whenever ‘artificial intelligence’ or ‘data collection’ is mentioned nowadays, we get on the defence, instantly against whatever robotic device is trying to integrate with us. However, to work properly and to get you the best results, that is exactly what these smart controls do – don’t worry, they don’t literally have a camera watching when you turn the heating on.

The way these smart devices work, is they collect data, and learn. By hooking one up to your home system, they will learn your ideal home temperature, what times you are most at home, and when your water system is over working and burning energy.

For example, let’s look at the Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation:

  • For Nest to learn your heating preferences and start building a schedule, all you have to do is start using it – after a week it will have learnt your time and heating habits.
  • Nest can also be controlled and linked to an app on your phone. Through this it will know when you have left for work or are out of the house. This allows Nest to keep the heating off when you are out to save energy, and to turn it back on right before you get home, so you are never greeted by a cold house.
  • You can also control your hot water through your phone app, so if you are just dying for a hot bath as soon as you get home, it will be ready.
  • The app can also show you how much money and energy you are saving – although the initial price is more than your typical thermostat, these controls have been predicted to pay for themselves within a year.
  • This smart control can sync up with other home devices or software you may already have installed, such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
  • Once it has learnt your schedule and how hot you like it, you can just let Nest tick over and run your heating system.

It is worth noting however that Nest is most effective in smaller homes, as it doesn’t support multi-room configurations. This is where the Hive Active Thermostat becomes a smarter fit:

  • Although it will be of a greater cost, the Hive thermostat has a multi-room function (up to three rooms) and so each area can be individually controlled and heated. This results in greater savings all round and is defiantly worth the investment in the long run. You will save energy and money by only heating the rooms you are using, rather than the entire house.
  • This thermostat can also be managed from your iPhone. From there you can turn your heating on, off, give it a boost or heat your water.
  • Also featuring daily and weekly scheduling, you can tailor how you want to use your energy down to the hour if you wish.
  • Hive also can connect to your other home devices and software, compatible with Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
  • Extra smart features include frost protection, holiday mode, and Geo-tracking. Geo-tracking is a feature that links up to your mobile app, similarly with Nest it can see when you are home and when you are out, adjusting the heating accordingly. With Hive it can even send you a reminder if you have left the house with the heating on – in which case you can turn off via the app.

Another thing worth noting about these heating controls are their use-friendliness and clear displays. Nest has a circular dial and touch screen, which more and more people are now familiar with using since the rise of the smart phone. Hive has a combination of touch screen and button controls, equally simple to use and straightforward. Nest also comes in a variety of smart colours and so will suit any home décor, rather than having an unattractive grey box on your wall.

After considering these factors you may find a smart thermostat is the way to go with keeping a lid on your carbon usage and heating spend. They ultimately give you greater control over your heating system and a more detailed insight into the energy you use. Should you switch and get smart, we’re confident your pocket and the planet will appreciate it!