INCREASED CONTROL FOR THE CONSUMER AND INSTALLER WITH SMART THERMOSTATS

Although central heating has been installed in the majority of our homes since the 1970’s, the way in which we control our system is only now beginning to evolve. This is largely driven by new government initiatives such as ECO and Green Deal, where energy savings are identified by licensed energy assessors.

When you consider that a house with a number of radiators is possibly only controlled by a single room thermostat, usually in the entrance hall, then you can see how such a basic system could be improved. Most installers now recommend the use of thermostatic radiator valves (TRV’s), which do play some part in achieving more balanced room temperatures and provides energy savings, but does this go far enough? I know plenty of people who leave their thermostat set at 21˚C all year round and then regulate the room temperature by opening and closing windows!

Many people do not even bother to set a sensible time clock programme to reduce the heating demand when they are out. When you multiple this behaviour by the 26 Million UK homes, is there any doubt that we have been wasteful and are to blame for the current energy supply and demand problems this country faces?

When you consider that over 30% of all energy consumed by the UK is from heating our homes, there must be plenty of scope for savings and being more energy efficient. The problem lies with the fact that education on this matter is somewhat lacking. I wonder how many of us have looked at section 18 of the Domestic Heating Design Guide recently and actively encourage their customers to invest in all of the measures recommended?

The problem often lies with cost for the customer and that not all heating engineers are electrically qualified and competent in this field. Many installers buddy up with electricians they have worked with before but there are many who don’t and ask the customer to organise this themselves. I have seen plenty of good quality heating installations that are troublesome and inefficient for the homeowner purely due to a lack of understanding of the controls by the electrician who fitted them or the end user who cannot operate them correctly.

Thankfully manufacturers now recognise an opportunity in a growing market for energy efficient control systems and the cost of them is coming down. There are now plenty of reasonably priced and easy to use programmable room thermostats available from merchants.

For the more adventurous, smart learning thermostats are a very reasonably priced alternative to full weather compensation systems. They even provide for remote control over the internet, detailed reporting for the installer and end user as well as weekly weather forecasts on an iPhone, iPad or on-screen display.

From specialist merchants, traditional zone control packages and weather compensators are also available. Manufacturers of renewable energy products have grasped this from the beginning but unfortunately have gone a little too far in making their offerings complicated and difficult for the end user to operate.

So we need to find a happy medium and this is probably a challenge for the installer to solve. This is a good opportunity for the installer to demonstrate his skill and knowledge and therefore win more business. Thankfully there are plenty of sources for help on this and your local merchant should be able to assist you in this matter. If not perhaps you should try another one who can!