What Is Smart Heating?
Have you been considering smart heating to save on your bills and help the environment? There have been estimates that energy savings of up to 50% can be made by installing smart heating. This is probably where the system being replaced is very poorly set up and used, and savings in the 10 to 20% range are much more likely. A smart thermostat is essentially able to automate heating and/or hot water preferences that would otherwise need to be done manually. Plus the ability, in most cases, to control the system remotely, it allows homeowners additional control over their energy consumption and spend. It can be confusing to decide your best options as you may wish to pair your smart thermostat with smart radiator valves allowing the increase in heating zones in your house. In addition, if desired, a broader home control capability such as lighting, plug sockets and security is available with some systems, and often can be accessed via a Smart screen/speaker. Almost all systems are suitable to retrofit to an existing system that is controlled by manually set thermostats and/or scheduling. Whilst components can be combined from different manufacturers this will multiply the control interfaces to deal with and potentially prohibit useful capabilities from a single source system. Many suppliers will offer a reasonably priced installation service which is worth considering if you are looking to install a complex system or are uncomfortable with DIY.
In this article we do not discuss the integration with heating element (heat pumps/ radiators/ hot water cylinder/ etc.) manufacturers control systems which must be looked at on a home by home basis.
Basic features will allow you to check the temperature at any time and set schedules to assure home heating comfort and cut down on wasted heating when not required. Plus, most systems will allow remote schedule changes so you can assure the same in the case of the unexpected events. More advanced features include geo-location, capable of automatically turning off your heat when the last person leaves, or open window detection to make sure you are heating your house not your garden.
Key Questions Before Installing Smart Heating
Does your system use a combi boiler or have a separate hot water tank? Simply put if you have a separate hot water tank you will need an additional component. This has minimal pricing implications from most manufacturers but without it you will lack the ability to control/include your hot water supply within the smart system.
Does your home have multiple heating zones? Most homes will have a single heating zone with the ability to control individual radiators. In this case you can replace your existing thermostat with a single smart thermostat, and then manually control individual radiators (thermostatically or manually) to make sure rooms are heated or not as and when required. Alternatively, you can add smart valves to your radiators which provide similar capabilities to a smart thermostat, radiator by radiator. Accompanying applications allow you to create multiple heating zones where they did not exist before. More modern houses may have multiple heating zones whereby a smart thermostat can be installed for each zone, and if required additional heating zones created via additional smart radiator valves.
Does your home have different heating circuit types? Gradually the use of wet underfloor heating in the UK is increasing. In general terms most systems will see this simply as another heating zone, which can be added to a radiator zone. The sophistication with which this is managed varies from system to system. There are still very few systems that integrate electric heating (underfloor or space) but they do exist.
Do you want to control your home from a single interface? Most smart thermostats and smart radiator valves will come with their own physical or application based interface (mobile or PC) or both. Some application based interfaces will also have the ability to add other smart home elements such as cameras, lighting, plugs, door sensors but if not purchased from the same supplier you will be multiplying control interfaces. You can choose to consolidate smart home interfaces through a smart speaker or smart screen, such as those from Amazon, Google and Apple, and while these may currently be a little harder to set up and not as slick as the supplier’s interface, most major suppliers have integrated with these platforms.
How smart do you want your heating to be? You will pay a price for the advanced features and will need to be prepared to spend the time, and potentially money (installation fee) to set them up correctly. If you are your heating can automatically turn off when the last person leaves and on when they arrive in rooms and learn your preferences and optimise for them and the weather. Open window and door detection can also be added to avoid heating meant for indoors escaping outdoors. Finally, more and more manufacturers are now including heat usage capabilities in their apps so that you can look historically at your use and how you may be able to reduce it.