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One thing householders can guarantee in the next few years is that energy bills will most likely continue to rise. Whilst awareness about this is high and over recent years there has been more emphasis on insulating homes through schemes such as the Energy Company Obligation and the Green Deal, the information about the benefits of upgrading central heating and hot water controls has been sadly lacking.
A 2012 study by Consumer Focus found that consumer interest in and awareness of improved central heating controls was poor. However, many consumers may have noticed recently an increase in advertising and articles about new intelligent central heating control systems.
Monitoring of external temperatures to enable calculations to be made as to when turn on central heating to reach the correct temperature at a specific time.
Learning about living patterns over a period of time so that the system will adjust the central heating and hot water automatically without intervention.
Through the use of additional thermostats, homes can be broken down into more “zones” thus allowing more specific control in different areas.
The ability to control individual radiators remotely.
They can be retrofitted to existing central heating systems.
Some systems will even track the homeowners mobile to determine when they are on their way home and hence when the heating needs to be switched on.
Given the amount of control these systems can offer, they do appear to be relatively inexpensive with prices ranging from between £199 and £250. However, the prices quoted by the various companies offering these systems are for the basic system and, once you add more thermostats, control panels and individual radiator controls, the prices will go up.
Most of the suppliers of these new active systems do make claims about how much a householder could save however, how much an specific household will save will vary according to their lifestyle and the number of people in the home. Typical savings given by manufacturers are:
Honeywell Evo – Up to 40% of energy bills in a typical household.
British Gas Hive – Save up to £150 per year on energy bills.
Tado –Quotes savings of between 22% and 31% depending on the size of the house and the occupancy levels.
So, payback periods for these devices could be between 1 and 2 years if only the basic system is installed at between £199 and £250. However, if additional thermostats, controls etc. are added, the payback period could be longer. This may change if more competition moves into the market and prices of components start to fall.
Whilst the suppliers make claims that consumers will be able to save on their energy bills with these devices, it will largely depend on how easy these systems are to understand and use. Ultimately, it will come down to the user. Consumer Focus research carried out in 2012 did find that many consumers experience difficulties in understanding heating controls so, for active heating controls to be a success, they will need to be easy to use and understand. That does raise the question as to whether these types of control will ever become mass market or whether they will only ever appeal to the more tech savvy members of the public.
To be fair to the manufacturers of intelligent central heating controls, they not only emphasise the benefits of savings on energy bills but also the convenience of being able to have more control over your central heating and hot water when you are away from the home. This may well be more appealing to busy householders than the energy savings. These benefits won’t however be very relevant to the elderly or disabled who may spend most of their time at home anyway and may not have access to or be able to use a smart phone.
More information on central heating controls
The Consumer Focus study into central heating controls: http://www.consumerfocus.org.uk/files/2012/01/Consumers-and-domestic-heating-controls-a-literature-review.pdf
A review of five different intelligent central heating control systems: http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/124710-high-energy-prices-here-are-five-intelligent-heating-systems-looking-to-save-you-money
The importance of central heating controls: http://www.thegreenage.co.uk/tech/heating-controls/
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