Get smart on connected homes

We are now fully immersed in a world with a growing interest in all sorts of connected technologies. In terms of domestic heating, many prospective house buyers want to control a heating system from their smartphone or set it up so that minimal interaction is required. For housebuilders and developers, this means exploring the variety of smart heating controls available on the market, in order to help bolster the sales potential of new homes.

The smart control opportunity

The rise of the smart home has brought with it a raft of heating technologies that improve efficiency, comfort and convenience, all c an internet connection. Connectivity is a key feature within the latest generation of boiler controls, enabling heating and hot water to be controlled remotely from anywhere in the world using a smartphone or tablet. It’s a hugely desirable concept, and the best examples on the market manage to balance great aesthetics and ease of use with the ability to reduce overall energy output.

With housebuilders and developers always under pressure to improve the efficiency and subsequent emissions of a home, it is easy to see why smart heating controls are playing an important role in the specification process of many new build developments. A large part of this is
down to the fact that many smart controls boast several useful features to this end, including:

  • Weather compensation, which can tailor a boiler’s performance to local weather conditions via the internet – a far cry from the on/off controls of previous generations.
  • Load compensation, a control function that maintains internal room tempera- tures while operating the boiler at as low a flow temperature as possible to increase the condensing operation.

Automation and optimisation, to adjust time and temperature settings based on occupancy detection and/or stored data from user adjustments over time. Optimisation starts the boiler operation at the optimum time to achieve the set point temperature at the start of the occupancy period. Most internet-enabled thermostats will contain both of these attributes.

Thanks to these features, housebuilders can make sure that all heating methods are synced via controls and ready to hand over to the homeowner to customise based on their lifestyle.

Smart controls & hybrid heating

Smart controls, in conjunction with intelligent hybrid systems, are also increasingly being turned to for developments built off the mains gas grid. The benefit of using heating controls with renewable heat sources is that the heat source can often be switched based on need and cost. Most homeowners will also enjoy having the flexibility and money saving benefits that usually come with renewables supplement- ing a boiler as the main heating source.

Solar thermal panels for example, when used alongside smart heating controls, can work really well together to help reduce emissions and create efficient homes. When combined with a boiler and hot water cylin- der for instance, this delivers yet another way of providing hot water requirements for the household, and in turn reduces the reliance on the boiler. Typically, by harness- ing energy from the sun and converting it into usable heat, up to 60 per cent of a home’s hot water requirements can be fulfilled during the course of a year.

Many new build property developments built on the gas grid are also well-suited to having boilers working alongside renew- ables such as solar thermal panels, or flue gas heat recovery systems. As a result, it is worth considering hybrid heating systems with smart controls for a variety of new build homes, not just those off the gas grid.

Boiler plus

Since April 2018, all new and replacement gas-fired combi boiler installations in England must comply with the Heat in Buildings ‘Boiler Plus’ policy. In short, the legislation details that boilers must have a minimum efficiency of 92 per cent ErP, and that each installation also needs to include time and temperature controls, in addition to one of the following four options: load compensation, weather compensation, a flue gas heat recovery device, or a smart thermo- stat with automation and optimisation.

Many of the smart controls on the market today have at least one of these four energy-saving measures options, if not more than one. The use of smart controls with these features in turn adds peace of mind for developers that the home is compliant with the policy.

Overall, it is in the interest of housebuilders and developers to consider how smart controls can increase the sales appeal of new homes by helping to reduce energy bills and creating compliant homes.

Martyn Bridges is director of technical communication and product management at Worcester Bosch