Modern heating controls can help householders make significant savings on their energy bills, but ‘one size’ doesn’t necessarily fit all. When it comes to choosing the right solution, Gareth Ash of Danfoss looks at the different product solutions and what the imminent introduction of new regulations will mean for installers.
Following consultations with industry and other stakeholders throughout 2017, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is introducing legislation in April aimed at improving heating efficiency in England’s homes. Known collectively as Boiler Plus, the new standards reflect continuing efforts by government to cut carbon emissions – and energy bills for consumers – while still driving economic growth. Whilst any measures to boost system performance and give consumers more control over their heating are to be welcomed, getting to grips with new regulations can be a daunting prospect for even the most experienced installer.
As a major manufacturer of heating controls, Danfoss is pleased to see that Boiler Plus recognises the many benefits of installing heating controls, such as room thermostats. Compared with the rather vague requirements in the Domestic Services Compliance Guide (the document that supports Part L of Building Regulations) the new regulations clarify the application and use of controls. Correctly installed, and used, these devices are proven to minimise energy consumption, maintain a comfortable temperature and avoid overheating. Any professional installer worth their salt will already be aware of these benefits and will be fitting these products on a regular basis. However, the difference come April 2018 is that some types of control will become mandatory.
Experience and innovation
According to Boiler Plus policy, the UK boiler market is the biggest in the world, with an annual value of around £2.5 – £3 billion, and has some of the most experienced manufacturers and installers. The new standards seek to draw on this experience, and the latest technical innovations in areas such as heating controls, to help consumers keep their homes comfortably and, perhaps most importantly, affordably warm.
With these aims in mind Boiler Plus will:
• Require all gas boilers installed into existing systems in England to have an ErP efficiency of at least 92%.
• Require time and temperature controls to be installed at the same time, if not already present and working.
In addition to this, when fitting a new combination boiler installers will be required to include an additional energy efficiency measure at the same time. This can be any one of the following:
• Flue gas heat recovery system (FGHRS).
• Weather compensating controls.
• Load compensating controls.
• Smart controls featuring a level of automation and optimisation functions.
Deciding which of these additional energy saving measures to fit as part of a new combi installation will depend on a number of factors. To help with this decision, let’s consider the pros and cons of each option.
These systems save energy by recovering heat from waste flue gases to preheat the cold water entering the boiler. According to Boiler Plus, this technology may not be suited to all households. It states that FGHRS is most cost-effective where the hot water demand is relatively high compared to space heating, such as in highly efficient properties or particularly large households. FGHRS can also be one of the more costly options, and being a fairly large unit that needs to sit above the boiler, there needs to be enough space to fit it.
• Weather compensation
Weather compensated heating systems use a small outdoor sensor to adjust the system controls to compensate for changes in outdoor temperature automatically. As the weather gets colder the system works harder and produces more heat to radiators: conversely, as the weather warms up, the system reduces the temperature to the radiators. To operate effectively, the sensor should really be sited on a south-facing wall, which may not be practical for all locations. Also, from an installer’s point of view this technology can be quite complicated to set up correctly and ensure optimum benefits for the end-user. On top of these considerations, installers should be aware that weather compensation is best suited to more thermally efficient properties and relatively constant use of the heating system. So this may not be the best option for those who are out at work all day.
• Load compensation
Room thermostats, which include load compensation control, calculate how long the heating needs to stay ‘on’ to achieve optimum comfort and boiler efficiency. Proven in ‘real world’ tests conducted by Danfoss and other leading control manufacturers, load compensation control can result in a potential 10% reduction in energy consumption by the heating system compared with a slower reacting mechanical thermostat. Indeed, Danfoss regards this as such a major benefit to efficiency that all our room thermostats, even basic models, now offer load compensation control. Load compensation control is possibly one of simplest and most cost-effective ways to comply with the new standards and will be a familiar function to many installers.
• Smart controls
When it comes to choosing heating controls, smart controls can offer both convenience and energy savings. Smart thermostats, like the Danfoss TPOne Wi-Fi for example, let consumers with a busy lifestyle control their heating remotely via smartphone or similar device. Smart controls that offer load compensation or weather compensation will be fully compliant with the new Boiler Plus standard. Installations can also comply by using other smart thermostats, providing they offer both automation and optimisation.
In brief, automation is a function that allows the device to automatically control the heating system output in response to programmed demand or occupancy detection. Optimisation means the device calculates how long it takes the property to reach the desired comfort level, and then times the operation of the system to minimise the amount of work it has to do. With various ways to ensure compliance, installers are advised to check individual features and functions when choosing a ‘smart’ control.
Although smart thermostats can be more expensive than basic load compensators or weather compensators, Boiler Plus states that they offer faster payback through reduced heating bills than any other technology in the new standards.
Keep up to date
With the imminent introduction of Boiler Plus and the growth in smart technologies, there is a lot for installers to consider when choosing heating controls. Today’s consumers are often more informed and engaged in the decision-making process, so installers need to keep up to date with new developments and standards to ensure they recommend the most appropriate – and compliant – solution for each customer’s needs. For more information about Danfoss products and details of free customer training, visit www.heating.danfoss.co.uk