Modern domestic heating control is all about comfort, convenience and cutting energy consumption, says Gareth Ash of Danfoss, who looks at the latest developments in the light of new regulations.
The cost of heating a home, particularly during the colder winter months, makes up about 60% of household energy bills. Due to come into force in April, the Government’s Boiler Plus regulations reflect the need to find smarter ways of heating our homes to keep costs down, maximise comfort and reduce carbon emissions. To achieve this, the new legislation aims to drive the market for the highest performing boilers alongside the use of high efficiency heating controls to maintain the desired temperature without overheating.
Lack of control
More than a decade since the 2005 Building Regulations set new performance standards for boiler replacements, too many homes still have outdated heating systems. Industry research estimates that nearly a third of homes in England are heated by older, inefficient boilers that are costly to run, while almost a quarter of homes are without a room thermostat to set the preferred level of comfort. This lack of control often results in wasteful overheating and can prevent the condensing action that makes modern boilers more efficient. Current consumer advice highlights the benefits of setting heating to come on only when needed, and adjusting the temperature with a thermostat. The Energy Saving Trust advises that turning down the thermostat by just 1°C can save households £80 to £90 a year.
With this in mind, Boiler Plus will make it mandatory for all gas and oil boiler installations to be fitted with time and temperature controls. There will also be a requirement for an additional energy saving measure to be incorporated as part of all new combi boiler installations. This can either be a flue gas heat recovery system, smart controls (with some level of automation and optimisation), weather compensating or load compensating controls.
Installers have an important role to play in helping their customers find controls that meet their needs and which will comply with the new standards when they come into force. To be effective, these devices must be accessible for householders to operate with ease and suit their individual capabilities and lifestyle. For example, a so-called smart thermostat that provides remote control of the heating system via an app might be ideal for a tech-savvy consumer who is out at work all day. However, this facility would be of limited value to someone who is housebound or has a fixed routine.
Although smart thermostats may not appeal to all demographics, the market for these products has been growing over the last few years, with almost 400,000 new customers in 2016 according to figures compiled by one energy consultant. Smart controls that incorporate load or weather compensation would be fully compliant with Boiler Plus, so it is worth checking specific features when considering these products. Despite being more expensive than basic load or weather compensators, opting for a smart solution is likely to pay for itself through reduced heating bills faster than any other technology in the new standards.
A modern room thermostat featuring load compensation also provides a compliant solution. A familiar function for most installers, load compensation calculates how long the heating needs to stay ‘on’ to achieve optimum comfort and boiler efficiency. Proven in ‘real world’ tests, this type of control can result in a potential 10% reduction in energy consumption by the heating system compared with a slower reacting mechanical thermostat. Indeed, we see this as such a major benefit to efficiency that all Danfoss room thermostats, even basic models, now offer load compensation control.
Although we know that most professional installers are already aware of the benefits and fit modern heating controls as a matter of course, making it a requirement under Boiler Plus will ensure that all installers follow this good practice. As a major manufacturer of such products, we acknowledge our role in helping installers achieve customer satisfaction and compliance by developing solutions that are both easy to install and use and by offering expert training and technical advice. For more information visit www.heating.danfoss.co.uk