The central heating in my shared house is controlled by a white plastic box on the wall. This winter it broke down. I spent several hours downloading the 20 page manual from the internet and reading it. So far I have only managed to reset the clock and know how to turn the heating off and on. It works now. It had been switched off over the summer. But reprogramming the white plastic box so that the heating comes on on a Sunday afternoon, which it does not, is just too terrifying.

Smart heating systems allow the user to control their central heating system using a tablet or a mobile phone. The white plastic box is terrifying 1990s technology. The tablet or the mobile phone are 21st century devices and we all use them every day. They are considerably easier to operate. Some of the latest systems don’t even need to be programmed. They have a kind of artificial intelligence. By being linked to your mobile phone, the control system is able to study your habits. If you typically go out for two hours on a Tuesday evening, it will know this. Modern heating systems have zone controls, so that different parts of the house can be programmed to be heated at different times. Some smart heating systems can give you up to twelve zones. There are those two bedrooms that are only in use at weekends, when the grandchildren come to stay. The system can turn on the heating in those two bedrooms only during the times when they are occupied. It has light and motion sensors, so it could work out when the grandchildren are in the bedrooms by itself, it doesn’t have to be told.

Will smart central heating controls reduce your heating bills by 25%, as promised by the manufacturers? That depends on your level of skill with traditional control systems. It is possible for the white plastic box to achieve everything a smart heating system control can achieve – just go into the local chemist’s shop and ask them which headache tablets they would recommend for a starburst migraine. With sufficient effort and expert programming, it can be done. My father is so frightened of his white plastic box that he keeps his heating running all the time and only controls it by setting the thermostat on the wall. Perhaps it would decrease his heating bills by 25%. It also depends on the occupancy pattern of your house. Heating a great big house which is empty most of the time is very expensive. If you are living with your partner in a five bedroom house, and your children have all left home, it might be a great idea. If you are living with your partner in a one bedroom flat, you won’t achieve tremendous savings by having good heating controls.

A new version of SAP is coming out in 2019 which will be called SAP 2016. This will allow smart heating controls to be modelled on SAP software. Present day SAP 2012 is limited to traditional heating control systems. It still includes programmers, zone controls (bedrooms and living rooms heated at different times) weather compensators (late starting on a warm day, temperature sensors could be inside or outside the house) and TRVs on the radiators. SAP 2012 is less accurate because it assumes that the residents of the house know how to operate the controls on their heating systems. It is quite likely they have no idea. Even when I turned down the TRV on the radiator in a room that had become unbearably warm, it seemed like a huge revelation to one of my friends. He had never imagined that this was possible.

Smart Heating Systems
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