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I’ve made friends with my heating controls (Mar13)

I’ve often been asked for top tips in greening your home.  One of my best suggestions is to ‘make friends with your heating controls’, because if you don’t you’ll be wasting huge amounts of energy heating your house, when you’re not even there – or heating rooms that you’re not using.

However, up to now, I haven’t found it very easy to follow my own advice. In my previous house, the controls were hidden behind a wooden wall – and I had to balance the door on my head, when I wanted to change heating times and temperatures.  It wasn’t much better when I moved to my new home in Dorset.  You had to remove a rather ill fitting metal panel from the boiler, before getting to the very basic controls. In both cases, whatever the temperature and times you set, they applied to the whole house – unless you changed individual radiators.

Since Honeywell installed their new Evotouch system, I don’t have to pretend to be friends with my controls any more – I love them.  For a start, I have a hand held screen in my kitchen and I can check what the temperature is all over the house – and what it’s supposed to be.  This is possible because we’ve divided the house into eight different heating zones – that’s the maximum available.  So, we’ve got a separate zone for the kitchen and sitting room, as well as a different zone for each member of the household.

The zoning is very important because it makes it easy to programme the heating to come on and off when and where we want it.  So, for example, when my children are not around, their zone is set to a minimum temperature.  And when they’re back, I can change their heating requirements, on the touch screen control, to take account of them going to bed and getting up late – they’re all teenagers.

Honeywell’s system is wireless operated, so it wasn’t very disruptive to install.  A thermostatic radiator valve, or ‘TRV’, was put on each radiator and then programmed to the central controls.  Each radiator then sends a message directly to the boiler about when it needs heat and when it doesn’t. This means that the boiler doesn’t fire unless it’s actually needed.  Apparently, this is one of the key energy saving features – and saves an average of 15% on your heating bill.  And that’s before it takes account of the empty rooms around the house that are no longer being heated unnecessarily.

Another benefit of the super-efficient controls is that you can leave them to work out when heating actually needs to come on, to get a room to the temperature you want, at the time you want it. So, we set out bedroom zone to be warm in time for us to get up – and don’t have to work out how much in advance the radiators start working.

I have one criticism of the system, which I’m sure will be amended in a future update.  It’s programmed to assume that everyone in the house goes out to work in the week and is around at weekends.  So if you work from home, like me, but are heading out for the day, there’s no simple programme to set, which ensures the heating comes back on in time for your return. That’s unless you’re going away overnight, in which case you can put it on holiday mode, and that does have a date and time for you coming back.  To be fair, it also has an ‘Eco-mode’ where all the temperatures are set to be 3C lower than the normal setting.  But this has to be turned off manually before heating returns to normal.

Clearly, the next step for intelligent heating will be to be able to operate it from our phones and computers.  Meanwhile, this is a pretty good solution – and I like my Evotouch so much that I’ve written this blog all about it.  I’m no longer struggling to be friends with my heating controls!

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