Could software development be at the heart of energy savings?

Two summers ago the respected trade association BEAMA produced some statistics that claimed householders could save 40% on their heating bill by installing an effective controls package. This comprised a room thermostat, thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) on the radiators and a timer – ideally fitted to a condensing boiler.

Software development at the heart of energy savings40% is a startling enough statistic in itself but 12 months later – after further analysis - the same people at BEAMA came back with a revised figure – they were now claiming savings of 53%.  So the story gets better.

Some will say you can prove anything with statistics but the other side of that argument is the figures don’t lie! Government figures also released last year reveal that nearly half of centrally heated homes in the UK don’t have both a room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves, the minimum requirements for new systems under the latest building regulations.

2013’s research highlighted the importance of the room thermostat in particular and the increased 53% saving was achieved by refining the ‘stat specification to a modern ‘TPI’ model to yield higher savings.

BEAMA’s savings figures are calculated from data collected from a very unassuming, traditional 1900’s end terrace two bed-room property located in Salford, near Manchester. It has solid brick external walls, single glazed sash windows, timber boarded floors and lath & plaster ceilings. The house is fully decorated, furnished and functional and the loft is insulated with 100mm mineral wool insulation.

But that’s where the ‘normality’ ends.

This is the Energy House. It has been fully constructed inside an environmentally controlled chamber located on the University of Salford campus and is fitted with numerous sensors and monitoring devices.

The data collected highlights the effectiveness of a controls upgrade that is both cost effective and simple.

The Energy House is heated by a standard water filled radiator system and each radiator is fitted with a TRV. The boiler is a wall-mounted gas fired condensing unit, rated output up to 28kW, with the Time Proportional Integral (TPI) room thermostat fitted in the living room.

TPI room ‘stats may be familiar to many installers, but the benefits that accrue in the form of energy savings cannot be understated. And while radiator TRVs are a widely accepted control, contrary to what many might assume, that is not the case with room ‘stats.

An estimated eight million homes in the UK do not have a room thermostat fitted yet modern wireless technology allows for simple upgrading with the minimum of décor damage or disruption.

Time proportional software

The latest TPI room thermostats feature software capable of adjusting the temperature to maintain a consistent room temperature and that is energy efficient to maintain. TPI is a software development capable of adjusting the temperature based on previously collected data to maintain a consistent room temperature that is also energy efficient to maintain.

They outperform older types of thermostat – (bellows or mechanical) by calculating set temperature ‘cycles’ that the heating system will go through per hour and outperform older styles of thermostat by optimising the boiler firing regime. This ensures that it fires for shorter durations as the room temperature approaches the set point, creating the potential for additional energy savings in the order of 32% when used with condensing boilers.

Other benefits include maintaining the set room temperature by increasing and decreasing the boiler firing regime to prevent overusing the boiler and eliminating wasteful temperature ‘over runs’.

TPI-based thermostats

Horstmann has long recognised that TPI is the way forward and has therefore developed a family of HRT room thermostats based on the technology. Combining functionality and a smart clean design, these devices are equally suited to replacement and upgrade installations as well as new build. HRT thermostats offer versions covering RF to mains or battery-powered options.

Wireless and battery powered versions have digital displays; the mains version has a conventional dial setting interface and there are tamper proof and frost variants.

BEAMA’s independent findings relating to cost savings from controls open up a range of possibilities for householders to create energy saving opportunities while increasing the efficiency of their home heating.

Understandably, it must be accepted that many householders might balk at the installation cost and the disruption to the house and décor if the installer starts talking about channelling and wiring.

This is where the wireless option comes into its own.

An upgrade with a wireless time switch and TPI thermostat will require professional installation as the receiver needs connecting into the boiler control.  The payback on the upgrade – controls package with a couple of hours labour – should be comfortably achieved within a year.

By introducing a time switch working in combination with a room thermostat (or a combined programmable room

Fastest Path to cost savings?thermostat) and with TRV’s fitted – BEAMA’s 53% energy cost reduction becomes achievable.

Fastest path to cost savings

When a customer is considering a possible upgrade, it is worth remembering that a controls upgrade is by far the quickest path to achieving cost savings and significant reductions in the carbon emissions from existing homes. In tandem with correct levels of insulation it is an option well worth considering.





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