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Nearly six months in, Boiler Plus is still causing confusion, and lack of clarity is a sure route to non-compliant installations. Here, Dean Jepson, European MD of Salus Controls, identifies some of the problems and how to make sure you don’t get tripped up by them.
When Boiler Plus was first rolled out in April of this year, it was warmly welcomed by the heating controls industry. After all, this new legislation not only sets a new minimum performance standard of 92% ErP for domestic gas boilers in England for both new and replacement installations (Scotland and Wales are exempt for the time being), for the first time ever it also made timers and room thermostats an explicit requirement.
The thinking behind Boiler Plus is to give consumers the power to achieve the greatest comfort and energy savings in their home. At the same time, it helps the Government step up its Clean Growth Strategy and brings the UK heating market in line with other EU countries – a win-win all round. However, due to the poorly worded first draft of Boiler Plus that was released in October 2017, the Government (BIES) had to issue a revised draft in January 2018, following by two sets of FAQs in an attempt to clear up the confusion.
Short on ‘smart’
Unfortunately, the confusion surrounding Boiler Plus remains, and lies in, the simple yet wholly misleading definition of a ‘Smart Thermostat’ by Part L Building Regulations. A smart thermostat complete with Automisation and Optimisation is now one of the four added efficiency measures that the homeowner must take when installing a combi boiler according to Boiler Plus. However, Part L’s definition of a Smart Thermostat is one that does NOT require remote control or internet connectivity. This outright contradicts the definition by BEIS and HHIC which clearly states that Smart Thermostats are products that enable remote control of a central heating system via a tablet, smartphone or desktop.
This inaccurate definition has sparked a trade war within the heating controls industry with many unscrupulous manufacturers exploiting this loophole and claiming that their Smart Thermostats are fully compliant with Boiler Plus. In reality, however, they are not connected thermostats but cheaper non-connected devices that offer minimal advantages to the consumer.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has pledged to review Boiler Plus in April 2019 – exactly one year after the policy was unveiled – their prime concern being to ensure that consumers are not being adversely affected by the confusion. From a manufacturer’s perspective, a one year period where this uncertainty is allowed to continue is wholly unacceptable. It is entirely incompatible with the supply chain and the product development period required to bring appropriate products to market.
Further grievances of Boiler Plus are that it was rushed through in a mere six month period when a standard phase-in/phase out period for products following new regulations is normally two-three years minimum. Also, should next year’s policy review rightfully conclude that Smart Thermostats are indeed internet connected, who will compensate the homeowners and suppliers who have already installed non-connected solutions that were wrongly marketed as Boiler Plus compliant?
Since Boiler Plus was first launched, SALUS has invested significantly in bringing its portfolio of connected Smart Thermostats fully in line with requirements – within the scope of the policy’s definition and within the spirit with which the legislation was intended; namely to ensure products yield energy savings and flexible control.
Extra efficiency – extra peace of mind
When the homeowner installs a new combi boiler, and they choose to add SALUS Smart Thermostats as the extra efficiency measure, they not only benefit from automation and optimisation functions, they benefit from internet connected devices too. Whilst the automation function serves to adjust time and temperature settings – based on occupancy detection, or Geo-location and/or stored data from user adjustments over time – optimisation is a control function that starts the boiler at the optimum time to achieve the setpoint temperature at the start of the occupancy period. Being internet connected means that the homeowner can control the time and temperature of their heating and hot water simply at the touch of an App, and from wherever they may be.
Such is SALUS’ commitment to Boiler Plus that it has also developed a simple thermostat that still conforms with the legislation even though it is not a smart connected device, as it features Load Compensation – one of the four additional energy saving options. It appeals to those homeowner who don’t want to, or aren’t able to control their heating online or via an app, and to those who prefer a quick and simple installation without additional wiring.
Whether we like it or not, Boiler Plus is here to stay. SALUS supports this legislation by acting with honesty and integrity, by only selling products that are FULLY compliant, and by educating the market about the confusion. Despite holding stock of thermostats that we classify as non-complaint and that are valued at round £4 million, SALUS can hold its head high and assure customers that it operates within the law.
There is no way of policing what additional energy efficiency measures homeowners are taking when installing a combi boiler – which is why many manufacturers continue to flout the law. However, with plans to include the new legislation within the Building Regulations, it’s only a matter of time before it will show up on a survey when the house is being sold.
Our hope is that the review in April 2019 will correct the inaccuracies of Boiler Plus and that consumers are given the correct guidance to help them achieve the greatest comfort and energy savings in their home whilst fully meeting this key legislation