New label will highlight the benefits of a controls upgrade

The Energy Labelling Directive should make it easier for installers to prove the benefits of heating controls to end users, helping to improve the efficiency of UK homes – so says Jon Phillips, Head of Product Management at Baxi.

The use of heating controls can vastly improve the energy efficiency of UK homes, reducing fuel bills and carbon emissions. It has been estimated that installing standard controls could reduce the domestic energy used for heating and hot water by 30%, and that ensuring all homes have a timer, room thermostat and TRVs would reduce UK CO2 emissions by 4.3Mt/year by 2020. According to the Energy Saving Trust, installing and correctly using a room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves in a typical three-bedroom semi-detached home heated by gas could result in average savings of £80-£165 a year – and up to 680kg of carbon dioxide would be saved too.

However, despite everyone talking about smart homes and how we’ll soon be using our mobile phones to turn our home appliances on and off to save energy, time and hassle, consumer awareness of heating controls remains generally low.

Figures suggest that controls aren’t always specified when a new boiler is installed, even though Part L of the Building Regulations provides guidance on the types of control that are legally required. Over 95% of homes have a boiler, but of these, 800,000 have no controls at all, almost eight million have no room thermostat, and over 70% are said to lack the minimum levels of controls specified in the 2010 building regulations.

Energy labels

We hope that the Energy Labelling Directive, which comes into force on 26 September this year in conjunction with the Ecodesign Directive, or the Energy-related Products (ErP) Directive as it’s widely referred to, will help consumers to more clearly understand the potential savings that controls offer.

From this date, space heaters and combi space heaters of 70kW and below will require an energy label. And if a number of components are installed as a system at the same time, then an overall efficiency rating and customised energy label will be required for the complete package – in recognition of the fact that a combination of products can greatly increase efficiency.

For the purpose of ErP, a space heating package will include one or more space or combi heaters combined with one or more temperature control and/or one or more solar device (the inclusion of a hot water storage tank does not prevent a package meeting this definition).

The different components of the package do not need to come from the same supplier and there is no requirement to take any pre-existing components into account. Therefore, if heating controls are added to an existing boiler (which would still deliver important savings), the package is not being placed on the market in the sense of the Directive, so a package label isn’t required.

Making it easy

Whereas the manufacturer is responsible for providing product labels, whoever supplies the package to the end user and processes the transaction (known as the ‘Dealer’ within the Directive) is responsible for generating the package label and undertaking the necessary calculations. In most cases the installer will be responsible for this activity. At Baxi we’re committed to making the creation of package labels an easy process, and will provide all of the necessary tools required – such as package calculators, training, advice and guidance.

It’s important for installers to explain to customers that controls have the capability to improve the package energy efficiency rating – especially smart controls, which receive more credits.

Under the ErP, controls are categorised into classes, ranging from I to VIII. The class will be found in the technical details for the temperature control. To provide a few examples, Class I is a simple on/off room thermostat, delivering an increase in efficiency of just 1%. Class V is a modulating room thermostat, for use with modulating heaters, delivering an increase of 3%. Class VIII would be a multi-sensor room temperature control, for use with modulating heaters, delivering an increase of 5%.

However, in order to make savings, the end user must be able to use the controls they have installed. A recent review found that consumers find heating controls difficult to use (especially the elderly and those in local authority housing) and many do not use them effectively. Therefore we suggest that installers consider the various control choices on offer, and match their recommendations to the customer type.

We would suggest that whereas an on/off room thermostat combined with thermostatic radiator valves is, generally speaking, going to be a good solution for an elderly couple, a tech-savvy young person is likely to be drawn to more sophisticated, smart controls.

Smart thinking

Even though we know there are many UK homes without even basic controls, we believe there is growing appetite for advanced home technology – which is why we are working with Nest. The Nest Learning Thermostat takes away the hassle of programming; it is simply turned up and down like a manual thermostat for about a week, and then the control will create a personalised schedule that is refined over time. With its built-in sensors, it knows when no one is home, so Nest’s Auto-Away feature can automatically turn down the temperature, helping to save even more energy. The temperature can be controlled from a smartphone, tablet or computer.

Through the partnership, Baxi training centres across the UK now offer installers hands-on Nest product training to become a Nest Pro. The training is delivered as part of our free one-day boiler courses, and feedback from installers attending has been very positive.

We anticipate that once energy labels for space heaters and combi space heaters are introduced, customers will – by associating them with the labels seen on white goods like fridges and washing machines – be able to understand not just how efficient a boiler is, but also the effect that adding some controls will have. With tangible evidence to hand, installers should be able to cross-sell controls more easily, ultimately improving the energy efficiency of UK homes.

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