Ways to make heating systems more efficient

With homeowners experiencing an unprecedented rise in their energy bills, Remi Volpe at Drayton discusses the crucial role of simple and smart changes that can be made to heating systems now to help minimise energy costs, increase efficiency, and reduce emissions.

With the updates to Part L of the Building Regulations expected soon, which are set to boost the efficiency of gas systems, and with over 83% of the UK population relying on gas boilers to heat their homes, there’s no better time for installers to start encouraging homeowners to think about how they can improve their heating systems.

One of the most significant changes due to be introduced by the updates is to help prepare homes for lower flow temperature technologies, by adjusting how a new or full system replacement must be commissioned. Under the new updates, any new or full system replacement gas combi boiler must operate at a maximum flow temperature of 55°C, which is much lower compared to the current maximum of 80°C. 

While this helps to improve efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, it also prepares homes for the move to renewable heat sources, such as heat pumps, which operate at lower flow temperatures of between 35 and 45°C. 

Savings potential

With recent research undertaken by the Heating and Hotwater Council (HHIC) finding that households can save up to 8% on their gas bills just by lowering the flow temperature, this is a simple change that installers can make that will not only instantly start saving money for the homeowner, but will also work towards increasing the efficiency of a gas heating system.

The type of heating control that is installed with a gas boiler can also make a huge difference when it comes to efficiency. In 2018, Boiler Plus set out the requirement for time and temperature controls to be fitted with any combi boiler installation, as well as the need to feature one of four additional measures: load compensation, weather compensation, a smart control, or a flue gas recovery unit. 

There is also the expectation that this summer it will be expanded to include conventional boiler installations, meaning that every gas boiler will require adequate heating controls to be installed too. With this in mind, heating engineers will need to carefully consider which of the additional measures will be the best fit for their customer and how to achieve these.

Compensation features 

This is where smart controls have a real role to play, for the homeowner as well as the installer. For example, many smart controls on the market today offer load and weather compensation tools – such as Wiser’s Eco Mode. This  combines weather compensation and optimum stop to adapt heating schedules according to changing weather conditions. This means that installers can easily meet not just one of the additional measures, but multiple measures mandated by Boiler Plus to offer enhanced efficiency improvements.

Another key selling feature of a smart heating control is the ability to be able to manage the heating remotely. Many homeowners don’t have regular schedules, so smart controls that offer a fully personalised heating system that can be changed from anywhere via an app on their phone is a large draw to many different types of customer – from commuters through to busy families and multi-generational homes. 

Convenience matters

Whilst having to alter settings on a more traditional programmable thermostat can be an inconvenience that homeowners would rather not worry about, having a smart control makes it easier than ever to adjust heating schedules and ensure energy isn’t wasted by heating an empty house. Research shows that by upgrading to a smart programmable thermostat, such as Wiser, homeowners can save 18% on their energy costs.

Over the past few years, thanks to the advent of increased home working, homeowners have also become more conscious about the ways in which they heat their homes, especially when it comes to heating empty rooms, which is where multi-zoning comes in. Previously, heating engineers would have used a low loss header system to create different zones. However smart heating controls and smart radiator thermostats have made this easier than ever to achieve. 

Some smart heating controls, such as Wiser, can also feature smart radiator thermostats, helping to achieve room-to-room control. This type of heating control means that homeowners can control the time and temperature schedules for each individual room rather than the house as a whole, saving energy by not heating empty rooms. Recent research carried out by BEAMA and BRE show that people can reduce their energy usage by 19% by preventing unnecessary overheating in rooms.

On display

As many homeowners are now struggling with the increase in energy costs, being able to see where energy is being used is  a huge bonus. Another feature that many smart controls offer is a display of energy consumption in real time, allowing homeowners to see exactly how much energy is being used, enabling them to make changes if required. This can prove to be a useful tool, as turning the heating down by 1°C can reduce a homeowner’s annual energy bill by £80 and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 320kg. Wiser offers this type of overview in Insights, which can be enhanced by integrating data from a smart heating system with the Wiser Home app to access Insights+, where homeowners can see their energy savings in monetary values. 

In a time where a large focus is placed on not only helping to reduce homeowner’s energy costs, but also striving to reach our carbon neutral targets, these energy saving features can go a long way in helping the boiler to work smarter, resulting in reduced emissions and lower energy bills. By being clued up on the latest smart heating controls and the features they offer, installers can play a crucial role in helping homeowners across the country make their energy bills more manageable today. 


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