How heating controls can overcome fuel poverty

Recent data released by Which? suggests that there has been a large increase in families living in fuel poverty over the last few years. The figures show that, on average, people are paying over £400 more per year on their energy bills than they were ten years ago. Not only are they paying much more, householders are using considerably less energy than they were a decade ago. With fuel costs set to continue to rise, the heating industry is concerned that more and more people will not be able to afford to heat their homes. Fortunately, this issue has been recognised and acted upon by many heating manufacturers and they have invested a lot of time and money into heating control products. Heating controls are rapidly increasing in popularity because they are environmentally friendly, fairly cheap and easy to install and provide potential for huge savings on energy bills. One important feature of these new heating controls is known as ‘weather compensation.’ A sensor is fitted to a north facing wall on the outside of the building and it can detect the air temperature outside, adjusting the boiler performance accordingly. Not only does this improve the efficiency of the boiler, the sensor can also be fitted to many of Britain’s existing heating systems, without the need for expenditure on brand new components. Large homes, or homes with multiple occupants, can now benefit from splitting the house into zones. Zoning allows for different rooms to be heated when required, rather than when they are left empty. This is great for student homes or homes inhabited by young professionals who have busy lives and operate completely independently from other members of the household. It’s also great for those with particularly large homes where many of the rooms are unused. Being able to heat rooms only when they are needed will have a large impact on the amount that is spent for heating bills. Having the technology and the necessary products are great and a real step forward from the past, however, they are all rendered useless if the public is not actually aware of their existence. According to recent figures from a separate survey, it’s estimated that around 6 million UK homes don’t even have the most rudimentary of heating controls installed, namely the room thermostat. As we have said before on this blog, installing thermostats and thermostatic radiator valves can bring down annual heating costs by up to 40%, so it’s important that people are made aware of these products and their potential for savings. The most effective way of helping to reduce fuel poverty by bringing down heating costs is not to wait for some sort of miracle policy from the government, but by the education and passing on of knowledge by heating installers to householders. It’s important that heating engineers start to position themselves as energy advisors to customers, actively analysing the components in place in a homeowners’ heating system and advising of the options for increased energy and money saving opportunities. Adding heating controls should be shown to be a long-term beneficial investment, rather than concentrating on the upfront costs. If consumers can be shown that smart heating controls will benefit their standard of living and reduce their heating bills, they will enthusiastically install them. However, for customers to develop this mindset, the heating industry, and in particular heating installers, need to drive these products forward, presenting and explaining them positively and in ways that appeal to the customers! Article by Benjamin Clarke
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