The heating industry needs to embrace the smart control revolution

Amongst UK homeowners, 2014 was the year that really saw a huge rise in interest regarding smart heating controls. Demand has greatly increased and, as a result, it has changed the heating thermostat from a boring component of the central heating system, to a must-have, cutting-edge gadget. Homeowners now have much more of an idea of what they want and what their needs are when it comes to heating technology. This has led to the heating industry transforming into much more of a consumer-led market than in times gone by. Because consumers are much more comfortable with the idea of Internet-enabled controls, it means that we are very likely to see much more innovative and exciting heating products hitting the market over the next 12 months. A recent survey suggested that, although money saving was top of the list, 33% of people wanted smart heating controls for the convenience, flexibility and control over their heating systems that this technology can give them. Now that the public’s appetite has been whetted, it’s important that manufacturers provide a range of products that meets consumers demands and expectations, particularly when it comes to products integrating and connecting with each other. A suggestion for a product that might be popular is the combination of a thermostat app with Google Maps (or another GPS-enabled app). This could be set to automatically turn off the heating when the homeowner leaves the house or to share calendar information to let the app know when the homeowner will be at home. Having this amount of individual heating control would prove hard to resist for many consumers. Another important factor over the next 12 months, is making this kind of technology accessible and affordable to the masses. The novelty of having smart controls to control heating will soon disappear as people become more used to them, so it’s important that entry-level level products do not price people out of the market. With latest figures showing that adding a Time Proportional Integral thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves to a conventional heating system can bring down heating bills by as much as 53%, more and more people are going to be demanding affordable smart controls to help them increase the energy efficiency in their homes. With demand increasing, it’s also important that homeowners have easy access to the new smart technology and that the heating industry can take advantage of these new and exciting opportunities. A survey conducted in 2014 showed that 80% of installers were interested in finding out more about smart heating technology, however only 18% of homeowners said they would go to a heating engineer first to find out more information. Heating engineers ideally need to close this gap by receiving the necessary training to allow them to advise and install fully integrated smart heating systems. Also keeping up to date with the latest news and product releases will be of great help to installers when it comes to being a reliable source of information for consumers. Consumers will increasingly look online for more information, so it’s important for installers to keep their websites updated and, if not done already, to join up to recommended installer networks. Any online profiles should ideally be kept up to date to provide the latest and most accurate information. Heating engineers must be able to actively demonstrate that they have the knowledge and expertise to install the smart heating products. Once the installers have this additional knowledge however, it’s equally important that merchants stock a wide range of the latest smart technology products available. If installers are to upsell these new products then it’s important that the products are available to be provided to the consumer with the minimum of fuss. The heating industry can do well out of these new technologies, provided it is ahead of the game. If installers and manufacturers can maximise this new smart heating revolution, then the year ahead looks very rosy indeed for both the heating industry, and for homeowners seeking to increase their energy efficiency and gain more control over their heating systems. Article by Benjamin Clarke
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