Communicating efficiencies

Jon Tedstone from ESi Controls explores how architects can use choose modern heating controls and communication networks to precisely meet individual project requirements and maximise energy efficiency

An architect selecting a new boiler for a new home or development needs to consider heating controls which meet Boiler Plus regulations – these came into force in April 2018.

Most control manufacturers now offer Boiler Plus-compliant controls which offer time and temperature settings plus load compensation which provides the ability to modulate the flow temperature from the boiler based on the actual room temperature. This requires the control and boiler to communicate, sometimes via OpenTherm communication. OpenTherm ensures the boiler modulates the flow temperature to provide an accurate control over the desired room temperature and stops the boiler cycling on and off, therefore reducing gas use, and saving money for homeowners.

Boiler Plus compliance can also be achieved using a smart control to provide automation of time and temperature settings and optimisation which calculates the time needed for the heating system to reach the desired comfort level – optimising the heating system’s operation to ensure it uses the least amount of energy to attain the desired temperature. Smart controls can be connected to a smartphone or tablet offering the ability for the users to control their systems remotely, offering more flexibility to lower energy use.

The design of a new smart control must provide the user with a simple, easy to use and understand interface between them and their heating system. Manufacturers now provide a range of controls which offer different features and functions to suit the homeowner’s age range and personal requirements such as larger clearer screens for the visually impaired and larger temperature selection buttons to allow elderly and vulnerable people to simply turn their heating up or down according to their comfort levels. Similarly, smart controllers now offer sleeker designs which blend into a modern home featuring glass and stainless steel with a lack of switches and buttons with the controls being touchscreen or app based. 

Modern controls allow you to control individual heating zones in the home more accurately so you can easily increase the temperature in the rooms you will use as you head home after work, for example. And you can monitor the temperature levels in different parts of the home, reducing temperatures in rooms that will not be used but leaving enough background heat to keep them comfortable.

With energy prices increasing, it’s important to take a close look at every way in which energy can be saved; this is why some manufacturers’ have developed their controls to be OpenTherm compatible. The way OpenTherm works allows a far smoother transition of heating control, which reduces energy and saves money. The  communication method can save 10%-15% on a gas bill. We’re hopeful that we’ll see increased awareness of OpenTherm controls in the next few months, as people begin to realise the savings these controls offer when connected to a modern condensing gas boiler.

OpenTherm is a non-manufacturer-dependent system of communication which is currently utilised predominantly between modulating HVAC heating appliances and room thermostats. It consists of a communication protocol and an interface specification. OpenTherm utilises an established technology combining simple installation procedure with high functionality and future expansion possibilities.

Jon Tedstone is head of sales and marketing at ESi Controls