Not so long ago home automation was just a fancy way of saying a home had a cabled music system with loudspeakers hidden in the ceilings. Not any more. Today the feel-good factor of buying a home equipped with the latest technology is as much about saving energy as relaxing to a melody.
Yes, there’s likely to be a sound system running from an iPod but, potentially, there may be a fully integrated and automated system to regulate the curtains, blinds, lighting, heating and hot water. Control is from a display within the home or, increasingly likely, via wi-fi from the screen of a smartphone, tablet or laptop. This means that wherever we are – at work or even on holiday – we can turn systems on or off, up or down.
What does this have to do with saving energy? Quite simply, none of us want to have to second guess when we’re going to need heating or hot water so, if we’re controlling these systems more precisely, we won’t be wasting precious energy by running them when we don’t need to.
Among the first companies to launch a wi-fi thermostat in the UK was Heatmiser. Along with this there’s an app for the remote control of complete heating systems, including individual zones within your home. There’s also a wide range of touch screen thermostats and other controls.
When looking at ways of making any home more energy efficient, overhauling the heating system is just as important as insulation or draughtproofing. During the retrofit of old buildings, wireless thermostats and controls are particularly useful as they avoid the need to run cables to devices and the damage caused by ‘chasing’ walls. They also mean that equipment can be positioned discreetly and may be cheaper to install.
When planning a heating system, efficiency is greatly increased by dividing a building into distinct heating zones that have different heating needs. This is particularly relevant in large houses, where only a limited area might be used regularly or distinct areas may be used at different times of the day. Zoning is accomplished in a variety of ways but, using wireless thermostatic radiator valves and a suitable control unit, it’s often relatively easy, although in some cases additional pipework may be required. What’s certain is that any improvements to the control of a heating system will result in energy savings.