Property Clinic: Can we remotely control our nine-year-old heating system?

Your property questions answered

Intelligent home automation system: controlling temperature with a touch screen display, mounted on a wall and wireless connected to a main computer unit aids energy saving, climate control and environmental conservation

Intelligent home automation system: controlling temperature with a touch screen display, mounted on a wall and wireless connected to a main computer unit aids energy saving, climate control and environmental conservation

 

We have a gas central heating unit (2008) which is located in a garden shed.

The switch control (Flash programmer) is in need of updating – it’s mechanical – to enable the system to be controlled from the house, and ideally remotely from anywhere.

We want to avoid going out, especially in bad weather, to alter the clock settings, especially as we are pensioners, and would prefer not to move the wiring of the controlling device into the house – due to likely cost and disruption to our recently completed external wall insulation, etc.

The concrete shed is about three yards from the house.

We understand there may be a more modern arrangement possible, using an app and a linked electrical device beside the boiler – in place of Flash programmer – which may obviate the need to go outside to control the switching on and off of the system and in scheduling when it goes on during the week.

We have good cable broadband, with wifi which seems to extend well enough to the back garden and shed.

Can you advise if there is a reliable remote solution available and could you indicate likely one-off costs and ongoing extra charges if any.

Our radiators are controlled temperature-wise by thermostats in the on/off controllers.

Over the past number of years smart heating systems to remotely control your home heating have become very popular, with a large selection of options available. These allow you to manage your home heating needs from your smartphone, laptop or tablet whether you are out and about or relaxing at home. As well as offering convenience and ease of use, the companies who manufacture or provide these smart units also claim that they can save you money in the long run.

I understand that you have recently invested in providing external insulation to your property and therefore I can assume that you are somewhat conscious of energy costs. It is not clear from your question exactly what type of heating system is in your home, but to achieve the most benefit from any heating system it is important to have a number of individual heating zones as well as an independent setting for water heating.

The smart heating controls available on the market now can be fully integrated with zoned heating systems, although they will also work with a basic single zone system offering simple on and off options.

For you to use remote heating controls on your system you will require the installation of a new control panel to replace your existing clock unit at your boiler. This will allow you to control the heating wirelessly from your smartphone, laptop or tablet or indeed directly from a control panel in your home. This would be a good option for your situation since it does not involve any additional wiring from the house to the boiler unit.

To the forefront of the Irish market is Climote which is supplied by Electric Ireland and is compatible with most modern boilers. They state that Climote can offer more control which means “heating your home only when you need to, which gives you increased comfort and reduced energy usage”.

Climote will cost up to €299 for installation and one year’s access to the service. You will be charged an annual service charge for Climote following your first year’s use.

The Nest Learning Thermostat is another option you could consider. Again, this involves the installation of a new control panel at your boiler which will communicate remotely with the thermostat unit located in your house. This option can also be operated by smartphone, tablet, etc and can learn over a period of time the optimum heating settings to suit your lifestyle. This costs €99 and does not have an annual service charge.

There is a more advanced option available which offers a greater number of controls for space and water heating called the Honeywell Evohome. With this system, you can control individual radiator temperatures or create schedules for each room and the hot water independently, either with the touchscreen control unit or through the smartphone app. This unit also qualifies for the SEAI Better Energy Homes Grant, which will help with installation costs.

We have heard of anecdotal cases where energy costs have risen following the installation of smart controls, due to boilers running for longer to attain a specific temperature. However, a manual override should alleviate this issue.

It would be worthwhile having your current boiler control arrangement inspected as there may be additional aspects that need to be addressed as part of the heating control upgrade, for instance, individual heating zones, insulation to pipework, etc.

Kevin Larkin is a Chartered Building Surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie