Can’t stand the heat? Take control of your system
As the days get warmer, how do you keep cool while still having enough hot water?
Upgrading your home heating system can actually save you from sweltering in the summer months. Photograph: iStock
With summer well and truly on its way, and flora everywhere in full bloom, outside temperatures are creeping upward. The back door could be left open now and you might not notice for a minute or two, a sure sign that the outdoor temperature is close to balancing with that indoors.
Most houses will have an indoor temperature setting of around 19 or 20 degrees Celsius. Recent weeks have seen outdoor temperatures climbing ever upward, confirming that equilibrium is coming close.
So now is the time when many of us reach for our heating controls. But what are the options? Is it straight to “manual off”? Does it have to be a case of all or nothing? Is there a happy medium? How much control do you really have over your heating?
The reality is that for many people it’s either an “on” or “off” choice. However, it actually makes sense to gain total control of domestic heating for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it will reduce your heating bill while at the same time improving energy efficiency. It will also increase the comfort you have in your home, allowing bedrooms to be kept slightly cooler than perhaps a sittingroom. Similarly, by setting your appliance to only provide the amount of heat necessary to maintain the indoor temperature, it avoids having to constantly turn on and off the heating system.
According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, (SEAI), installing heating controls to a home system can typically reduce domestic energy usage by as much as 20 per cent.
Paul Murphy, of Paul Murphy Plumbing & Heating, makes the case for heat pumps when it comes to efficiency.
“One great feature of some of the modern heat pumps is weather compensation. This is a built-in feature which allows them to automatically adjust the amount of heating they give to the house as the outside air temperature fluctuates. As a result, in times like this where the outside temperature is rising, the heat pump will be working less hard, therefore saving you money.”
Weather compensation controls can also be fitted to gas boilers. Murphy advises that “all systems should be electrically wired using an interlock, which means even with the program timer on, your appliance will not fire up unless the thermostat is calling for heat”.
Where room thermostats aren’t an option, thermostatic radiator valves may provide an alternative solution. These are an easy way to regulate the heat output of each individual radiator, just by turning a knob.
The SEAI offers grants to upgrade heating controls, and sums can range from between €700 and €1,100 for this. According to the SEAI, you should as a minimum have your heating system split into two independently controlled zones – one for heating and one for hot water. This is a two-zone system which will heat domestic hot water without requiring the ambient heating to be activated. It will also allow use of the boiler to heat water in the summertime, without resorting to the immersion.
Murphy agrees that the optimal configuration is a zoned heating system, and ideally it will include separate time and temperature controls for ground floor, first floor and water heating.
When it comes to the trend for “smart” homes controlled remotely, Murphy says a Cork-based company, EPH Ember, offers a good line in easy-to-use controls connected to home wifi that allow users to adjust settings remotely.
If it’s the case that your home has a modern heat pump, with weather compensation features, then – if set up properly – it most likely doesn’t need tampering with anyway.
Sometimes the trick is just knowing whether you need to upgrade your home heating system or not. The SEAI has put together seven quick questions you can apply to your home system, and if the answer is “no” to some or all of them, then it might be time to consider an upgrade.
1. Can you heat your hot water without switching on your radiators or an electric immersion heater?
2. Can you turn on your heating without heating your domestic hot water?
3. Can you easily adjust the heat output from radiators in the rooms you use most often?
4. Do you have temperature control on your boiler?
5. Have you a time control on your boiler that you can set for different days of the week?
6. Have you a separate temperature control for your hot water cylinder?
7. Have you a separate time control on your hot water cylinder?
Kevin Moran is a builder