“A smart feature that can be widely beneficial is
predictive maintenance as this can avoid costly
repair bills or heating failure”
Connected devices ‘icing on the
cake’ for smart homes
Heating controls have joined the smart home revolution with app-enabled products
that allow homeowners to control their heating systems remotely for optimum comfort,
convenience and energy efficiency. Gareth Ash of Danfoss explores this growing trend and
asks what is driving demand.
44 Heating & Plumbing Monthly | MAY 2019 | www.hpmmag.com High-speed networking technologies
mean that devices such as
room thermostats and central
controllers can be connected to
the internet and adjusted using an app
from anywhere at any time.
This gives those with busy lifestyles or
irregular hours the flexibility to schedule
when their heating should go on and off
from their smartphone, helping them save
energy and ensure a warm home to come
But not all so-called smart controls are
the same and the range of products can
daunt even the most experienced installer.
REALITY OR SALES HOOK?
Marketing of smart controls often focuses
on the potential energy savings but are
these savings a reality or simply a hook to
make the sale?
Arguably, a high quality and correctly
setup non-connected device is as efficient
as one that is internet-connected, in some
cases maybe more efficient. Restricting
the user’s ability to fiddle with their
heating controls, and possibly affect
boiler efficiency, could even save money
in the long run. Also, for households with
reasonably predictable daily routines
there may be little benefit in having
remote control of their heating.
Just because a device is connected
to the internet doesn’t always make it
better, or the best solution for every user.
Manufacturers such as Danfoss have
developed advanced technical functions
for non-connected products to ensure
efficient, energy saving heating control.
Perhaps internet-connected solutions
should, therefore, be seen by installers as
the icing on the cake for some rather than
the absolute necessity for all.
A smart feature that can be widely
beneficial is predictive maintenance
as this can avoid costly repair bills or
heating failure. This level of control relies
on advanced communication between
controllers and boilers or for the boiler to
be directly connected to the cloud.
Whether this feature would persuade
more consumers to invest in smart
controls is another matter as we know that
many only consider such things after their
boiler has broken down.
There are also less talked about
advantages for the vulnerable or
impaired. For example, smart room
thermostats that can be connected to
voice-activated systems such as Amazon
Alexa allow convenient voice control of
heating. Also, those responsible for, say, an
elderly relative can monitor their heating
remotely for peace of mind. Those outside
these groups will probably adopt this
technology in time, but more slowly and
possibly not purely by choice.
Driven by regulations to cut domestic
energy consumption, installation of these
potentially energy-saving solutions is
becoming the preferred option for many
new homes and replacement heating
A concern for some buyers will be the
security of smart home devices. We always
recommend potential purchasers do their
homework and verify the manufacturer’s
security credentials. Others may look to
their installer for advice but as this is a
rapidly advancing technology it can be
difficult for installers to keep up with, and
sometimes understand, the pros and cons
of all the different devices.
Manufacturers must be constantly
vigilant to ensure their products do not
provide a hole into a home network.
Whilst it is unlikely that the heating
control will be the target it could
allow hackers to gain access to other
INTERNET OF THINGS
Integration of devices, including heating
controls, into one home system has
already begun and will no doubt continue.
Homeowners can control lights, curtains,
heating and alarms through dedicated
or generic smart home hubs often from
one app interface or voice control.
Although some may not like this increased
automation it is clearly here to stay.
However, at Danfoss we believe it
should never be about technology for
technology’s sake. Our focus for next
generation developments will always be
on creating a choice of effective, userfriendly
heating controls that will keep
homes comfortably, and perhaps most
importantly, affordably warm.