The new wave of smart heating systems

The future looks smart for energy consumption. Following some high profile success stories in the non-domestic energy market, smart-thermostats and other smart heating systems are beginning to break into the mainstream consumer market.

Domestic and non-domestic energy customers are going to be better informed about their energy situation. They will know how and when to use energy most effectively to cut consumption and reduce their bills.

Smart meters vs. Smart energy systems

There is some disagreement about which technology will have the biggest impact on the smart energy future. The government has invested heavily in the smart metering project, but some industry bigwigs believe this technology will be outdated before the end of the decade.

Representatives from Co-operative Energy recently told the Competition and Markets Authority “technology such as British Gas’ Hive and Google’s Nest indicated the future of energy consumption.”

Smart thermostats

Hive is probably the best known ‘new wave’ domestic smart thermostat. As the colourful adverts boast, Hive lets homeowners control their heating from anywhere at any time – by phone, tablet or laptop.

While many people will excite at the prospect of coming home to a warm house, the potential for this technology is much greater. In the future we might expect, for example, smart heating systems to switch off fridges when energy is at its most expensive (smart energy systems will make meters more flexible so the unit price for energy might vary significantly throughout the day).

Asian openbill bird nest on high voltage post at sunsetOther technologies are available and some work slightly differently from the ‘smart-thermostat’ model adopted by Hive. The Nest Learning Thermostat, available from Npower can self-programme a heating schedule based on the user’s past preferences and lifestyle. Designed by Google, it is also an exceedingly attractive piece of kit.

One of the early crystallisations of the much heralded ‘Internet of Things’, smart home heating systems give domestic and non-domestic energy users more control over their energy purchasing. The idea is that this increased control will translate into more efficient energy use when implemented correctly.

Growth of the technologies

The European smart-thermostat market is set to boom. Driven largely by the EU’s 2020 climate emissions targets, we can expect demand and take up to boom in countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and France.

Market analysis from Frost & Sullivan found that the market earned revenues of $152.5 million in 2014 while it expects this figure to rocket up to $2,570.6 million in 2019.

Much of this growth in demand will come from the domestic sector, but small and medium sized businesses will almost certainly take notice. Smart thermostats offer significant cost-savings in the long run, especially when users get to grips with the technology. However, initial prices are still high, so adoption rates are low in the medium and low-end customer segments.

Smart thermostats for non-domestic energy users

Clearly, non-domestic users who on average use more energy than their domestic counterparts, will have more opportunities to save on their consumption. The saving potential is compounded because businesses have access to more advanced monitoring and heating systems which can reduce consumption by even larger degrees.

While domestic thermostats like Hive and Nest will be suitable for many smaller businesses, forward-thinking larger firms should be investing more heavily in the technology. Fundamentally, this is a technology market so systems can always be improves with more sensors, more connectivity functions and better interfaces. All of these things have the power to reduce consumption.

When done correctly in large energy-hungry businesses, a smart consumption system can pay huge dividends. Previously, we wrote an article about how one Marriott hotel managed to slash their energy bills by using a series of clever sensors and a demand-response programme to tweak consumption in key areas.

Businesses in other industries have enjoyed similar success. A similar programme introduced in Tesco stores generated energy savings of up to 30%.