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Smart control gets real

Jul 2018 Heating, Smart Homes | Comments Off on Smart control gets real
Smart control gets real

The Alexa generation expects to have control on demand – but it can be expensive. How can you find the solution that fits their expectations as well as their budget? Andy Douglas, MD of Timeguard, may have the answer

We hear a lot about smart building control these days, and it doubtless has a huge role to play as we meet the needs for energy efficiency while providing comfort and economy and a degree of luxury. Remarkable technology is available: if you want, you can coordinate automatic blinds with the home cinema and surround sound music system, have lighting scenes for every conceivable happening or gathering, and control the heating, garage doors and garden lighting etc. The possibilities are limited only by your client’s imagination – but, of course, their budget comes into the equation as well.

When embarking on a project, few people expect to rip out and replace what may well be still a perfectly serviceable wiring system. Nor do they budget to install premium-priced control devices or to have to pay a custom installer to set them up. In my experience, people still want to see exactly what is going on and feel they are in control. I did hear of a couple who came home to find the automatic gates wide open and the lights and TVs on throughout their home, and a babysitting grandma transfixed in front of the fancy control panel that she could not understand.

In practice, most of us really only require modern time switches they can trust, and that are easy to set up and use.

Increasingly, ‘easy to use’ means control from a mobile device, whether you are away from home or a few feet from the device. It’s all good business for you because the controls still need to be wired in.

So what is the attraction of WiFi control? It can be that people are just busy, working overtime and wanting to delay the heating coming on; or if it’s been a long day they might want to turn the immersion heater on, so they can have a bath the minute they walk in the door. They may have an elderly relative and, when there’s a cold snap, be able to turn the heating up or on for longer. Perhaps they have a holiday home and want to make sure the frost protection really is on in winter. Or maybe they just like gadgets. Whatever the motivation, you will surely be able to find a solution they can relate to.

Another attraction is that the actual heating or lighting appliances don’t need to be “WiFi ready” or altered in any way to be controlled from a phone any more – you just upgrade what they already have by adding a timer, thermostat or fused spur
with a version that adds WiFi value.

Time for WiFi

The key to achieving energy efficiency and economy is, as always, time and temperature control. These are the base functions your customers need to stay on top of. Everything else can be just icing on the cake. There’s no expensive rewiring, because you can find plenty of devices that are simply wire for wire replacements for the old ones they are upgrading. You just need to find the ones you can rely on.

Be sure to choose wisely – low cost devices without the back up of a trusted brand may soon let you down. At the very least, make sure devices have over-ride buttons so they can be controlled manually should the user’s home network fail, or they lose or damage their phone.

Time: You can replace time switches with the new WiFi version of the trusted Timeguard NTT timer, popular for immersion and space heating. With a 16A rating it is well suited for HVAC control and for commercial as well as residential use. So Timeguard has provided a locking boss to make it tamper-proof in offices, workshops and public places.

Alternatively, you can just replace the 13A fused spur with a version that includes WiFi control via a free Timeguard App.

Even simpler, if the key requirement is simply to ensure appliances aren’t left on for too long, you can fit a fused spur with an integral push-button countdown boost timer.

Temperature: Timeguard has also provided WiFi control of heating. Featured in its 2018 Programastat Plus range of single and multi-channel heating controllers is a WiFi wall thermostat. A stand-out design feature is the subtle white neon temperature indicator that we think puts these devices on a level with the most-expensive designer wiring accessories.

Why would you want to make life more complicated or expensive for you or your customers when there are WiFi solutions already available?