Since the introduction of condensing technology, boilers have continued to increase in efficiency, with most current appliances able to reach over 90% efficiency. Neil Mattock, marketing director at leading heating manufacturer, Vokèra by Riello looks at how the correct use of control can further enhance boiler efficiency and performance without compromising comfort.

The technology within boilers is now so advanced that, even with future developments, there seems little chance of boiler efficiency percentages increasing much beyond current levels. This being the case, other ways are needed to maximise energy and fuel savings for the sake of both the planet and hard-stretched household budgets. One solution is the use of heating controls which, when correctly installed and used, can optimise comfort and economy for end-users. Modern central heating controls provide homeowners with the flexibility to have the boiler on at different times of the day and at different temperatures. Some devices can even sense the temperature automatically and adjust the boiler operation, while an Internet connected smart thermostat offers the added convenience of controlling the home temperature remotely via a tablet, smartphone or desktop computer.

Boiler Plus

The energy saving potential of high efficiency heating controls was recognised in Boiler Plus, new standards for domestic heating that came into force in England in April 2018. This latest legislation is aimed at giving consumers more choice over the way they heat their homes and more control over their energy bills. Boiler Plus set a new minimum space heating efficiency of 92% under the Energy-related Products (ErP) Directive for domestic gas boilers in English homes. As already mentioned, most of today’s condensing gas boilers already achieve this minimum – in fact, all models in Vokèra’s A-rated evolve range feature a space heating efficiency of 94% under ErP.

As part of its remit to help consumers cut their energy bills, Boiler Plus also requires an additional energy saving measure when fitting a new combination boiler. The options are to install a flue gas heat recovery system, which may not always be practical, or one of a choice of controls, namely weather compensation, load compensation, or smart controls featuring automation and optimisation functions.

Weather compensation interacts intelligently with the boiler to reduce the heating flow temperature, which increases efficiency without compromising user comfort. Indeed, the average efficiencies in a condensing boiler can be increased by an extra 2% with the simple addition of a weather compensation control. The load compensation option measures the gap between what the internal temperature is and what the user wants it to be, and modulates the boiler so that it only uses as much fuel as necessary to close the gap.

Intelligent choice

In addition to ensuring compliance where applicable, installers face a potentially confusing choice of controls to meet their customers’ particular requirements and budgets. There are controls that can be used with combi and system boilers that include basic time clocks, there are basic room thermostats, programmable room thermostats, and so-called ‘intelligent’ options that incorporate the most advanced technology available, such as weather compensation.

Over the past few years, forward-thinking boiler manufacturers like Vokèra have developed a comprehensive range of innovative appliances and control devices to help reduce the amount of fuel used by boilers to heat a home. For example, the majority of our domestic boilers now come with a pre-configured weather compensating function and are OpenTherm protocol enabled to help maximise efficiency. In essence, OpenTherm takes over the management of the heating flow temperature and raises or lowers the flow temperature from the boiler in order to maintain the desired room temperature. When used in conjunction with an external weather compensation sensor the flow temperature to the heating system increases as the outside temperature drops: if the external temperature rises, the heating flow temperature lowers accordingly. Combining the sensor with an OpenTherm programmable room thermostat will ensure the internal target temperature is maintained within the property.

Get smart

From our experience, smart heating controls don’t come much smarter, or simpler to install than BeSMART. Although designed to complement the Vokèra boiler range, this versatile control will also work with most high efficiency domestic boilers with On/Off control, making it an ideal replacement for old thermostats. BeSMART can be set-up for single or multi-zone control, with an impressive eight-zone maximum. The BeSMART App is available on both iOS and Android and works on a smartphone or tablet. Users can adjust the temperature, programme in settings and even check the boiler operating conditions, providing them with new levels of control over their heating system.

Take control

When it comes to heating their homes, consumers are bound to be attracted to controls that combine ease-of-use and affordability with additional energy efficiencies that won’t compromise comfort. It’s no surprise, therefore, that smart heating controls incorporating features such as automation, optimisation, and weather compensation using local weather data via the web, are an increasingly popular way for many homeowners to keep their houses comfortably and affordably warm. As the market continues to move towards smarter heating, we believe astute installers should embrace this sophisticated yet simple to use control technology for the benefit of their customers and their business.