Get smart

As smart technology becomes integral to everyday life, it is important for installers to understand how this will affect heating systems, and what the differences are between smart and connected boilers. Here, Jon Phillips, head of product management at Baxi, gives a brief overview of the two types of technology.

The digital revolution has by no means passed the heating industry by, and an increasing number of products are now hitting the market, promising enhanced usability and efficiencies - all at the tap of a button or the swipe of a screen. When it comes to smart and connected heating systems, cutting through the jargon is half the battle - here's our quick and easy guide to put installers in the know:

Smart controls

When we are talking about a smart system in general terms, we would expect to find a system that incorporates various sensory functions and controls which help analyse a situation and then make decisions on the data collected in order to perform smart actions. 

So when we apply this to a smart heating system, we have a smart control unit linked to the boiler and the internet, that is able to provide information to the user about what the boiler is doing -  for example if it's on or off, or any fault codes. The smart control unit can be remotely operated via an app on a smartphone or tablet, to adjust and/or schedule the temperature.

Some smart control units are capable of learning from user behaviour and the temperature response of the home, and can operate independently without user input. An example of this kind of smart control technology is the Nest Learning Thermostat™.

Baxi partnered with Nest to provide training in the Nest Learning Thermostat™ at our training centres. Installers who complete the course receive Nest Pro accreditation.

Intelligent controls

Unlike a smart control, intelligent controls do not need to be connected to the internet to work. An intelligent control unit works in much the same way as a smart control unit as it has sensory functions, can analyse data and respond accordingly - but without the internet connection, it can't be controlled remotely or via an app. 

An example of an intelligent control is weather compensation controls, which are now fitted as standard in some boilers. These controls regulate the output of the boiler in line with the outside temperature, and are particularly effective when unseasonal weather occurs.  The controls keep the home at a steady temperature, making it a much more comfortable environment for the homeowners.

OpenTherm

OpenTherm is a generic system, not specific to any particular manufacturer, which allows boilers and controls to communicate information from one to the other. The level of what can be communicated depends on the individual unit and the functionality built in by the manufacturer, and products which are optimised for OpenTherm will display the logo.

A major benefit of OpenTherm is that it allows the amount of heat provided by the boiler to be adjusted to the fluctuating needs of the household by minimising the flow temperature as it leaves the boiler. This modulation helps improve boiler efficiency, as the unit can run at lower flow temperatures for longer periods of time. Now that more OpenTherm compatible boilers are available on the UK market, installers can offer this additional layer of 'smart' to their customers.

Connected boilers

A connected  boiler can report internal information about its performance and diagnostics back to the manufacturer via the internet. The communication system between the boiler and the manufacturer uses different protocols and gateways. This means that the manufacturer can monitor the unit remotely, and let the customer know of any preventative maintenance required should a possible fault be flagged.

A connectable boiler will be optimised so it can become a connected boiler at a later date.

Baxi has just launched its first range of smart boilers, available exclusively at independent merchants. The new Baxi 200 and Baxi 400 high efficiency combi boilers are compatible with the latest smart controls, meaning that customers can control them from wherever they are, via a tablet or smartphone.

Smart and connected solutions are an increasingly important part of a heating installation. It's important that installers ensure they have all the latest information to hand and understand the options out there, so they can better advise customers on the smart tech that is right for them.

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