Have you got a smart thermostat? Then we'd love to hear from you!

  • 20 September 2019
  • 19 replies
  • 995 views
Have you got a smart thermostat? Then we'd love to hear from you!
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We, the OVO Energy research team, are conducting some research in order to understand our customers' expectations around smart thermostats and in particular, how they use them in their everyday lives.

We hope that by understanding your expectations and perspective in detail, we can identify and solve real, valuable problems for you.

If you have a smart thermostat, we would love to hear your feedback.

 @ITGeek123 @Transparent @PeterR1947 @SianiAnni @Peetee @Barnabee @Phil_H

 


19 replies

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Sorry, only just joined the forum so missed this.

I fitted my own Drayton Wiser smart heating controller and TRV’s,

Works well but the TRV’s seem a little under-powered and a little too regularly have to be reset to get them to work properly.

I got the Drayton system over the Honeywell Evohome - both will work without a cloud service which was one of my main selection criteria - simply because the TRV’s were ½ the price. If I were doing it again, I’d go for the more expensive Evohome.

There is no official API for this system but someone reverse-engineered it anyway and wrote some Python code. I’ve taken that and converted it to a Node.js (JavaScript) module that I use with Node-RED & MQTT. With enhanced event handling.

I Don’t think that using it really saves us money in our 5 bed Victorian, part-stone house in the North of England (read: expensive to heat!) but it has most certainly made the house a lot more comfortable during the winter months by being smarter about how and when rooms are heated and to what temperature.

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Not sure we’ve had any other members with a Drayton system yet so interesting to hear the impact it’s had on the efficiency of your heating system and the features which could be improved.  Do you have thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) installed in every room then?

 

Thanks Jess and Tim.

We have TRV’s in most but not all locations.

We have a radiator in the bathroom where there is no room to fit one.

We have a radiator in the hall next to the kitchen that used to have the dumb wall thermostat (actually it is still there but is disconnected from the boiler). That was the radiator that, for older boilers was the bypass and so didn’t have a TRV fitted at all. If the system ever gets drained at all, it will get one though as it is a waste heating the hallway when you don’t need to.

Then we have 3 radiators on the 2nd floor (the “loft” technically but converted to living space when the house was originally built back in around 1900). These have dumb TRV’s fitted, they don’t have smart ones because they are too far from the controller and so the Zigbee comms won’t reach without an extender. Drayton make a smart plug which is also an extender (with Zigbee, any mains powered device will be an extender but not a battery powered one for obvious reasons). The smart plug is a bit expensive though and as my daughter is the main inhabitant of the 2nd floor and she is going to Uni soon, it probably isn’t worth the effort.

Everywhere else has a smart TRV though.

BTW, also worth noting that our boiler, while a decent condensing one, is a little older and so does not have the fine control that modern boilers have - can’t remember what that is called now. The Wiser controller supports that though and that is likely where you get a lot of the energy savings. It allows the boiler to be turned on and off more accurately by the controller.

 

I wrote a controller for the Wiser system using Node.JS, really for use with Node-RED which I use for home automation. That gives me a lot more information about what the system and the TRV’s are doing. It also lets me control the system and individual TRV’s independently of the Wiser app (which isn’t bad actually). It means that I can reset all boosts for example at bedtime - useful when my son got into the habit of boosting the temperature when he went to bed - very much a waste! I can also be more flexible with schedules such as changing things if my wife is working from home (she uses the dining room which I would normally keep a bit colder). All of this can be done manually from the app but this just makes it a bit easier.

Most of my Node-RED HA code relates to lighting though along with notifications such as getting notified on the Telegram app if the door bell is pressed or the front or freezer door is left open.

Lighting is automatically controlled centrally and I also have a range of self-built sensor platforms that report temperature, humidity, light levels and so on. A few movement and door open sensors also.

This pretty much started off as a bit of fun for winter evenings but as is often the way with hobbies, things tend to get a bit out of hand over the years!

 

Coming back on-topic though, the automated lighting certainly adds to property security when people are working away from home (not likely to happen for us now I guess) and keeps electricity usage under control while making the house friendly and welcoming when we are in.

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We have Tado with Tado valves on all radiators linked through Home Assistant.

I have pretty much everything linked to Home Assistant (Tado, Network, Lighting (all lights) Energy monitoring, cars, security).

It’s a great way to integrate different systems that otherwise don’t talk nicely to each other.

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Cool feature to include a doorbell notification. Is any of this linked to Smart speakers as well or is it all controlled using your phone?

We have a Google Home but honestly it doesn’t get used that often. I can control the heating via GH but never do. I guess we are all so used to using apps and websites that voice often seems clunky by comparison.

 

It definitely is, provided you set it all up properly. You will definitely have problems with trying to use cheap ISP Routers with this stuff though. You ideally need a decent one that gives you more flexibility and control.

A decent router helps but actually, Node-RED, HA, Wi-Fi based sensors/controllers and Zigbee sensors/controllers really don’t take a lot and any old router is good enough in most cases.

Of course, I still gave up router-based Wi-Fi ages back as it is never terribly good even on really expensive Wi-Fi routers. Waste of money. Even a cheap router with a good access-point is better value. Personally, I use a Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite router and Ubiquiti Wi-Fi access points - I have two with an old one acting as a mesh client on a newer model in order to get better coverage to the back edges of our awkward Victorian 5-bed end-terrace, part-stone house.

Good Wi-Fi is a must for a modern household :grin:

I did invest in FTTC broadband when it became available to us. We are 5km from our exchange so I could never get more than 2MBPS ADSL broadband. I have 80MBPS now.

That has been a god-send during covid of course and I’ve not had to worry about 4 people all working from home and constantly on video conference calls.

But all the home automation stuff hardly makes a blip on the network.

Userlevel 7

FYI ya’ll, I’ve split out the end of this thread into it’s own topic Q&A, here:

 

 

Sorry, I dont have any smart tech in the house.
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I have a Smart thermostat to control my heating from Inspire Home Automation https://www.inspirehomeautomation.co.uk/ very simple to fit, just replaced the existing thermostat, connects wirelessly to my router and has an app on my iPhone and iPad.



So anywhere I have internet access I can control my heating, in fact I’ve just turned it off from Cyprus as I forgot when we left home on Wednesday.



It has four profiles which I can set up although I only use two, Summer and Winter and you can set different temperatures at different times of the day, each profile has week and weekend settings. It also has a Geofencing option which I keep meaning to set up
Userlevel 6
That's okay, @Phil_H! :)



I'm so jealous you're on holiday, @PeterR1947, it's so nice to get away! If you've got a spare minute or two, could you fill in this survey? 😄
Survey sent. I had Nest at my old place, and Hive at the new place so have experience of both although they both have their own pros and cons. I have also a smart home throughout the house but I can't say I use the intergration or automation a great deal. Probably the best use is with Alexa/Google Home to control the temperature by voice and with smart speakers dotted around the home it means you aren't having to use your phone (which many will find they use too much already!) to do the little things.
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Great thanks for getting involved @simonbkUK much appreciated!!
Userlevel 7

 

Sorry, only just joined the forum so missed this.

 

 

It’s nice to see some old topics re-activated with a new perspective, @knight - no need to apologise for joining the conversation now, although sadly this survey is no longer active.

 

Not sure we’ve had any other members with a Drayton system yet so interesting to hear the impact it’s had on the efficiency of your heating system and the features which could be improved.  Do you have thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) installed in every room then?

 

Userlevel 7

Wow sounds like you’ve got one pretty Smart Home in the making there, @knight. Wonder how your set-up compares to others who’ve got Home Assistant type setups - @SianiAnni, @ArundaleP, @NinjaGeek?

 

Cool feature to include a doorbell notification. Is any of this linked to Smart speakers as well or is it all controlled using your phone?

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Hi @Eva_OVO I think I completed it, some of the options were in Greek script which was a bit of a challenge 🤓
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We don't have one yet, but the geek in me would love one. Although our current thermostat is about 8 yrs old, it was state of the art at the time, battery operated WiFi connected. And apart from the fact we can't control from our phones it's actually very sophisticated as it is. Can set multiple time slots, can move it from room to room, very easy to operate, and we are careful with how we use it, turning down the heat setting when we leave the house etc. Smart thermostats are often promoted as money savers, but for us, the way we currently use our thermostat and as much as I enjoy twiddling around with our lights (Phillips hue, a couple of cheap and cheerful colour smart LED strips from China, and semi smart aquarium lights) I can't see that a smart thermostat will pay for itself very quickly. We do have several Alexas in the house, I love smart tech, just can't quite justify discarding the current thermostat. Protecting the planet is also about reduce, reuse, recycle. There is a carbon cost to changing something that works very well still.



So I'm going to be cheeky and offer a little suggestion. I'm currently struggling with the cost of a new 2 Yr fix with OVO vs several of the big energy Co's (although OVO has just acquired that status with the acquisition of SSE). If we didn't all ready have the smart ev charger, that would be enough to get us to continue with ev everywhere. The polar card is unfortunately not very useful to us living in East Yorkshire, it's very sparse on public chargers. So how about a smart thermostat incentive, of some kind? . But we don't need a new boiler. And even better, I'd love smart trv's. Currently, renewal at this price is a bit tough on the pocket, for the same fuel that we can buy elsewhere at about 20% cheaper. An incentive that is useful to us would definitely sweeten the deal.



Just a thought.
Userlevel 7
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No I don't have a "Smart" thermostat either.



My house is separated into zones, usually defined as a room. Each zone has its own combined thermostat/timeclock positioned about 1.6m above floor level.





I set the times at which I want each zone to reach a certain temperature. The 'stat controls valves on a manifold which allows water at 45º to flow into the underfloor heating pipes for that zone.



Each floor has its own manifold. This is the one for the 1st floor, sited next to the 300-litre thermal store. In this photo, four of the possible seven positions have pipework connected, each with its own motorised valve:









Here's an early photo of UFH pipes being installed into a floor which is now a functional en-suite shower room. The white PEX pipe is held in place by recesses in the black aluminium heat spreader plates.







"Wet" underfloor heating like this is much more efficient than radiators, especially when being supplied from a thermal store. It avoids the need to raise water temperature to 70º-plus, and thus keeps a gas boiler in "condensing mode".



Smart thermostats are really aimed at households where there is a single boiler connected to a radiator circuit. In order to lower energy costs, the house is allowed to cool down when unoccupied, typically during the working day.



If houses were built "properly", including adequate levels of insulation and avoiding the use of gas combi-boilers, then there would be very little temperature drop during the day anyway.



The market for Smart thermostats exists because we are still building houses that are inefficient in their energy usage. That's why the Government has proposed significant changes to Part-L of the Building Regulations (Conservation of Fuel & Power).
Userlevel 3
@Transparent interesting points there. In fact I would love an air source heat pump system, but again, it's back to discarding an existing working item when it doesn't yet need replacing.
Userlevel 7

 

Not sure we’ve had any other members with a Drayton system yet so interesting to hear the impact it’s had on the efficiency of your heating system and the features which could be improved.  Do you have thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) installed in every room then?

 

 

Agree, I’d love to hear a bit more info on your set up, in case it helps anyone else thinking about it. I think it’s particularly interesting considering that you don’t yet have a smart meter!

 

As you mention, big stone wall houses in cold landscapes make the possible returns on ‘smart’ heating, efficient use of heating a room, very attractive, for ones wallet and ones carbon footprint! 

Userlevel 7

@spudonhill a quick tag for you here, you may be interested to hear about what Knight has done:

 

I fitted my own Drayton Wiser smart heating controller and TRV’s,

Works well but the TRV’s seem a little under-powered and a little too regularly have to be reset to get them to work properly.

I got the Drayton system over the Honeywell Evohome - both will work without a cloud service which was one of my main selection criteria - simply because the TRV’s were ½ the price. If I were doing it again, I’d go for the more expensive Evohome.

There is no official API for this system but someone reverse-engineered it anyway and wrote some Python code. I’ve taken that and converted it to a Node.js (JavaScript) module that I use with Node-RED & MQTT. With enhanced event handling.

I Don’t think that using it really saves us money in our 5 bed Victorian, part-stone house in the North of England (read: expensive to heat!) but it has most certainly made the house a lot more comfortable during the winter months by being smarter about how and when rooms are heated and to what temperature.

 

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It definitely is, provided you set it all up properly. You will definitely have problems with trying to use cheap ISP Routers with this stuff though. You ideally need a decent one that gives you more flexibility and control.

One of the only reasons I don't use it myself is basically a lack of stuff to use with it. :)

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