Heating controls often aren't used effectively
Posted by Cathy Debenham on 24 September 2012 at 9:21 am
Difficulties using heating controls are widespread according to Consumer Focus which has reviewed a wide range of research on the subject (click here to download the full research results). Displays are difficult to see, buttons difficult to use, they don't tend to be intuitive to use, they are often mounted in inaccessible places, and people aren't given clear instructions of guidance on how to use them.
This matters because effective and easy-to-use tools are an important tool in saving energy. If you don't know how to use them, or can't easily reach them, the chances are that you won't be getting the best from your central heating - either in terms of comfort or cost effectiveness.
The research also shows that most people don't have at least one of the main controls required by building regulations.
One of the reasons that controls have not developed to become more user friendly is that most decisions as to what controls are installed are made by installers without any consultation with the consumer. This means that consumer feedback does not get back to the manufacturers.
The impact of this is considerable in both cost and carbon emission terms. Research indicates that households can save an average £59 per year on heating bills just by installing a room thermostat. By upgrading every home to have a room thermostat and a full set of thermostatic radiator valves the Government estimates that it would reduce carbon emissions from domestic heating by 8 per cent (about the same as estimated savings from loft insulation).
The lessons for homeowners from this research is that it's worth taking an interest in the controls your heating engineer installs: make sure that they will do what you want them to, and that you know how to use them.
The lessons for installers are to ask your customers about how they live, and what level of control they need to get the best out of their heating. Finding out this will enable you to design the system to meet their needs. Talk to them about where would be most convenient to put the controls, teach them how to use them, and (last, but not least) don't put the room thermostat in the hall, but in the room that's most used.
If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.
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