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Volunteers wanted for trial of heat pump controls

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 15 October 2013 at 11:17 am

Is it just me, or are heat pumps the most confusing of beasts?

I had a Daikin Altherma air source heat pump installed by an MCS registered installer in 2012 to replace a hopelesssly out-of-date storage heating system in a 1950s chalet-style house.

Last winter we received electricity bills that would make grown men weep so I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with discerning how to make it run more efficiently.

The trouble is, given the multitude of ways of adjusting it – from timers to flow temperatures to in-room thermostats, coupled with conflicting reports on whether running it 24/7 or only in mornings and evenings is better – it would take 10 years of longitudinal experimentation, and quite possibly a divorce, before I had the measure of the thing.

There is now a company out there which claims to have developed a heat pump control solution that could save me up to 38 per cent on my energy bills by instructing my heat pump on how to work smarter.

PassivSystems is a technology company with a long history in home energy management systems. Their PassivEnergy gadget is a tablet system, similar to an iPad, that overrides all other controls to give you greater, and more user-specific control over your heating and hot water. Once you’ve entered the times you’re in and out of your house, the system uses thermostats, external weather conditions and your energy tariff information to give you the most efficient heating solution for your home.

Hitherto working with solar thermal, gas and oil systems, PassivSystems is now experimenting in the heat pump market. With the help of a wedge of cash from the department of energy and climate change’s energy entrepreneur’s fund, it is developing a system to make the elusive heat pump a more user-friendly thing.

“We’ve found that either heat pumps are set up badly, or they don’t use all the information they could to run efficiently,” says Piers Bertrand, the project’s technical lead, at PassivSystems. “We’ve created some algorithms which we believe will make a very big difference to the cost of running your heat pump.”

The system’s intelligent controls will measure the internal and external temperature and the heat being provided by the pump. The controls then use software to manage when heat is delivered to ensure than the house is warm when you’re in and reduces usage when you’re out – or when energy costs are high. The controls are connected to the internet, allowing you to control them from anywhere using your smartphone, or online so that if you decide to stay out longer, or come home sooner, you can let the system know.

Whether this is an elegant, one-stop solution to heat pump control, or simply a way of adding yet another layer of complexity to an already overly-complicated system remains to be seen, but Piers is now looking for five, very engaged heat pump owners to take part in a pilot of the system. The pilot will probably start in January 2014.

Using the information gained from that trial, he’ll then run a larger trial, with up to 80 participants, starting in winter 2014/15. The trial will initially only be open to people with Daikin air source heat pumps and Kensa ground source heat pumps. Other models will follow.

If you’re interested in taking part in either trial, or would like to know more, contact Piers at

More information on heat pumps on YouGen

YouGen guide to heat pumps

Getting the best from your air source heat pump

Heat pump field trial reveals good and bad installations

Photo Credit: pshegubj via Compfight cc

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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6 comments - read them below or add one

Tasha Kosviner

Tasha KosvinerComment left on: 8 January 2014 at 2:12 pm

These heat pump trials have now begun and no further volunteers are currently needed.

Depending on the outcome of the trials, PassivSystems will be running a larger trial in the summer 2014. We'll keep you posted with the initial trial findings and calls for any more volunteers when the second wave of trials is due to begin. 

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MikelComment left on: 16 October 2013 at 10:48 am


It looks like the link in the email address is incorrect . I have now sent a message to and got an Out of Office message from someone who has left the company and whose mailbox is not monitored.


I'll try a phone call.

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Tasha Kosviner

Tasha KosvinerComment left on: 16 October 2013 at 9:37 am

Hi Mikel

Sorry about this - just trying to get to the bottom of it now.

In the meantime, try calling the number that comes through on the returned email and asking for Piers - he's the man you need to speak to. I'll post again with an update, once I get hold of him. 


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MikelComment left on: 15 October 2013 at 9:25 pm

Hi, I'm still getting a returned email with the new address.

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Caitlin Moran

Caitlin MoranComment left on: 15 October 2013 at 4:43 pm

@Mikel thanks for that.  Sorry for the typo, it should work now.

The YouGen Team

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MikelComment left on: 15 October 2013 at 2:51 pm

Hi, I tried sending an email but got a returned message. Can you check that the email address is OK. Looks like it should read heatpumptrial@....

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