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Clean Growth focus to drive fundamental shift in building controls

A drive within the building services sector for less carbon intensive operations is expected to drastically reshape traditional approaches to managing and monitoring heat

BEAMA said it anticipates a fundamental and unprecedented change within the functionality of heating controls moving forward that will be driven by a shift towards data-led energy management and more automated ‘smart’ functions.

The organisation said that a drive for less carbon intensive heating and cooling services in buildings and improved energy efficiency was requiring much more innovative approaches to manage the performance of appliances.

Dr Howard Porter, chief executive for BEAMA, said he expected existing approaches to managing and controlling heat in domestic properties would not suffice in order to meet challenges facing industry across the UK to limit the environmental impacts of homes and businesses estates.

“Heat controls have been here for 50 year or so. The technology has gradually improved, but to be honest, fundamentally it hasn’t changed enormously in all that time.

“We have better and more intuitive products, new products for consumers but actually the kit hasn’t fundamentally changed. I think it will going forward.”

The continued and protracted roll out of smart meters in the UK was highlighted by Dr Porter as an example of the emerging importance of digital solutions to support more energy efficient heating.

He said that having been involved in the initiatives to implement smart meters in UK homes for a significant amount of time, fully integrated smart systems were now being devised that can have a dramatic impact on the efficiency of building services systems.

However, BEAMA’s chief executive noted the importance of implementing other emerging technologies such as energy storage solutions to better realise the low carbon potential of these systems.

A change in terminology

Dr Porter argued that the use of the term ‘controls’ iwas perhaps too limited a term to reflect the drastic changes already happening within how building services functions are being managed. By comparison, he believed that a title that better captured the wider residential energy management functions of smart controls would be a more suitable description.

“I think controls is a bit of a limited term, as actually, is it about how you control all the energy in a building, part of which is controlling the radiators and the underfloor heating.”

Ensuring systems and appliances were interoperable and able to interact with different technologies, as opposed to manufacturers relying on proprietary standards, would be vital to realising ambitions for truly smart buildings that can efficiently react to the needs of users.

Dr Porter said BEAMA would be reshaping its own operational structure to account for changes to heating and energy management in homes that will be required to meet the aims decarbonisation aims of the government’s Clean Growth Strategy that seeks to transform the UK in a low carbon economy.

He said a new structure would be a vital step to manage changes required to both the national grid and heating appliances to drastically curb carbon emissions nationally as set out in the government’s recent ‘Transforming Heating’ plan.

Dr Porter said the government’s findings highlighted four main potential solutions for realising lower carbon heat that included stepping up the role of electrical heating or gradually increasing the role of hydrogen in the gas grid.

The other prominent solutions put forward by government in the strategy were in looking at expanding wet central heating systems that can make use of biofuels and electric power. Heat networks were also set out in the report as being an efficient option for urban areas to create heat.

BEAMA’s chairman said he shared the view with some other industry experts that a combination of all these different solutions would be required to meet the challenge of lower carbon heat in the UK.

Dr Porter said, “There are clearly quite a few things in each of those if you want to get to the mass market. So we will see, but in BEAMA we will be setting up a new structure as to how you manage all these changes, as I’m certain that we will be technology agnostic, but clearly promoting electric solutions because we have an electric background.”

”That is not at all saying that the wet distribution systems go away, it is just how you produce the heat for those wet distribution systems that is required.”

Connected services

Dr Porter’s comments were made during an event in London last week that celebrated 70 years of manufacturer Drayton Controls and its ambitions over the next year to begin expanding the uptake of connected heating services alongside launching new underfloor heating systems for the UK market.

After the Drayton Controls was purchased by Schneider Electric in 2005, the company said it had been working to leverage the energy management company’s market expertise to develop connected technologies such as its Wiser smart radiator thermostat.

Remi Volpe, vice president and GM of Schneider’s residential temperature controls operations, said that integrating its products with smart metering technology is expected to offer more bespoke heating services in the home.

He said that part of the challenge to build interest in this service would be to inform customers about the potential benefits of using data held within their smart meter and using it to more inform performance. This would also include building industry knowledge over the value of using diagnostics to determine the efficiency of appliances and provide preventative maintenance.

Mr Volpe added, “It’s futuristic and it’s not quite there yet, but we’re looking at how we then interface with the smart metre and take the data and utilise that to ensure we do some modelling on the energy usage. This will let us do smart things to give consumers some sort of prediction about how much energy they use and how much their bills will be.”

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