You may have recently seen the news that over half of British households will see an increase in their cost of energy at the end of April. Ofgem, the regulator who sets maximum prices for gas and electricity default tariffs, have raised the price cap. This means customers who are on a ‘standard’ default tariff will pay an average of £117 a year more, totalling a massive £1,254 annually. Even customers on prepayment meters, often the elderly or vulnerable, will see a price rise of £106 up to an average of £1,242 annually.

 

While switching deals and fixing prices remains the best way to save energy costs, with a typical household saving £200 annually, it’s obvious that energy costs need to be controlled. Does a smart thermostat therefore make sense to help cut costs and reduce that energy bill shock?

 

Smart Thermostats: How much do they claim to save?

It appears the latest game is claiming that your smart thermostat saves more than the next companies. Tado says their product will ‘pay for itself in a year’ reducing bills up to 31%. Netatmo go higher and say 37% saving! British Gas and Hive stick to a £130 saving a year. But are these numbers true? Or are they only working from a worst case scenario to the best possible saving?

Will I save money?

 

Nest and independent studies say customers save on average 10-12% with a smart thermostat. A considerable difference from 37%, but still a great way to save money. Nearly 50% of households with programmable thermostats set them up incorrectly or don’t bother using them. Smart thermostats take the hassle out of this, ideally never forgetting to adjust your temperature.

BUT this does mean you’re much more likely to see savings if you don’t currently bother adjusting your thermostat and make the most out of your programmable one. If you always turn it down when leaving the house, have it set to optimum settings, turn it down at night, then you will see less energy savings.

You’re far more likely to make savings if you are tech-savvy enough to engage with the various apps on offer and have a varied lifestyle that can’t be easily programmed.  Being able to set temperatures and turn off on the go is of benefit if you never know where you’re going to be, but if you have a mostly standard 9-5 routine, then it may be less useful. Finally make sure you’re going to stay in the same property to enjoy the benefits. It might sound simple, but if you’re looking to save money through a smart thermostat, don’t leave it behind when you move after 1 year.

Are smart thermostats worth it?

So are smart thermostats a sensible way to save money? Quite possibly depending on your circumstances and certainly one that’s worth investigating! They also have a range of other benefits based on whole home control and comfort depending on the solution you choose.

However if you’re looking to develop your own solution, just get in touch! Here at Ovon we’re experts at developing heating solutions, from the very early concept and prototyping to manufacturing. Through the process our projects get prepared to go to market not only with the best device but also with the data, security and cloud infrastructure to enable it.  Passion for product design and progressive iteration are the key elements for us.

 

 

 

 

 

By 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) will have more than 100 billion connected devices worldwide, each with a dozen or more sensors collecting data with an estimated $19 trillion of newly created value.

These figures above aren’t just a wild guess, but from a leading research paper from Research and Markets. It’s expected that 5G connectivity and AI technology will power this transformation. This phenomenon is known as the Trillion Sensor Economy; sensors are expected to generate bronto-bytes (1000 trillion!) of data by 2025 from the trillion sensors that will be online by then, requiring the Internet to grow exponentially.

So, how important are sensors for the IoT?

IoT opens a world of opportunities to extend the digital into the physical world. New utilisations that focus on the control and monitoring of physical entities are appearing every day. IoT endpoints generate data about things that can be collected and analysed locally or remotely in the cloud.

These endpoints are increasing exponentially day to day due to the large number of sensors that we can use and the new ones appearing in almost a daily basis. Location, movement, proximity, temperature, images, vibration, ambient light, humidity, gestures, energy, contaminants and pollution are just some of the measurable endpoints. Therefore, the business case of the IoT sits on the ability to achieve device data streams for insight, process optimization and decision-making. 

The trillion-sensor economy will benefit to the companies who’ve prepared for it.

A future with sensors giving information from surrounding surfaces, autonomous cars, wearables, workplaces and homes is not that far away and will change the way we live, the way we work and even the way our kids play.

For some, it can seem like a logical progression of modern society and even something easy 

to accomplish. Nothing could be further from the truth however, behind this revolution there are basic manufacturing processes, hardware, software, data, and infrastructure needs that companies need to utilise in order to be well placed to take advantage of this opportunity.

Getting your company, products and services ready for the trillion-sensor economy requires a multidisciplinary view of all the teams and processes involved. A combination of intelligent devices, applications, connectivity, risk awareness (data privacy), milestones, management and leadership without a doubt requires a team that’s been there before and can help in bringing your idea to life.

Been there, done that

Here at Ovon we partner with our customers in championing the trillion-sensor economy revolution. Experts in end-to-end solutions, from the very early concept and prototyping to manufacturing. Through the process our projects get prepared to go to market not only with the best device but also with the data, security and cloud infrastructure to enable it.  Passion for product design and progressive iteration are the key elements for us. 

Healthcare, well-being, automotive and connected homes are just some of the industries about to be transformed. Many of the companies we work with have ambitious roadmaps to lead the race and we’re excited to help them capture this trillion-sensor economy.  We are looking forward to helping our customers design a thriving future!

 

 

 

 

Smarthome devices are not just about making our homes more practical. Products such as smart thermostats and radiator valves also help homeowners to save money on their energy bills by using the latest protocols and technology to tackle the energy efficiency problem in many homes. Here at Ovon, we are experts in a variety of protocols, but this time we’re going to explore OpenTherm.

 

What is OpenTherm?

OpenTherm is a standard communications protocol used in central heating systems for the communication between a central heating boiler and a room thermostatic controller, such as the ones you find on the wall. It enables thermostats to control heating and domestic hot water systems. As a standard, OpenTherm is independent of any single manufacturer.

With traditional heating systems, a simple relay is used to turn the boiler on or off. When the boiler is on, it heats water and your home to the pre-set temperature until the thermostat tells it to turn off. However radiators turned on to full power can often overpass the temperature set. As a result, the thermostat waits until the temperature falls, before starting the boiler at maximum power again. This is not the most efficient way to keep a comfortable home. 

Thanks to OpenTherm, a user can get a real and accurate idea about what is happening to the boiler. In fact, it gives a digital and friendly interface that allows the thermostat to change the temperature of the water used for heating. Using a process called modulation OpenTherm boilers can reduce water temperature to balance out natural heat loss through windows, walls, roofs and doors.

As almost all smart thermostats understand how long a house takes to warm up completely, they can measure the heat required to get a house up to the ideal temperature. Therefore, a thermostat can set the boiler to the most efficient water temperature to achieve the comfort needed. 

Even more, in many cases, thermostats may set the water temperature to a lower level, using longer heating times to reach the set temperature. Despite how this sounds, longer heating times do not necessarily mean more energy is being used, in fact, this type of heating control can save more energy and be more efficient overall.

OpenTherm communication is digital and bi-directional between the controller (called master) and the boiler (called slave) so how does it work? 

Master controllers can come from different sources, but at this point we are going to stop on two:

  1. A Thermostat. It will use its inbuilt smart algorithms to tell the boiler when to change its target water temperature so that it will use more or less energy as needed.
  2. A Gateway or multi point to point. This is a new feature from specification 2.4 that also describes how more than two devices (boiler-thermostat) can be connected by OpenTherm.
    Whilst OpenTherm is a point-to-point connection, an extra device (gateway) is added between the master and the slave. This gateway has 1 slave and 1 (or more) master interfaces. The gateway controls which data is passed to the slave.  

 

Does OpenTherm save money on the energy bill? 

It is really difficult to give an exact figure as it will depend on the home, the number of radiators, heating temperature and the existence or not of smart radiator valves. There are studies that confirm that it can save around 6% energy.

The fact is that by using OpenTherm a boiler only uses the energy it needs to provide the heat required at that point to save money.

 

Is my current heating system OpenTherm compatible?

The simplest way to know whether an existent heating system is OpenTherm compatible or not is to look for the OpenTherm logo on the boiler or thermostat.  If the boiler isn’t easily accessible, the best way is to check with the boiler and thermostat manufacturers to see if OpenTherm.

If you’ve got a compatible thermostat and boiler, it’s worth checking with a heating engineer if the OpenTherm connection is enabled as thermostats that support it have a specific wiring for this standard.

Finally, an OpenTherm controller from manufacturer A can in principle be used to control a boiler from manufacturer B. However, OpenTherm controllers and boilers do not in fact always work properly together. The OpenTherm standard comprises a number of optional features and some devices may include manufacturer-specific features. The presence or absence of such features may impair compatibility with other OpenTherm devices. This is a rare scenario but could be the reason why a compatible OpenTherm system is not working properly.

 

Alternatives to OpenTherm

OpenTherm is the most popular modulating interface, but some boilers have their own digital interface. There are other standards/protocols such as eBUS and EMS and here at Ovon we work with all of them when developing our smart devices. We promise to go through them and their advantages and inconveniences in the following blogs. Thanks for reading and we hope you found this useful!