19 June 2023
By Griff Thomas, from Renewables Training Provider, GTEC.
The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) has become a standard fixture in the world of building services as we control many elements of our home and work environments using clever tech to ensure optimum temperatures, greater efficiencies and a better understanding of power-usage and cost.
Domestic controls, such as NEST, have been connecting our home heating, lighting and entertainment devices for some time now, and the latest solar pv panels come with apps that show electricity generated, how much individual appliances use and what is sold back to the grid. This is all great for consumers, but could this type of tech be helping installers too and how specifically could the IoT improve the heat pump sector?
We are all very used to the delights of our smart phones; we track our steps, monitor our sleep and make sure the heating’s on when we get home. There really is an extraordinary amount of technological clout quite literally in the palm of our hands. But, while many heating installers may now be getting involved in fitting the clever controls that link back to internet enabled devices, it’s likely that the very start of this process – getting the heating system right for the particular application – began with a tape measure; particularly important for heat pump installers, where accurate room surveying and heat loss calculations are a must.
Things are changing, however, and very soon the process of installing the latest heat pump technology will match the connected, internet enabled world we now live in.
What could tech do for heat pump installation?
Ditch the tape measure: One of the key areas that can put traditional heating and plumbing installers off making the switch to heat pump installation is the aforementioned room-surveying and heat-loss calculations. Accuracy is essential when specifying and installing a heat pump and getting these initial steps in the heat pump process right are key (and not necessarily something traditional gas engineers are used to). These steps are also time-consuming and open to human error.
In the future, apps will do the hard work for you and help you ditch the tape measure, possibly for good! The latest tech currently in development will quickly scan a room using a smart phone to complete a room survey in a matter of seconds.
Join the dots: The IoT is always learning in order to improve user experience. A heat pump system is about more than just the heat pump; insulation levels, heat emitter types, windows and pipes all effect the performance of the system.
Connected tech of the future will be able to adjust a specification and its predicted outputs based on these factors, all by simply inputting the related information – insulation thickness for example, could show a direct reduction in energy consumption (useful information for consumers looking to save on their fuel bills.)
Try before you buy: Consumers can often have a hard time visualising how a heat pump will look at their property; it’s still a very ‘new’ concept to most people. 3D visualisation technology has been used by many industries for some time now – kitchen designers and architects, for example, often use AR tools to help their customers see their vision for the finished result.
Apart from the heat pump, 3D visualisation could also be used to show new radiators, or any other changes being made internally or externally as a result of the heating upgrade. In a recent survey by City Plumbing, concerns about the space needed to store the cylinder accounted for around a 40% drop-off in enquiries. It is hoped that future tech will help counter this issue, providing reassurance to customers that the extra space required is not as intrusive as they imagine.
Customer satisfaction: We are resistant to change, so it’s very important that those that do choose a heat pump have a good experience and become advocates for low carbon technology. Fossil fuel fanatics, climate change deniers and the ‘tin foil hat’ brigade are looking for any excuse to bad mouth heat pumps and other renewable technologies. Let’s not forget that many were unsure combi-boilers would catch-on!
Intelligent software that reduces the risk of poor heat pump installations and improves overall efficiency, will lead to greater customer satisfaction. Apps that can be shared by installers and their clients can also act as a traceable single point of contact, removing the hassle of paperwork for engineers, while providing one place to view any supporting paperwork.
Providing better support, including collaborative tools for design, installation and commissioning will boost installer confidence and help to tip the scales of public opinion on low-carbon heating.
As the saying goes ‘there’s an app for that’. For heat pump installers, it’s only a matter of time
Heat pump installation made easy
Heatly is an exciting new software package and supporting app designed to streamline heat pump installation and enhance customer experience.
Currently being developed by Thormer Solutions, as part of the DESNZ (formerly BEIS) funded Heat Pump Ready Programme, Heatly will use the latest advances in digital technology and 3D visualisation to revolutionise the heat pump sector, offering a host of benefits across the supply chain.
The Heatly team is currently looking for industry stakeholders interested in helping shape the development of the app. Heatly will provide a number of benefits to the sector at large and provide an unrivalled platform to engage with heat pump installers and their customers.