Smart heating and smart home

Smart heating? Smart appliances are able to exchange data. They can send and receive information to and from the consumer, other appliances in the house and even the world beyond the building. The European heating industry is committed to make ‘smart’ an integral part of all heating systems anywhere in Europe.

Why is this important? Providing heat and hot water to European buildings consumes a lot of energy, about 40% of energy consumption in Europe. Using that energy more efficiently will make a major difference in driving down energy consumption. Smart heating will help to boost the overall efficiency of heating, generating energy savings of up to 15%.

How? Smart heating puts consumers in the driver’s seat. A smart thermostat allows consumers to adjust the heating to their needs, remotely adjusting the heating via their smart phone or tablet. A smart control system and smart thermostatic valves make sure that only those rooms get heated that need to be heated. A smart heating system also enables so-called ‘remote appliance monitoring’, whereby the installer or a service company is alerted about faults, for example boiler faults or a drop in water pressure. This information greatly helps to  offer pro-active maintenance to consumers, often remedying malfunctions remotely. User-friendly interfaces of heating appliances and smart meters also inform consumers in real-time about their energy consumption, avoiding any surprises in their energy bills.

And the possibilities extend beyond much-improved interaction between consumers and their heating system. Smart heating will be an integral part of the broader evolution towards ‘smart homes’. The many different appliances inside a building will be able to coordinate their operation, thanks to a central energy manager. A better coordination between the different systems in a building will lead to an optimization of its energy consumption. These different systems include heating and cooling, large appliances such as dishwashers and fridges, charging of electric vehicles, battery storage and the photovoltaic panels on the roof. For example, when the photovoltaic panels are producing a lot of ‘free’ electricity, the smart appliances in the building will adapt their operation to the availability of this ‘free’ electricity. The heating industry is cooperating with other industries to make sure that all these appliances in the building are ‘interoperable’, i.e. able to exchange information.

Smart heating and the other smart appliances in a building cannot only communicate with each other, but also with the world outside the building. Heat pumps can modulate their power consumption, depending on data about current electricity prices. A hybrid heat pump can switch from electricity to gas, when grid operators send a signal that there is a high demand on the grid. When there is excess renewable electricity on the grid, an electric hot water tank will convert this cheap electricity into hot water (so-called ‘power-to-heat’). A smart heating system can also process information about the weather forecast or day-ahead electricity prices and already anticipate what will be required to keep the building warm. A wide uptake of smart heating will play a key role in enabling higher shares of renewable electricity on the grid, as smart heating provides the flexibility to adjust electricity demand to the variable nature of more renewable electricity generation.

The examples above clearly show that data exchange will increase significantly in a ‘smart home’. The data provided by a smart heating system are sensitive, as they give an insight in the daily lives of the consumers. The European heating industry is taking the concerns of consumers about data security and privacy very seriously.