Drayton Wiser Install Expansion
In Part 1 we set up the 3 channel controller and room thermostats to replace our conventional versions. That satisfied a number of our selection criteria for a smart home heating system but we still had some issues outstanding, including zoning individual rooms. This is when the Wiser Radiator valves play a key role.
Picture: Each box contains Valve, 2 AA batteries and 2 adapters
The cost of the base components for Wiser are competitive compared to many other products, but the cost of the radiator valves is where we see the biggest difference. The table below illustrates a basic cost comparison of different smart heating control brands based on implementing a similar systems to the one in our home. This puts the Wiser solution value into stark contrast as it’s between £500 to £700 lower than the other currently market offerings.
|Base Kit||Room stats (2 off)||Radiator valves (18 off)||Total||Difference to Wiser||Notes|
|Drayton Wiser||£200||Included in base kit||£630
|£830||3 Channel controller|
|Honeywell Evo Home||£250+£95||£56||£1,116
|£95 for hot water control|
|£1,396||£566||£100 for z- wave hub £80 for boiler switch|
|£1,380||£550||£80 for boiler switch|
|£1,551||£721||Home automation hub|
|£1,180||£350||Home automation hub|
Notes: Prices found at time of writing and are for DIY installation. This is not a direct functionality comparison, rather an indicative cost comparison. Some systems will offer more functionality than others i.e. zone control of valves, geofencing, HomeKit support, display on radiator valves etc. The user needs to identify their own specific needs and determine the value. We have not compared costs to Nest or Hive as their own room / radiator control is unavailable at this time.
Radiator Valve Install
We purchased 2 of the Wiser TRV’s from Screwfix for £34.99 each as a trial before committing ourselves to a full rollout.
There are two rooms where we suffer wide temperature variations, the kitchen / family room and the lounge. Once the oil fired cooking range has been on for a while in the kitchen the room quickly heats up. Due to the slow response of the traditional TRV the room often overheats before getting down to a comfortable temperature later in the evening. We would be fitting a Wiser stat on the vertical radiator in this room.
The lounge wall area has approximately 60% glass which faces south. On a sunny day it can be like a greenhouse if the blinds are not pulled, even on a bright day there is a degree of solar heating. Whilst the lounge has low-e double glazing and 300mm of loft insulation it still looses a lot of heat in the evening. We have found traditional TRVs just don’t cut it. The lounge has three radiators, we would be fitting the highest capacity radiator with a Wiser stat.
First impression of the stat is that it looks similar to a regular TRV. There are no buttons or displays on the valve so they differ from 90% of smart valves on the market. Actuation of the valve is achieved by a simple twisting action of the top of the valve, plus will increase the temperature and minus will decrease it. The system will either increase or decrease the temperature by 2 degrees for 1 hour.
Fitting the stats was straightforward. There’s no instruction leaflet included but there are some points printed on the inner flap of the box so don’t thrown the packaging away just yet. The process for adding a radiator thermostat is:
01. Remove the existing TRV. This Is secured by the knurled locking ring. Pushing down on the TRV body takes some of the pressure off the locking ring. This will expose the valve pin and the threads to screw on the adapter, in our case a M30 thread. This is the most common type and an adapter is supplied in the box for it and the Danfoss type. Contact Tech Support if these do not fit as more adapters may be available.
02. Fit the appropriate adapter ring, in our case the M30 threaded adapter.
03. Open the Wiser app and go to Settings and then Rooms and Devices. We were creating new rooms and adding new devices. Obviously if you have already created a room then the following sequence will change.
04. Tap on Add Devices and update the number of radiator thermostats you want to add and then hit Next. This was a familiar process after adding two room stats.
05. At this point we created the new room names and assigned them to the channel on the hub we wanted them to control. We added the Kitchen and the Lounge. The channel assigning step may not be needed if you have a single channel controller. Tapping Next in the app takes to to the next screen advising to fit the batteries to the TRV’s.
06. Remove the battery cover on the thermostat body by pushing the tab on the base and pulling the cover away from the body.
07. Insert the two AA batteries. There are no obvious markings in the battery compartment for battery orientation but a closer look and you will see a plus and a minus symbol punched out of the battery tabs. Insert the batteries.
08. Once the batteries are inserted you may hear the motor running, we think this is to ensure the actuator is fully retracted. Then the three LED lights will flash. Red under the plus symbol, blue under the negative symbol and the centre will flash orange and green.
09. Next rotate the top of the thermostat in the plus direction to initiate connection to the ZigBee network, the center LED will flash green. The LED will turn solid green once the device has connected to the network. We had to do this a couple of times with one of the devices, we don’t know why as there were no specific error messages.
10. The next step is to screw the valve onto the adapter. Once screwed on the valve top should be twisted to the minus symbol for 5 seconds. This will initiate the calibration process where the actuator learns the travel distance of the valve pin. We did find the valve LED’s did not align to the front of the valve when tight so we loosened the locking ring, repositioned and tightened the locking ring. We found the entire valve body twisted if the valve is not secured tightly. We cannot help but think there could be a tendency for the valve head to loosen over time after repeated twisting. If it does, there is a temptation to put some thread locking fluid between the valve and the adapter ring to secure it.
11. That’s it, the radiator thermostat appears in the room on the app. Similar to the room thermostats in Rooms & Devices you can see the battery strength and signal strength.
After adding the two thermostats we went about tailoring the schedules for the two rooms. Our experience in the 10 days since we installed them is the temperature between the rooms is much more consistent than with conventional TRV’s. When in action the TRV actuator does emit a mechanical buzzing sound as it drives the valve pin up and down. We found this noise differs slightly in tone and volume depending on which radiator it was fitted to. Most of the time it’s operation went unnoticed but it could be different in a bedroom. I compared it to a Z-Wave Smart TRV we had fitted and they were comparable in volume.
This was something we were looking forward to. We have had little experience of Alexa so this would help us understand a practical application. Here is the basic process we followed:
- Installed the Amazon Echo app on an iPhone
- Searched for the Wiser Heat in the skills section and enabled it
- Linked to our Drayton Wiser account
- Searched for devices and that’s pretty much it
Within minutes Alexa was talking to us, it was that simple. Plain spoken commands were quickly followed by clear responses:
- Alexa what temperature is it in the Lounge? – “It is 18 degrees in the Lounge”
- Alexa increase the temperature in the Lounge to 20 degrees – “I have increased the temperature”
This is pretty cool functionality. How much we will use this feature is still to be seen but it worked straight out of the box. We will experiment with Alexa to determine if we can teach it new commands – “Alexa it’s cold in here” – “OK, I have turned up the heating in the lounge to 22 degrees”.
The Growing Wish List
When searching for the App on the iOS App Store we discovered that Wiser is a brand name used by Schneider Electric across a number of platforms from home automation, energy management and lighting control. Hopefully we will see the expansion of the eco system here in the UK. If introduced with similar market leading pricing as the Drayton Wiser then many competitors will have a battle on their hands.
Now with some more experience we have a few more items to add. As we mentioned in our previous article these are not problems with the system but enhancements some customers may find useful plus we need to keep the development team busy!
- When boosting a zone the Boost button on the app turns green, would be good to have this turn into a countdown timer so you can see how much time is left on the boost.
- Add support for wearables ie Apple Watch. A quick flick of the wrist will tell you the temperature and give you the option to see when the heating will next come on and the option to boost.
- Change or amend the signal strength icon to show a percentage signal strength – more on this suggestion in the following section.
- In the ‘Away Mode’ give the option to set an ‘I’m back’ date and time so you don’t have to remember to turn the heating on when you return from your trip – geofencing may solve this too.
- Add a link in the setting menu page to some of these helpful resources. Whilst this is an intuitive product and setup is well guided through the app, there are some subtleties you only learn from reading the detailed guides.
- Ability to see how long the heating has been running. A log file or better still a graphical view.
- An option to cost the impact of going to ECO mode. Get the system to compare eco mode boiler timings vs conventional timings. This would give the users an indication of the ‘savings’.
- The ability to tweak the transmission power of devices, so if a thermostat is in a poor spot, you can opt to give it more power, of course understanding battery life will drop as a consequence.
- The ability to arrange the rooms or zones in hierarchical tiers. At present it appears rooms appear on the home page in the order you add them. It would be useful to have the option of ordering these in a logical fashion. Example organisation:
- The house – all rooms all zones
- The downstairs – living rooms
- Dining room
- The upstairs – bedrooms
- Master bedroom
- Kids bedroom
- Baby’s bedroom
- The downstairs – living rooms
- The house – all rooms all zones
- Having added hierarchical tiers it would be useful to control at a tier level so you could boost the heating for the entire house or just the bedroom group rather than having to adjust each one separately. This would be particularly useful when you end up with lots of rooms. Same theory could apply to programming schedule, set a schedule at a parent level and push to all the child levels and then tweak the exceptions.
- Provide hard wired range extender modules that could be connected to a permanent mains supply and hidden in a socket back box or something subtle that could be permanently mounted to the wall beside a socket. This would be something professional installers would want as the current plug in range extender could get unplugged or switched off, rendering a part of the system useless which is no reflection on the product or installer.
- Push notifications for system alerts, examples include, range extender signal lost – someone has unplugged it! Battery low level, change now.
- Improve the markings of the battery orientation on the radiator thermostats.
- Improve the method for locking the radiator thermostat in place so repeated twisting of the top does not loosen the valve from the adapter ring.
- The ability to configure the radiator thermostat boost i.e. the temperature increments to change and for how long when the valve top is twister – 1 degree for 30 minutes, 0.5 degree for 15 minutes.
- Add the ability to set different schedule scenarios ie, the heating scenario will be different when the kids are off school compared to when they have a normal school day or we have guests staying over.
- On the 3 channel hub have 2 manual boost buttons or 2 LED’s to show which channel is calling for heat.
- On the Device setting view for radiator thermostats add the current state of the actuator ie 0% open, 100% open, 50% open.
- Add the option to recalibrate radiator thermostats via Device settings.
- Ability to pull firmware updates. We now have 3 radiator thermostats and one was a lower revision firmware than the others for 1-2 days until the system automatically updated it.
- The ability to add a temperature off set to the devices. We have one iTRV in a corner that reports 21 deg c but the room is only at 18 deg c. So adding an -3 deg c offset would ensure the iTRV would report what the user feels and action accordingly.
Overall we are please with Wiser. I demonstrated our setup to a friend and I then help him install it in his house, complete with Alexa integration. After an hour we had it up and running. The longest part of this process was doing a little rewiring to fit the base plate. One thing I did find when installing his system and mine is the signal strength is a real constraint. On his setup a radiator valve was only 6 meters from the hub but only had one bar of signal strength, which was the same as a valve at the other end of the house. It would be good if this signal strength could be shown as a percentage. Whilst it may be a low signal it hasn’t caused any issues with the operation of his system.
We have noticed a few times that the app sometimes takes a while to sync with the hub. The app shows the system calling for heat but the hub was not triggering the boiler. In another example the room temperature is showing higher that the set point temperature but the app still shows its calling for heat, when we check the hub it is not calling for heat.
We will continue to add additional rooms / zones over the next few weeks and months so far as the signal strength permits. We have been in contact with Drayton and have been advised that the range extenders employ mesh networking so hopefully we can cover our whole property. We will keep you posted on our progress.
The Final Word
If you are looking for a good value multi zone heating control system this is without doubt the solution. We look forward to seeing how Drayton will enhance the range capability and implement their enhancement roadmap in the weeks and months ahead.
Read the full Drayton Wiser Review Series
Part 1 – Step by Step Installation
Part 2 – Installation Update