My Automated Home: Heat Genius Smart Home Heating Controls
This months ‘My Automated Home’ feature follows Johannes Jensson’s compressive review of his Heat Genius installation…
Nobody has escaped the rapid rise of gas and electricity prices over the last 5 years. I had a feeling that my cash was really going up in smoke and I needed a permanent way to reduce my heating cost.
All the windows are double glazed with high performance thin sealed vacuum units. My house is well insulated and draught proof. Both front and back doors are double glazed composite doors that have insulation core and are classed as highly thermal energy efficient and draught proof. The attic space is insulated using cross-laid 30-40 cm thick glass wool and the floor concrete slab on the ground floor is insulated underneath using two layers of 5 cm polystyrene insulation.
The house is heated using a 30kW gas condensing boiler with 8 designer type, double-column and triple-column radiators. Column radiators create a greater surface area which allows more effective convection and control than standard panel radiators. This also cuts down how often my boiler switches on and off as the radiators stay warmer longer because they contain a greater volume of water.
Despite this, my heating bill was becoming uncomfortable. My boiler was controlled by an external Drayton Digistat 3+ Room Thermostat. It can punch above its weight in comparison with many other mightier thermostats but there’s a point that you cannot take it any further and in order to save energy, you must take a quantum leap in technology.
After doing extensive research into what I could do to save on my heating energy cost I decided to turn my home into a smart heated home.
Deciding what I want
I started by created a long tick list of features that I wanted included in my system specification and went about to compare available systems and their features. I looked at Hive, Tado and the Nest and although I found them very clever, I also came to the conclusion that they are really only a means to control your house thermostat remotely through your mobile. Neat, but not exactly groundbreaking.
I then came across the Heat Genius System, which can control individual radiators using wireless valves. That’s a huge step forward, because then you can turn off the radiators in any of the rooms you’re not using (e.g. the bedrooms during the day). That must save a lot more energy than simply being able to turn the heating off when you go out.
I contacted the company with a long list of questions about precisely what their system was capable of, so I could compare them with the Honeywell Evohome system. To my surprise Heat Genius (HG), a UK based startup company matched all Honeywell’s smart features that I wanted to turn my home into a smart heated home but they also had invented few of their own unique features. Since I installed my system they have added even more features to their already impressive specification.
The Heat Genius System comes with a “Genius Hub” which connects to your internet router and then uses Z-Wave, an open wireless communications protocol, to communicate with the boiler controller, electronic radiator valves and motion sensors. It means you can control the heating in any of the rooms of your house using any suitable smartphone (iPhone or Android), iPad or any web browser. To be honest the app’s not perfect on my Blackberry, but it’s usable.
Z-Wave is a wireless communications protocol designed for home automation, specifically to remotely control applications in residential and light commercial environments. Z-Wave communicates using a low-power wireless technology designed specifically for remote control applications.
Heat Genius System Features
- Setback Temperature — the Heat Genius System has an important setback temperature feature that gives the user the option of changing the temperature setting automatically at night and also during the work day when the occupants have left the house.
- Timer — timer mode lets you set the temperature of a room from between 4C and 28C, for any period of time.
- Footprint Mode (aka smart occupancy detection) — in Footprint Mode the system will note your footsteps and help you reduce your carbon footprint. As it learns which rooms you use and when they are used, it will continuously optimise your heating schedule based on your lifestyle.
Each room that is in footprint mode will heat up ready for when you use the room, based on the pattern of use it has learned. At all other times, the system will switch off the radiator, saving you energy. The system also learns how long each room takes to warm up, so that it’s ready and warm when you come in.
Footprint Mode requires a Heat Genius radiator valve controller on each radiator and a Heat Genius motion sensor in each room that you wish to control automatically. You don’t need to fit these to every room, you can just install wireless Heat Genius radiator valve controllers and sensors in the rooms you use the most and schedule the other rooms manually.
Setting up temperatures can be done very quickly and easily, using ‘copy and paste’ to set schedules for other days of the week and other rooms in the house.
- History — this feature allows you to look back at the temperature, the occupancy and what the heating was doing in previous weeks. You can even choose to be emailed a summary of how long your heating has been on for at the end of each month.
- Weather Compensation — when the weather is sunny, the temperature can be reduced and you’ll still feel comfortable. Using the weather forecast and checking for sunny weather, the Heat Genius Hub can automatically reduce the target temperature in the rooms of your house, saving energy. You can choose to enable or disable this feature for each individual room.
- Frost Protect — looks after your house when you are not there. If the temperature falls too low, then the heating will protect your home, and you can be sent an email alert to reassure you that everything is okay.
- Away — when you go away on holiday, there is no point heating the house as normal. But you shouldn’t let the house get too cold either, or you could have burst pipes and other problems. Tell the system that you are ‘Away’ and enter a ‘Setback’ temperature and rest assured that your home will be looked after. You can check the temperatures when you are away using the app on your phone or any computer with internet access, just as you can at home.
If you’ve installed Heat Genius System in a second property, it can prove really useful to have full control of the heating even when you are not there. If the house is unoccupied you can simply choose to turn the heating off until you or your guests arrive.
What sold me the Heat Genius System?
It was the ability of the Heat Genius System to be expanding into home automation and how the Heat Genius System was well suited to retrofitting to my existing central gas heating system that convinced me that the Heat Genius System was the right system for me. I must admit that it was also many of the features that are unique within the Heat Genius System and the systems favourable ‘return on investment’ also weighted heavily and admittedly influenced my decision.
The Heat Genius System allows you to cut your household energy consumption by only providing heating when you need it and where you need it. The Heat Genius System can control heating in each individual room. It can even learn the best schedule automatically, to fit when you normally use each room. (Footprint Mode)
The Heat Genius System allows you to create zones in your home – meaning you only heat when you need and where you need. You can create zones in your home that have multiple radiators that you can control as one area. I have one designated zone that is an open area that covers my Living room, Kitchen and Dining room. This zone has 3 radiators that work as a single identity.
You can create your own heating schedule that reflects your lifestyle and the way you use your home.
Placing my Heat Genius System order
My Heat Genius system consists of:
1 x Heat Genius Hub — the ‘brain box’ that provides the link between your broadband router all the other components on the wireless (Z-wave) network. The Hub allows you to schedule your heating from any web device.
1 x Heat Genius boiler controller and thermostat — the Heat Genius System comes with HRT4-ZW and a ASR-ZW boiler controller that have extensively tried and tested, and uses open Z-Wave standard wireless technology. The boiler controller is compatible with most heating systems because it fits onto a standard thermostat backplate. The HRT4-ZW comes supplied with 2 AAA batteries and you can expect a battery life in excess of two years.
8 x Heat Genius wireless thermostatic valve controllers – these slip on to the end of your radiator instead of the existing thermostatic radiator valve head, and communicate wirelessly with the Genius Hub.
6 x Heat Genius intelligent zoning thermostats and motion sensors — the Heat Genius multi-sensor looks like a motion sensor and acts like one too. But it’s also so much more. The sensor combines a PIR (Motion) sensor with a light sensor and a temperature sensor all in one small package.
The multi-sensor enables intelligent control with motion sensing. The wireless Heat Genius motion sensors allow the system to be able to collate and then learn when you use each room and schedule the heating automatically (Footprint Mode).
The sensor’s 3V Lithium battery (CR123A) that is provided should give you more than 2 years of use in normal situations; the sensor sends an alert to the network when the battery needs replacing.
4 x Smart sockets — these simply repeat the wireless signal it on to other Z-Wave devices in your network. This extends the range and ensures that the network is reliable even through thick walls and other obstacles.
Within minutes of placing my order on the HG website, I received a confirmation of my order together with an email with installation instructions and user manual. While I waited for my order I spent some time reading over the instructions they had sent to me and tried to see the whole picture how the system needed to be installed and what the system was capable of.
Installing the Heat Genius System
I installed my own system – yes it took me much longer than it would take a professionally trained HG installer because I had to read the instructions manual first. Still, I found the system can be installed quickly and easily. There is no plumbing required and no mess. The wiring for the boiler controller is sometimes mains voltage though, so unless you’re sure that you can do it safely, get a Heat Genius installer to do it for you!
If you want to later expand your Heat Genius System, adding more intelligent radiator valves and motion sensors is easy to do yourself – and if you move house, it’s easy to take it all with you.
Genius Hub installation
This step is easy — just connect the Genius Hub to a free ‘Ethernet’ jack on the back of the internet router using the short Ethernet cable provided. I tucked everything out of the way and out of sight.
Boiler controller installation
My gas boiler is a Glow-Worm 30csi combination condensation boiler. My particular boiler model has both a volt free thermostat connection and a 230 volt mains voltage connection. I could see from the manual of my previous thermostat is “volt free”. I double checked this by checking how it was wired into the boiler.
To be completely sure that I would wire it correctly, I decided to give the Heat Genius support team a call. I was asked details about my boiler and how my current thermostat was installed. I was asked to take few digital photos of my current installation and send to them so they could study them and then accurately provide me with advice that best suited my installation. It did not take the HG Team long to advise me how I should wire up my Heat Genius Boiler controller.
The wire leading from my boiler was 3-core and consisted of Live (brown), Blue (Neutral) and Yellow/Green (Earth connection). As my Digistat 3+ Room Thermostat was a volt free thermostat and was double insulated it only required two wires: Live (brown), Blue (Neutral). The Earth wire had been terminated with an Electrical Connector Terminal Block (see image)
Installing Heat Genius intelligent thermostatic radiator valve controller
To control individual room temperatures, you’ll need to install a wireless intelligent Heat Genius radiator valve controller on each radiator in the rooms that you wish to control.
If you have ordered Heat Genius intelligent thermostatic radiator valve controllers with your system you will receive with them two types of valve adapters or valve collars that will fit most standard radiator valve bodies installed within homes in UK.
The Heat Genius System comes supplied with two types of radiator valve adapters: Danfoss RA valve adapter and a screw type threaded adapter for valves with M30X1.5 connector. You will also receive two alkaline AA batteries and a 2 mm Allen key to be used for fastening the RA adapters.
All my radiators were installed with Danfoss RAS-C2 TRV’s. If you have older type of TRV’s this might be more complicated but it is very likely that you have either RA type of valves or valves with M30X1.5 connections. The Heat Genius technical team is very knowledgeable so I’m sure they can easily confirm whether it’s just a straight swap or if you need to change the valve.
To be precise and economical as possible each one of the Heat Genius radiator valve must know the exact opening point of the valve it controls. During the first night of operation ‘the Heat Genius’ shuts off the radiator heat and then slowly opens again to detect the opening point. If necessary, this procedure is repeated once a night for up to a week.
Installing the Motion Sensors
When you are making a decision where to install your motion sensors I recommend you follow these five golden rules:
1. My advice is to mount the motion sensors at a height of 1.2 meters. The sensor is calibrated to measure the temperature most accurately at this height. If you install the sensors much higher like at a height of where motion sensors for a security system are installed you will get a totally wrong heat reading and it will just confuse the Heat Genius System.
2. The sensor needs to be positioned somewhere in the room where it has a good view of people when they are sitting down or where they spend most of their time in the room.
3. Don’t let the sensor face a window or to be placed in a location that is in a path of a direct sunlight.
4. Don’t let the sensor face the source of heat such as a radiator.
5. Try to avoid placing the motion sensor on an outside wall. This is to avoid the sensor misreading the room temperature.
Heat Genius radiator valves
The Heat Genius intelligent thermostat controller is in total control while at the same time its built in fuzzy logic is provided to learn and adapt to my lifestyle.
Open windows function — If a Heat Genius wireless electronic valve controls detects a sudden drop in temperature e.g. due to an open window or an open outside door, the valve reacts by temporarily shutting off the heat on the radiator, saving you money.
Valve exercising — If the radiator valve is in the same position for a longer period of time (e.g. during the summer) the radiator valve might get stuck. To avoid that, the valve automatically ‘exercises’ every Thursday at approximately 11am by opening it fully for 5 seconds and then return it to normal setting.
Before I bought the Heat Genius I only had one thermostat, located downstairs. If I raised the temperature in my main Living Area (Living room, Kitchen and Dining Room) the heat went up everywhere else like Master bedroom, Bathroom, Guest Room, Study and Hall – this wasted a lot of energy. When I started to look at what heating controls were available on the market I decided to get all my radiators replaced to give me more surface area and better control of the heat and I had all the radiators fitted with Danfoss TRVs. It was very easy to switch these to the Heat Genius valves.
The thing I like about the Heat Genius System is its simplicity in use. I like to use the App on my Samsung Galaxy Note Tablet and on my PC. I use it extensively and find it easy to use and configure and there are not many features that I have not used. I also like how fast the company reacts when I have needed clarification and assistance setting up my system.
What I discovered when I was using the App is how well my house is insulated and how little the temperature fluctuated. I use the App to set the Master room temperature to warm up the room at night-time and then I configure the Setback Temperature not to drop below 17C.
My friends who have come over to see how my new Heat Genius System works often comment on the fact that the Heat Genius System is almost invisible to the eye. My reply to them is that invisible home automation is perfect home automation!
Personally, I’ve found that the way to set and use your Heat Genius System is to find the lowest temperature settings that you are comfortable with at the different times you have chosen, and then leave it alone to do its job. The best way to do this is to set low temperatures first, say 18C, and then turn them up by one degree each day until you are comfortable with the temperatures. You won’t have to adjust the system further, and you’ll save as much energy as possible.
Measuring the use of gas when operating with the new Heat Genius TRV Controllers I estimate that I am now saving somewhere between 43-46%. This might sound a lot but it is as near as I can work it out. My house was well insulated to start with, but buying the Heat Genius System is still one of the best investments I’ve made. People with poorly insulated homes should save even more.