Drayton Wiser Smart Heating Controls Review Part 3 – Expanding & Adding Alexa Voice Control

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.

Drayton Wiser Smart Heating Controls Picture: Each box contains Valve, 2 AA batteries and 2 adapters

Zoning In

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

£35ea

£830 3 Channel controller
Honeywell Evo Home £250+£95 £56 £1,116

£62ea

£1,573 £631

 

£95 for hot water control
Heat Genius £295 £70

£70ea

£1,080

£60ea

£1,445 £615
Danfoss £100+£80 £136

£68ea

£1,080

£60ea

£1,396 £566 £100 for z- wave hub £80 for boiler switch
LightwaveRF £130+£80 £160

£80ea

£990

£55ea

£1,380 £550 £80 for boiler switch
Fibaro £255 Not available £1,296

£72ea

£1,551 £721 Home automation hub
Tado £199 £109 £1,062

£59ea

£1,370 £540
Netamo Not required £300

£150ea

£1,260

£70ea

£1,560 £730
Energenie MiHome £70+£30 £180

£90ea

£900

£50ea

£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:

Wiser TRV

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.

Wider App Screen Shots

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.

Wiser TRV Battery Installation

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.

Wiser Radiator Valve Setup

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.

Wiser Alexa Control

Alexa Setup

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

Wider - Searching for Devices

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.

In Part 1 we compiled a wish list of some features we would like to see and in Part 2 Drayton kindly responded with lots of helpful info.

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Change or amend the signal strength icon to show a percentage signal strength – more on this suggestion in the following section.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Ability to see how long the heating has been running. A log file or better still a graphical view.
  7. 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’.
  8. 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.
  9. 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:
    1. The house – all rooms all zones
      1. The downstairs – living rooms
        1. Kitchen
        2. Lounge
        3. Study
        4. Dining room
      2. The upstairs – bedrooms
        1. Master bedroom
        2. Kids bedroom
        3. Baby’s bedroom
        4. Bathroom
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Push notifications for system alerts, examples include, range extender signal lost – someone has unplugged it! Battery low level, change now.
  13. Improve the markings of the battery orientation on the radiator thermostats.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. On the 3 channel hub have 2 manual boost buttons or 2 LED’s to show which channel is calling for heat.
  18. On the Device setting view for radiator thermostats add the current state of the actuator ie 0% open, 100% open, 50% open.
  19. Add the option to recalibrate radiator thermostats via Device settings.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.

 

Next Steps

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.

wiser.draytoncontrols.co.uk  :  Available from Amazon

 

Read the full Drayton Wiser Review Series

Part 1 – Step by Step Installation

Part 2 – Installation Update

Part 3 – Expanding & Adding Alexa Voice Control

15 Comments on "Drayton Wiser Smart Heating Controls Review Part 3 – Expanding & Adding Alexa Voice Control"

  1. Mike Barnetson | December 22, 2017 at 9:11 am |

    I hope your experience is better than mine. We also had a TRV in my sons bedroom that was reluctant to join the network. 2 days after installing, it dropped out of the network when I was not at home. It was well within range of the base unit.

    When I tried to reconnect it that evening I noticed in the app it had only 1 bar of battery remaining. Not good considering these are supposed to last for 2 years! I changed the batteries after speaking with Draytek. Their first response was that it had been used excessively but this was not the case. I suspect it went into a polling loop trying to restablish commnucations.and simply drained the batteries.

    All was OK for a few days until my wife complained that the heating was not switching off. The app showed my sons bedroom was requesting heat so the boiler had fired. But the TRV had not opened and the radiator was cold to touch so would never heat the room.

    Perhaps I was unlucky but this made me realise that a malfunction on a smart device, be it software or hardware has the potential to cost a lot of money in the real world. If this had happened whilst we were away this would have continuously burnt gas and over heated the house.

    Given this occurred with just the 2 TRVs supplied with the kit, I lost confidence and it went back to Amazon for a refund.

  2. Well it’s Wednesday 27th December 6.30am. Parents have come to stay over. It’s 2 degrees C outside. Eldest son has given up his room to sleep in a spare room that’s the coldest in the house.
    TRVs are not responding to turn on from the app. But they don’t actually switch on.
    Multiple messages to Wiser Drayton support. No response.
    Only fix is to remove every single room TRV (8 off them) in order to get the house heated. That means going into each room, and waking everyone up to take off the TRV.
    Up until now I have managed to put up with the quirks of this system. But now my patience has run out.
    8.30am.. Still no response from support. Now looking for an RMA number.

  3. I have had a TRV drop off the network and had to remove it, factory reset it and add it back on. Yes it’s a pain when it is just one but when it’s the whole house it’s a disaster. These are the sort of systems that should work without question or intervention in the background and it’s hugly disappointing when it doesn’t. My TRV disappearance was before the latest firmware release (2371) and so far I’ve had no issue with the system since the upgrade. The new firmware release was designed to improve signal management between the devices and the hub. These updates are pushed automatically to the system so I suspect it should have been on the new version.

    Clearly Drayton haven’t been able to solve all the issues being raised and are loosing customer confidence. I would agree with you, regardless of cost, these systems need to be reliable. If it doesn’t meet this criteria then send it back. I have kept my packaging and bought from Screwfix so keeping my options open. Once retailers start to see volumes of product returning Drayton will have more questions to answer.

  4. The new Screwfix catalog (Jan 2018) is just out and I see the smart TRVs are now £40 vs the £35 when the article was written. They are available for the same price in Amazon.

    £35 did seem too good to last. Amending the calculations for the proposed setup featured in this article would add an additional £90 to the overall cost, probably still much less than the rivals. I hope they didn’t jack up the price after seeing this table!

  5. Richard Ford | January 24, 2018 at 10:24 am |

    I really like the Wiser system philosophy. Compared to the EvoHome solution it is much more appropriate for a domestic installation I think. I think TRVs don’t need a display on them and I think for cost reasons neither does the main controller. Initial running for me has raised a couple of worrying niggles when it isn’t doing what I thought it should but I assume that since this is a device connected to the internet that software updates will come along and fix these issues in time. If I might add a feature request to your list I would request the ability to limit the authority of a room thermostat. We have one zone in an annex building and I would like to make sure that when it is ‘off’ that guests can’t set it to on. Should be trivial to do that in software I think.
    If you do get hold of a list of features to be implemented with a timetable then it would be great if you could post it. Or ideally if Drayton could just publish it themselves…
    Thanks

  6. Wiser supports IFTTT now, so you can get geofencing functionalities enabled too. I tried it with Life360 and it works perfectly.

    Good to see Drayton releasing new features over time.

  7. It great to see the product develop with IFTTT. I have asked Drayton for some feedback on the development wish list in the article but still waiting.

  8. Richard Ford | January 29, 2018 at 8:09 am |

    @Jonny, how did you find out about the IFTTT support? Is there some release note somewhere for updated versions?

  9. @Richard I follow Wiser on Twitter and read about the update there. Since then there has been a formal communication from Drayton via email and all details are available on the Wiser website.

  10. Donald Logan | February 23, 2018 at 9:35 am |

    I have had the Wiser system up and running for three months now and have had most of the problems other users have experienced with eTRV’s dropping out. Generally this was resolved by the December update. I only have 4 eTRV’s. Two are fixed on the rad’s vertically and two horizontally. The two horizontal ones work well as they measure actual room temperature. The vertical ones read about 3-4 degrees above ambient. This can be dealt with by setting them to switch of at the higher temperature. Except now I am getting solar gain in one room of the house with a vertical eTRV. The eTRV cannot allow for this and keeps switching on when the room temperature is way above what you require. So it has to be switched off in the App. Not exactly an automatic system. The other issue seems to be that the eTRV’s set horizontally seem to be going through batteries in a couple of months. Probably because they are reacting to slight changes in air temperature.
    I consider the temperature issue has to be solved as it is fundamental to the automatic operation of the Wiser system. I know it is cheaper than other systems but it has to be fit for purpose.

  11. I’ve asked Drayton for some feedback on this review on a number of occasions but with no success. Some of the points would address real user concerns and it’s a shame we haven’t seen more engagement.

    I have had devices drop off the network for no apparent reason. The range seems to continue to be an issue. I have deployed range extenders but still have a eTRV only 12ft away from one on the other side of a 4” block wall with one bar of signal strength. 4 of my initial fit eTRV are showing out of battery only after a few months not 2 years.

    The price of all the components has increase after availability issues so the economic bias to the Drayton system has reduced but as mentioned above it needs to work regardless of price point.

    I hesitated in deploying a smart heating system due to affordability and I thought this was the answer but I’m not so sure now. I bought it in Screwfix who have a no quibble returns policy so it might still go back. It’s disappoint I find myself considering this option from a promising start.

  12. Richard Ford | March 17, 2018 at 9:43 pm |

    It seems that my request to limit the authority of a thermostat has been done… According the latest user guide you can use ‘device lock’ to stop kiddies fiddling with things. Thanks Drayton!
    https://wiser.draytoncontrols.co.uk/sites/default/files/documents/drayton_wiser_user_guide.pdf
    (Note I haven’t been upgraded to the level of firmware yet)

  13. @Mark – Now it’s been a year since you bought. Would you buy again? Have their subsequent updates improved the service to a point youre happy with it? Im keen to get a zonal system soon but the idea of units dropping off the network frequently sounds more hassle than its worth. Maybe it’s the reality of buying cheap?

    Cheers
    Bob

  14. @Bob You must have been reading my mind as I have started to pull together a long term results follow up article. To answer your questions, I would buy again now, there have been a number of updates to the system and the teething issues with the system appear to have been addressed. My opinion is that it represents good value for money even though all the components have gone up in price since launch.

    Keep your eyes peeled for the full update in the near future.

  15. Awesome, looking forward to it! If you could add the link in a comment here if be grateful, easier to find 😉

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