Offering alternatives

Neil Birdsall discusses the recent changes to the heating and energy management markets and the opportunities presented to the industry

Recent figures from comparison service have highlighted that nearly three million consumers have switched energy provider in the last 12 months. These figures alone show how savvy consumers are becoming when shopping around looking for the best deal possible. It is therefore equally important that installers are equipped to unlock further potential reductions when assessing their current heating systems.

Installers must also be up to speed with the current trends and associated positives and negatives of different types of energy. Recent figures from Department of Energy and Climate Change show that the number of houses using electricity to heat them is on the rise. This change can be attributed to the preference in new build properties for electricity over gas systems and, as with many of these trends, this is beginning to be replicated in the refurbishment market.

The winter months are well and truly here and 60 per cent of a homeowner’s annual bill is accrued during the colder season. Giving those in new properties the opportunity to access real-time information on how much energy they are consuming, and more importantly how much this is costing them, is a very useful tool, and installers can maximise this by promoting the use of smart meters. A recent survey showed that 64 per cent of smart meter users saved up to £75 per year on their energy bills.

Home automation technology has been available for many years but demand for systems in the UK have, until recently, been largely limited to luxury homes and specialist projects. However, with declining costs and complexity, plus greater awareness of system benefits, home automation is set to become one of the fastest growing markets in the UK.
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There are now thermostats available, such as the third generation Nest Learning Thermostat, that learn user’s preferred settings, then programme themselves, whilst also capturing data on how long it takes to heat the home, ensuring it reaches a comfortable temperature by the time the homeowner wakes up. They are also able to sense when the home is vacated and turn down accordingly. Importantly for end-users, many of these types of products come with smartphone and tablet apps to control and monitor energy usage remotely, allowing them to see savings in real-time.

With so many products currently available, and new products constantly coming to market, developers should ensure customers are given as much information as possible in order to allow them to make informed decisions that could make a difference to their energy consumption. Allowing customers the opportunity to save energy will not only save money, but will also improve overall customer satisfaction.

For those customers who are in the market for a system upgrade, switching from a ‘wet’ heating system using hot water pumped round the house to a modern completely electric system can further reduce energy costs and overall usage. With insulation improving and homes becoming increasingly airtight, homeowners heating demands are changing. The versatility of electric heating means that systems can meet end-users comfort and budgetary requirements.

A further money saving incentive that needs to be communicated to customers is the benefit of switching to electronic thermostats and radiators that feature built-in thermostatic controls. A typical three-bedroom semi-detached property can save up to £150 and 630kg of carbon dioxide a year through the installation of a new thermostat and, by turning down room temperatures by just one degree, save a further £75. What’s more, these changes can be made with minimal disruption, as it is not necessary to replace the boiler to make the switch, which should be a key selling point to customers.

An extra benefit of installing electric radiators is that they can be used almost anywhere in a room and come in a range of sizes to suit, and, importantly for installers and homeowners alike, can be fitted and working within a matter of minutes. Installers can also leave customers safe in the knowledge that gone are the days of the expensive annual boiler inspection and with a simpler electronic system, maintenance is much easier.

Suitable for both new-build and refurbishment projects, the newest electric heating technology features on-board energy monitors allowing occupants to see exactly how much energy is being used to heat a room, helping them make n informed decision on comfort versus cost.

With modern electric radiators featuring digitally controlled thermostats accurate to within 1°C, electric heating can quickly respond to maintain constant room temperature, reducing the overheating of rooms and limit the unnecessary consumption of energy.

Demonstrating cash savings to customers in real terms can help them understand and buy into the benefits of new technologies and products. Likewise, demonstrating how all those technologies can interlink to provide them with an end solution designed to save more energy and money means they are able to see the bigger picture and all possibilities.

With rising energy bills and a raft of challenging legislation driving the demand for renewable, low carbon alternatives to gas, oil and LPG heating, the time is right for developers and specifiers to investigate the alternative solutions that can be offered to consumers.

Neil Birdsall works at leading electrical wholesaler, YESSS Electrical. Normanton-based YESSS Electrical, established in 2012, is one of the UK’s fastest growing companies and recently opened its 90th branch. Employing 850 staff nationwide, YESSS has plans to expand throughout 2016 to achieve a network of 150 UK branches.

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