As part of one of the many DIY projects at home at the moment, me and the wife are preparing to get our hallways, stairs and landings plastered; the final piece of our house decoration project, no less than five years after buying our first house together.
The house was originally equipped with warm air circulation heating, however about two years before we moved into the house, the previous owners had central heating fitted. As with any standard central heating install, the thermostat and timer system was basic and left a lot to be desired, with the timer controls located upstairs, tucked away with the boiler and wiring centre, and the thermostat being a standard twist dial model where to engage the heating was a process of trial and error twisting the dial until you heard the vague click of engagement.
Being a technophile and wanting something a little more for our lifestyle or technology, I discovered a company called Heatmiser which make a range of amazing looking and functioning slimline and touchscreen thermostats. I purchased their PRT-TS touchscreen model, which you can see here on their website (http://www.heatmiser.co.uk/web/index.php/room-thermostats/touchscreen-thermostats).
The unit is flush mounted, so meant I had to spend some time channelling out the wall to recess a 35mm patress back box, but this was a good thing as it gave me the chance to remove the plastic cable trunking which the previous owners had used to â€˜hideâ€™ the wiring for the old model which was surface mounted, along with re-positioning it away from the kitchen door where the previous owners had mounted it directly against which just looking unsightly.
In our wiring configuration, there is a small gotcha, which I originally misread in the wiring diagram, which is that you may require a short piece of Live coloured wire (if youâ€™re doing it properly) to bridge between the Live and the A1 terminal interfaces. The A2 terminal connects to the yellow call for heat wire, however the switch to engage the call for heat is across the A1 and A2 terminals. Bridging the Live and the A1 terminals allows current to flow through the call for heat switch, and hence allowing the heating to be engaged. In my initial wiring of the unit, the unit was functional, however heat wasnâ€™t being called for this reason, but bear in mind that depending on your wiring configuration, this may not be required.
The advantages to this setup are amazing. The new thermostat actually controls the entire heating timings and temperature, so to have it function correctly, you actually configure the timer unit in the wiring centre for permanent on mode and let the thermostat do the rest, making the control of it more friendly as itâ€™s in the main body of the house. The new unit is energy saving trust approved and claims to be able to save up to 10% on your heating bills due to two key features. One is the accuracy as this unit is accurate to +/- 1oC verses a standard unit which is about 2-3oC and the second feature is Optimum Prestart.
Unlike conventional thermostats where you have to incorporate an element of warm up time in your programming so that the house is warm when you wake up, this unit calculates the exact amount of time to warm the house to the required temperature and engages the heating automatically at this time to ensure that you reach the required temperature by the time you set. This feature is disabled by default, but entering the Feature configuration mode on the touchscreen LCD allows you to enable it and specify whether to allow the unit one or hours hours to perform Optimum Start functions.
The finish of the product is really nice. I opted for the silver bezel, and with itâ€™s blue backlight LCD which only illuminates when you touch the screen looks really modern and 21st century, but itâ€™s also available in white and brass finishes too.
The unit has another feature called Frost Protection Mode, which when enabled by default allows you to configure a temperature, which when breached will automatically engage the heating outside of your normal comfort levels as Heatmiser call them, or timer settings as you would normally call them. This level can be set low to prevent accidental heating engagements, but is valuable as it helps maintain a safe temperature in the house whilst helping to prevent any pipe freezing etc in deep cold during winter. This is another way in which it helps reduce your bills as it means that firing up the heating for short five minute bursts during normal daytime hours to maintain a core temperature means you actually need the heating engaged for less time during your comfort times because the house is already closer to that comfort temperature.
Although Iâ€™m yet to see the real effectiveness of the unit as itâ€™s currently summer, Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s going to be great. The lock function for the LCD means that the kids canâ€™t change any of the settings without unlocking it, which requires a key press for 10 seconds to disengage and the Hold function allows you to boost the temperature if you are feeling a bit cold one evening and it allows you to specify a hold time so that you donâ€™t forget to turn the thermostat down again afterwards.
The timer programming is simple yet concise. Iâ€™ve set our unit to 7 day mode due to our lifestyle which means you get four settings for each of the 7 days, and for each event (Wake, Leave, Return and Sleep) you can specify a temperature, so you no longer have to run to the thermostat in the evening to turn it up because you want it warmer in the eventing that you do in the mornings before work.
The Heatmiser line actually includes many other products, some of which really interest me. One is a unit identical in looks to ours, but also allows control of the hot water timings, which then completely removes the need for a timer in the wiring centre, however the setup for our current heating system doesnâ€™t permit this model. Our unit is a 230v model due to our current system, however they have a range of 12v units for more modern low voltage heating, and they also have a range of network thermostats which allows you, when connected to a Network Wiring Centre to link multiple thermostats for operation of split zone heating from one of many units, and control all of the units from a single unit, or even control the heating remotely via a web application or SMS message. I hope that in our next house, years down the line I get the opportunity to use some of these other products. I would love to be able to use the Heatmiser web application as part of a Media Center interface via a plugin so that you can adjust the heating from your 10ft view.
Come the winter Iâ€™ll post another review of how the unit actually performs at managing the heating bill and temperature maintenance, but so far, the outlook is good.