Can Smart Heating Controls really make you money?

2nd November 2016 By Rich

With the rise in homeowner demand for smart controls, is it beneficial for heating installers to offer this service and if so how? Peter Northwood, director at HomeServe Alliance, the company behind SmartInstallers.co.uk, explains why it has now become essential for installers to offer this service, if they are to achieve both immediate and future revenue growth.

 

Having a smart home is becoming as popular as owning a smart phone. The transformation of domestic controls, has meant they have become aspirational products in their own right, and a part of people’s lifestyles. People’s awareness of smart heating controls has increased rapidly of late, especially due to the increasing number of TV and radio advertising campaigns to promote smart heating controls.

 

Research from smartinstallers.co.uk, HomeServe’s installer hub for smart thermostats, has uncovered that one in three Brits agree smart thermostats are the future. Consumers recognise that having an ‘intelligent’ home allows them to reduce energy consumption, save money (1 in 3 believe smart thermostats are the best option for managing heating bills), and in time will ensure that their home becomes smarter, allowing them to take control back in the home. Smart thermostats even have technology that recognises when the homeowner is leaving the house, and is able to adjust the heating accordingly, saving the homeowner significant amounts of money.

 

So cost savings for consumers, but how does the installer benefit? By responding to this customer demand, not only are Installers giving customers what they want (recent figures show that 24% of people didn’t know who to ask or where to go to get a smart thermostat installed, despite wanting one), they are also providing themselves with an additional, solid revenue stream and are more likely to convert boiler quotes into installations.

 

Smart Installers ran a four month trial with a group of installers to see whether the smart controls were easy to sell and whether there was an interest from customers. During the trial, an impressive 60% of customers who bought a new boiler also wanted a smart thermostat installed. This surpassed expectations and showed that there was a clear demand for the product. When you consider the low cost investment, rapid payback and the no-mess convenience of a quick and simple wireless installation, it’s a real win for registered gas engineers as well as customers.

 

So what is stopping Installers from offering this service? Many are positive about smart homes and enthusiastic to capitalise on this growing market, having been approached by their customers about ‘smart’ and remote controlled technologies. However, as an independent heating installer, the lack of information on smart thermostat technology and the best products to offer customers can be a stumbling block.

 

It is in response to this consumer demand, and installer hesitation, that initiatives such as The Smart Installer Club have been launched. By providing independent installers with access to sales support, discounted products, and expert training they are able to sell the smart technology effectively to their customers. Highlighting the benefits to customers is key; ease of use, remote control functionality, the insight into energy consumption and up to a 31% saving on household energy bills.

 

The industry has changed a great deal over the last 40 years and smart thermostats are bringing heating into the technologically advanced world we live in today. The possibilities in the home are endless with the development of apps that allow you to do simple everyday tasks remotely. Putting the kettle on without getting out of bed, recording TV via your phone or managing your remotely controlling your lighting. Consumers expect the availability of apps for everyday activities and the heating industry is no different.

 

It has never been more important for installers to keep up with this change, and capitalise while the market is still young. Heating is no longer a standalone system, it can now form part of the connected home. As one installer said ‘this industry has just been pipes and boilers for the past 40 years; this brings us into the 21st century.’ And with more than 150,000 units already installed by some of the national operators, it is not surprising that many local independent installers are eager for the tools and training they need to take advantage of this growing opportunity.

 

After all, it won’t be long before those who can’t offer it are unable to compete.

Smart meters are not the only option...

2nd November 2016 By Rich

Peter Northwood, Connected Homes Director at HomeServe Alliance, the company behind www.smartinstallers.co.uk looks at why he believes mandatory smart meters are not the only option to help UK households gain some control over their energy usage and bills.

 

The plan to introduce smart meters into every home across Britain has been the subject of much debate amongst energy analysts, politicians, energy suppliers, and heating installers. No matter what government is in place post-election, it is unlikely that the roll-out plan will change. At a cost of £600m, the smart meter scheme is not a cheap exercise and with a final install date of 2020 it will take some time to deliver any benefits. The government’s stated benefits of the roll-out are derived from both consumers and energy suppliers having access to near ‘real time’ usage data (from gov.uk):

 

  1. Near real-time information on energy use, expressed in pounds and pence
  2. The ability to manage their energy use, save money and reduce emissions
  3. An end to estimated billing – people will only be billed for the energy they actually use, helping them to budget better
  4. Easier switching – it will be smoother and faster to switch suppliers to get the best deals

 

I personally welcome the principles behind the roll-out as a key element is to raise awareness to UK homeowners of their own energy consumption. Only by raising understanding of your own energy consumption can you take control of how you use energy, irrespective of whether you choose to use more or less.

 

Whether a Smart Meter will make consumers manage their energy use better is another point entirely, there has been much conjecture on this and the analysis of IHDs (In Home Displays giving energy consumption statistics) showed that consumers quickly become disinterested in looking at graphs and numbers.

 

However, if you look at the market today there are a number of products available that enable you to better understand your own energy consumption and even ones that will automatically adjust your consumption patterns for you to eliminate wastage. The more unique and individual this experience is to a consumer then the more likely they are to engage with it and then understand the trade-offs that can be made.

 

There are Smart Thermostats available that will adjust settings automatically based on your behaviour patterns and for example switch off heating when you are not in the house. When a consumer experiences this light bulb ‘that’s clever’ moment, it automatically causes the consumer to question how much they’ve been spending to date and starts them on a journey of discovery. They start to engage more deeply with their heating/hot water system asking follow on ‘what else’ questions like ‘am I heating my water for too long?’, ‘should all the radiators be the same temperature?’   It’s this level of consumer engagement which is essential to drive any longer term behavioural changes.

 

Equally there are tablet based thermostats within continental Europe that already link into consumption data by reading data from existing meters without the need for Smart Meters. This data can then be presented side by side with the consumers existing demand schedule. Again this will prompt questions in the consumer’s head, particularly if the thermostat is also giving personalised energy hints and tips, which will start them on that journey.

 

Research carried out in connection with smartinstallers.co.uk (our Smart Installer Club) shows that 1 in 3 Brits believe that smart thermostats are the best option for managing heating bills. A huge number of people in the UK have already ‘opted in’ to smart controls and have started the journey from awareness, through understanding to taking control.

 

So Smart Thermostats can demonstrably help consumers better manage their energy consumption and some are already linking in to reading traditional meters, only time will tell what the incremental benefit of Smart Meters will be.

SmartInstallers.co.uk welcomes its 1,000th member

2nd November 2016 By Rich

The Smart Installer Club today announced it has reached 1,000 members. It has achieved this success in less than four months since its launch in January 2015. SmartInstallers.co.uk was set up to assist independent heating installers who are looking to grow their businesses. The free club offers exclusive member discounts on smart technology, along with advice and guidance on connected homes.

 

Peter Northwood, Connected Homes Director, HomeServe Alliance, the company behind the Smart Installer Club, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have signed up 1,000 installers to our club in less than four months. We have already installed more than 15,000 smart thermostats, and the demand is growing. Customers look to installers for advice on these devices; installers who cannot offer this are likely to get left behind as the market grows. Membership is free, and with it installers get training on Smart devices, including how to fit them and how to explain the features to customers. We are successfully giving the independent installer the knowledge and national buying power they need to keep up with the changes in the heating industry, while providing them with an additional revenue stream.”  

 

As UK homes are becoming smarter and more connected, the demand for smart thermostat technology is growing. Consumers understand that having an ‘intelligent’ home will allow them to reduce energy use and save money. The smart technology market is growing rapidly, and is about to change the heating industry significantly over the next 12 months.  British Gas has already developed and fitted over 170,000 Hive units, and Google are also in the marketplace with the Nest thermostat, both with the back-up of strong advertising campaigns. The Smart Installer Club was created to enable installers to capitalise on this growing market, ensuring independent installers do not get left behind.

 

Lewis Howard, director at C&J Heating and Plumbing is a member of the Smart Installers Club. When asked about his own experience with smart thermostats, he said: “I was slightly sceptical when I first joined the Smart Installer Club but have already seen the impact that this has had on my business and revenues. Installing the devices is quite straightforward and customer feedback has been great. When we fit them, one of the key benefits is that customers should be able to recover the cost within 12 months. It really is a win for everyone involved - accessing cheaper controls has meant that I am making a good margin on the products and my customers are so pleased that they can also save money on their heating bills.”