Control energy usage when you're not at home

First Sky launched a smartphone app that allowed you to set your Sky+ box to record TV programmes while you were out and about. Now, British Gas has harnessed the same technology to give you remote access to your heating system.

The Remote Heating Control technology allows you to access and control your heating system from your laptop or smartphone while you’re away from the home – you can even turn your boiler on and off via text message.

This is a great perk for those occasions when you get to work and realise you’ve left the central heating ticking over but, unfortunately, still won’t stop the mad dash back home if you think you’ve left the oven on.

But how exactly does this technology work and – more importantly – can it actually help you to save money on your energy bills? Here we examine the ways in which you can make changes to your home’s energy while the sun is still shining – and store up savings for winter.

How does Remote Heating Control work?

British Gas’ new system is based around a remote thermostat that will not only perform all the functions of a normal thermostat but can also be controlled remotely via your PC, mobile, smartphone or tablet.

The new wireless control thermostat will need to replace your existing one. Your boiler will also be fitted with a wireless receiver that takes commands from this thermostat and adjusts the heating settings accordingly. Both the thermostat and boiler receiver are wirelessly connected to a hub which, in turn, connects to your broadband internet router and enables remote signals to be sent between your PC or smartphone and the Remote Heating Control system.

Once you are up and running, the system can then be used to adjust temperature and timings as well as set heating programs. All of these functions of course, can also be carried out manually – and setting the thermostat manually will override any settings you have made remotely.


How will this save money?

The Remote Heating Control system works a lot like a smart meter in that it should help to lower your energy bills by making you more energy efficient through being able to monitor and adjust your energy usage.

However, this new technology gives you even more control than a smart meter as it not only allows you to monitor how much energy you are using, you don’t have to be at home to do it. For example, you may want to switch on the heating as you are leaving work, or turn it off if you’re staying at the office later than expected.

In fact, British Gas estimates that you could save as much as £140 per year by heating your home only when you have to as opposed to leaving the boiler on while you’re not there.

On the downside, prices for installation start at £149, which means that it’s unlikely to pay for itself during the first year of installation, so if you’re thinking of investing in this new technology, you should make sure that you’re going to use it to its full potential to make it worth the extra outlay.

In addition, it’s probably not suitable if you are thinking of moving house in the near future as, once installed, the system remains fixed to a household boiler.

However, if you do use this technology to adopt a more considered approach to your energy usage then it could save you money on your energy bills and also help the environment.


Switch and save

With a number of new, fixed rate tariffs on the market you could also save money by signing up for a fixed energy deal that will lock in prices until well into next year, meaning that you will not be affected by any winter price hikes.

Scottish Power currently has the market leading products for both fixed rate and variable tariffs. Its Online Fixed Price Energy (which runs to November 2013), will cost the average energy user £1,005.87 per year while the variable Online Energy Saver 20 comes in at £1,050.40 per year.

The same user would spend £1,349.42 if they stayed on Scottish Power’s Standard Tariff and so by simply switching tariff – not even provider – they could save almost £300 a year.

Bear in mind these figures are based upon energy an ‘average’ user would consume over the course of a year, so if you are looking to switch you need to look for tariffs that would suit your particular usage.

For more detailed information on Scottish Power’s latest tariffs and some possible alternatives, click here.

The simplest way to do this is to use MoneySupermarket’s comparison tool, which instantly compare prices from every UK energy supplier to help find you the best deal.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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