DECC has set up a programme of work to understand the potential for smarter heating controls to save energy. As part of this DECC commissioned this review with the aim of synthesising existing research evidence on how domestic heating controls affect energy demand. The objective was for the review to contribute to the Smarter Heating Control Research Programme, aimed at establishing the extent to which the introduction of smarter heating controls is likely to save energy. The review was also intended to provide evidence with which to inform a subsequent design of a possible field trial that could detect any energy reductions associated with improving control technologies.
The Rapid Evidence Assessment found that relevant studies are small-scale and mostly from outside the UK. The assessment also established that there is not a consistent and reliable body of evidence on the capacity of heating control technology to contribute to energy savings. Little evidence exists on the role of consumer behaviour with regards to heating controls, yet some research does point to the poor usability of heating controls and that use is often driven by thermal comfort rather than saving energy.
The report also highlights that heating controls are typically replaced with boilers, which is 5% per year. Secondary analysis of EFUS data found that 49% of households have a full set of heating controls including a central timer, thermostatic radiator valves and room thermostats. This provides more up to date statistics than previous industry research by BEAMA and the Energy Savings Trust in 2008 which suggested only around 30% of households have full set of controls.
As a result the report concludes that there are large gaps in the evidence base, specifically on national data, around the role of consumer behaviour with few UK studies testing households with smarter heating controls.
More information can be found on the Smarter Heating Controls Research Programme page.