As the writer of a reasonably well read technology blog, you may expect that I’ve stuffed We Got Served Towers with a host of home technology. It’s fair to say that there’s the odd bit of kit knocking around, but I’ve yet to delve into the realms of home automation. Too complicated, too many competing standards, too expensive, manufacturers I’ve never heard of – in short, too risky.
But, then up pops British Gas with a product called Remote Heating Control – along with their smart meters, British Gas are seeking to bring home automation to households across the UK with a £199 (£229 for those new to British Gas) wireless heating control installation. Pay your money, book the installation and an engineer will come around and do the heavy lifting for you – two hours later, you’ll be switching your heating on and off, up and down on your PC, smartphone and tablet. I’ll have a bit of that.
As usual, a morning or afternoon slot is available for your installation. My installer, a friendly chap called Nick Flatley arrived on time, armed with the Remote Heating Control kit, consisting of a small hub that plugs into your router, a wireless thermostat that can be used to manage your heating manually and a controller box that is wired up in an appropriate place (in my case, in the airing cupboard).
First off, Nick had a good look around to understand the vagaries of our heating system – having built an extension last year and replaced the boiler, some of our plumbing and wiring had been moved around a little. No problems found, though, fortunately. Once he’d assessed where he needed to locate the controller box, Nick quickly connected the network hub to the router and powered it on (you’ll need a spare electrical socket and a free ethernet port on your router), then popped upstairs to wire in the controller.
Installation of the Remote Heating Control system means that your existing thermostat (In my case, a 1980s dial thermostat, strangely located upstairs by the house builder) becomes redundant. The control can be left in place but it’ll be disconnected. Your boiler controls stay in place, and there’s no change to your hot water controls – they’ll still be managed by your boiler controls and timer, however, once the Remote Heating Controller is installed, you simply switch your boiler heating control to Continuous, and the new controllers take it from there. When I say “you”, I mean “the installer” – everything is set up for you during installation so you won’t need to figure out what switches to throw.
Once the controller was wired in, and batteries dropped into the wireless thermostat, it was time to get the remote control up and running. From a user perspective, Remote Heating Control is set up and managed using your web browser, meaning that you can control your heating using a PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone – inside your home and out. Once you’ve purchased the service, you’ll be emailed an account name (your email address) and temporary password to register on the British Gas myHome portal.
Configuration is fabulously quick and easy – log in, and you’ll be asked to enter the code printed on the bottom of your hub. That registers the hub with the service, to ensure that your remote commands are sent to your heating system rather than your next door neighbour’s!
Once registered, you’re invited to set up your heating timer – this works exactly like a conventional heating timer, with one/off settings for mornings and evenings, with the ability to configure different settings for weekdays and weekends. You can also set the target temperature for each of these slots.