What’s your heat pump doing today?

In his latest column for elemental, Graham Hendra contemplates the importance of monitoring a heat pump’s output.

For the first 38 years of my life when I had a gas boiler in my house, I took literally no interest in its efficiency or running cost. Gas boilers are clever little fellows, they don’t have any way at all of measuring the heat output, so their actual efficiency is a complete mystery. This allows the manufacturers to claim an efficiency which is nigh on impossible to prove or disprove. So all gas boilers at 90% efficient and that’s it.

My 1991 Bedford Rascal van is similar. I tell everyone it does a fantastic 45 miles to the gallon because it has no MPG meter, and well, that’s what I think it does. Prove me wrong. [Google says it does 22 miles per gallon. Ed.]

In this internet-obsessed world it has become trendy to be able to see how everything is performing all of the time. Putting data online is a way for suppliers to offer support without dashing around the country.  Heat pumps are no different.

The problem is there is no need for anyone to report this data accurately, so you never really know what is going on. Every manufacturer has its own cool little app to see into the workings of the machine, so if you are a contractor it means having a different app for each type of unit. The hardest thing to do is to remember which machine Mrs Miggins has in her house so you can remember what app you have to look at.

However, there are now a few third-party monitoring systems which can see into multiple heat pumps all from one page. These are not to be confused with the heat pump controllers like Homely, which are able to take full control of the system and maximise its efficiency.

The monitoring devices from the likes of Heatio and Planet Devices are a little box about the size of a box of Tic Tacs which you install in the machine when you are wiring it up. You quickly take a picture of the QR code on the back of the box and bingo it is set up and online. From here it is visible to anyone with the correct login and password.

These monitoring systems allow you to see faults as they happen; read temperatures; or turn the units on and off etc. They have pretty graphs showing past performance and they can show up some simple faults without having to go to site. Example: “I’ve got no hot water!” is greeted with the answer“ I can see that the hot water is switched off, let me switch it on for you”

Or “My flow rate has fallen by 20% over the last week” is answered by “I can see that the filters need cleaning.”

These devices also offer some nifty features too: using a current clamp they can see what energy you are using; they can tell you if this usage is high or low; they can tell you efficiencies in both heating and hot water modes separately; and can even point you in the right direction if there is a fault on the system.

What I love is that none of this is new technology – almost every manufacture has this feature available, but with these third party interfaces you can see all of your heat pumps’ performance, no matter who makes them, from one single website.

If you are a bit long in the tooth like me, it is particularly satisfying to be able to control everything with one simple app on one device. I love these things, my heat pump has one installed at home. Really, every home should have one.

Graham Hendra will be presenting in the Climate Solutions Theatre at the InstallerSHOW at the NEC on 25th-27th June. Register for FREE tickets here: installer-2024-splash.reg.buzz