How to choose a smart floor heating control system? A practical guide. - ENGO

How to choose a smart floor heating control system? A practical guide.

29/11/23

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How to create an intelligent heating control system?

An intelligent control system for underfloor heating requires controllers.

Underfloor heating – for all its advantages – has a ‘disadvantage’. It is not fully self-sufficient, as it must be controlled accordingly. Without this, there can be no talk of its energy-efficient operation.

Although in theory there is no compulsion to control the underfloor, in practice, without controllers we will not be satisfied with its work. And if you want the most efficient operation, it is best to opt for an intelligent underfloor heating control system.

Intelligent, which means – in short – using the potential of Internet control, which gives us almost unlimited possibilities for building a home network of devices (IoT). In this way, we can freely combine the operation of the heating system with, for example, lighting or home electronics. Devices throughout the building will work together.

However, the choice of an intelligent underfloor heating control system should not be hasty. It’s not that whatever we choose will still perform the function well. In order not to regret it, such a choice is worth thinking about from several angles.

Intelligent underfloor heating control system vs. control algorithm

Although few people pay attention to this when looking for temperature controllers, their effectiveness is determined by so-called control algorithms. These are software programs built into the controllers that manage the heating energy consumption (we are of course talking about modern devices, not mechanical thermostats).

Why is this so important?

Because not every algorithm will work with underfloor heating. Older controllers or those that only use hysteresis may not meet our expectations. And it’s not that the hysteresis won’t handle this type of heating. It will, but its accuracy, and therefore the efficiency of the control, is much lower than with algorithms such as TPI. And we will feel it.

Hysteresis: the simplest two-position ('on/off') algorithm. It works on the principle of slight overdrive; oscillation of the temperature within fixed values. Example: if you set the hysteresis at ± 0.5℃ and the setpoint at 22℃, the controller will start the heating unit when the temperature falls to 21.5℃ and switch off when it rises to 22.5℃. Such a scheme is inaccurate, because the controller reacts 0.5℃ before and after the temperature set by us is reached.
TPI: Time Proportional and Integral is a stable, self-learning pulse control algorithm. It continuously recalculates the operating time of the heating unit based on mathematical integrals. The great advantage of TPI is that the programme learns the heat demand of the room. Thanks to this, the controller calculates how long the heating needs to be turned on for in order to reach the set temperature for the indicated time. And when the temperature approaches a decrease in the set value, the controller starts the heating accordingly earlier. There are no hysteresis-specific overruns here, and the control is more accurate.

Underfloor heating, unlike radiator heating, is characterised by a long thermal inertia. This means that the heating surface takes a long time to heat up and then takes a long time to release heat to the surroundings. For the control of such an installation to be effective, it is better not to base it on a simple mechanism of continuous override, as with hysteresis. What is needed is a advanced programme that calculates when to switch the heating on and off according to the settings. An intelligent underfloor heating control system needs state-of-the-art solutions.

This is why controllers with the TPI algorithm, which controls the temperature of the underfloor with mathematical precision, are the best choice for underfloor heating. As a result, no energy is wasted, significantly lower bills are paid and full thermal comfort is achieved. And that is exactly what we want.

So when choosing an intelligent underfloor heating control system, start by choosing the right control algorithm.

Intelligent heating control system and type of communication

When choosing a heating control tailored to our needs, the stage of construction we are at when implementing the system also plays an important role. The type of communication we decide on depends on this.

A smart underfloor heating control system is mainly associated with wireless communication, but this is not the only option for building a home network of smart devices. Many controllers operating on the ZigBee network offer the option of wired communication.

If we are building a house or are prepared for extensive renovation work, we can confidently afford to lay wires. However, if we are installing an intelligent underfloor heating control system in a building where we live/work and have no renovation plans, wired communication may not be possible. In such a case, let’s use wireless controllers, whose signal – if necessary – can be strengthened with network repeaters.

Speaking of networks, let’s choose a communication protocol

When creating an intelligent underfloor heating control system, we must decide on which data transmission protocol we want – Wi-Fi or ZigBee.

A heating control system communicating in the ZigBee protocol ensures stable operation even if there is no Internet connection. The stored rules and relationships between devices continue to work even if there is an Internet outage.

A Wi-Fi-based system, on the other hand, saves the relationships between devices in an external cloud, with the result that in the absence of the internet, our smart home (and all the connections built into it) will temporarily stop working.

It may not seem like a big deal as we can wait for internet connectivity to return, but technology has a way of getting us used to luxury. Therefore, when we are suddenly cut off from it, we can feel uncomfortable. Helpless, as if someone had switched off the light.

So the answer to the question of which communication protocol to choose depends on our preferences and how vulnerable we are to online downtime. If we want to make sure that the smart home rules don’t stop until we switch them off ourselves, ZigBee 3.0 is the safer choice.

At the same time, it is worth remembering that wired temperature controllers working on Wi-Fi – despite the cessation of smart home rules when the internet is not available – will not stop heating our home (they work “on cable”, so the flow of the heating medium in the system continues).

Technological openness

Whether you opt for the ZigBee 3.0 protocol or Wi-Fi, a smart underfloor heating control system has many technological advantages. One of these is its openness to other smart home automation platforms (e.g. TUYA), which spreads an impressive range of possibilities.

Such a system allows you to create your own smart network (not just heating control) made up of devices from different brands, and operate them all on the same mobile app. Such versatility and openness to integration is valuable, as it offers unlimited possibilities in creating a home IoT network.

If we want to be able to create an increasingly complex network composed of electronics from different companies, our choice should be products compatible with a platform as widespread as TUYA, for example.

An intelligent control system cannot be difficult to operate

A smart control system for underfloor heating is operated in an app developed for this purpose. Such a solution is convenient, as it gives the possibility to quickly check/correct the operation of controllers and other smart controllers. However, invaluable in everyday use is the intuitive application menu in Polish and the aforementioned versatility.

A well-designed, accessible application can determine the usefulness of the entire control system. If we like and are able to use all its functionalities, the system gains in value.

It is worth choosing a control system manufacturer that will offer an application that also supports other brands of electronics – as part of full compatibility with an international home automation platform (e.g. TUYA). It is worth trusting the one that gives us the most options.

A properly selected intelligent underfloor heating control system guarantees comfortable and satisfying management of heating energy consumption – always tailored to our expectations and the way we live. So before we buy anything, let’s consider all the above factors.

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