How smart is smart heating for your community venue?

14 March 2024

Michael Fletcher, Digital Inclusion Project Manager at Community First Yorkshire, shares his thoughts on smart heating – it’s pros and cons and whether there are any cost benefits for your community building or village hall.

“In today’s world it seems that everything is digital this and smart that, and that’s before we even start talking about artificial intelligence. At the top of the smart pile lies smart heating systems. There’s a whole myriad of different types of devices on the market so if you’re thinking of installing one, make sure you do your research. Let’s delve into how smart they really are…

For a start, smart heaters still need a person to control them so you could argue they are not completely hassle-free, but the installation of one could provide significant benefits for your village hall or community building.

One of the primary benefits of smart heating systems is flagged as their ability to optimise energy usage. With uncertainty around energy costs and increasing awareness of environmental issues, improving energy efficiency is a crucial consideration for any community facility.

What is ‘smart heating’?

But first what do we mean by smart heating? Smart heating works by connecting your heating system to the internet so you can then control it remotely by using a device (such as a smartphone, a tablet or a laptop) via Wi-Fi.

How much control will a smart heating device give you?

There are several different types of smart heating devices that you can control, but the most important is your thermostat if your heating is run through a boiler. Basic models allow you to control the heating without being on site and, if you have different groups using your hall, you can adjust the temperature accordingly. You may want the heating set a little higher whilst a yoga class is on and knock it down a degree or two when the aerobics session is up and running.

Some more sophisticated devices may be able to sense movement in rooms and switch the heating on and off as the room is in and out of use. Some can even sense if a window has been left open. This is as conundrum I face at home as my partner insists on having windows open while the heating is on. I argue that if it’s warm enough to open the window, then you don’t need the heating on. Naturally, it’s an argument I never win 😊. Back to the smartness of devices – while they may be able to detect an open window, I haven’t found one yet that will close it for you.

Taking this a step further, you can install smart radiator valves (or smart electric radiators), and rather than controlling just a single thermostat, you can control each one individually. If you have multiple rooms within your hall, you can have each one set at different temperatures in different parts, including switching radiators off/down in rooms while they’re not in use. Why heat the kitchen up if it’s not in use?

If you have a smart speaker installed, you can even control all of this through voice control. “Alexa turn down the radiator in the kitchen to 10 degrees” but be careful you can distinguish between the hall and any smart system you may have installed at home.

Smart heating systems include diagnostic and predictive maintenance capabilities. By monitoring the performance of heating equipment and detecting potential issues early on, village halls can schedule maintenance proactively, minimising downtime and costly repairs.

Using the data to help you understand your energy usage

One of the most valuable aspects of smart heating technology is the wealth of data they provide. If your hall is considering any energy saving/carbon reduction installations, then the most important thing to do first is to understand your current usage. Where is usage higher and where is it lower? Does this correlate with what you are expecting? Are there any spikes in usage at times you wouldn’t expect? Smart heating data can help you analyse this, although you may be able to get this information from your energy supplier also. Often, they can provide data broken down into half hour slots. As the famous quote goes, knowledge is power itself.

So, in summary smart heating could make managing your hall that bit simpler, could make you more energy efficient and could help save you money on your energy bills. But you must weigh this up against the cost of installation.

So how smart is smart heating? I would say it’s pretty smart, but still needs human intervention. We’re not all redundant just yet.”

If you want to speak to Michael in more detail about smart heating, do drop him a line by email: