Thermal monitoring gets easier

Our groups tell us the thermal monitors really help them know what to do, but they’re too hard to use. Here’s what we’re doing about it.

We give groups participating in our programme “thermal monitors” that they can use to collect temperature and relative humidity readings for their premises. We do this for two reasons.

  • When matched against the building’s diary, it gives a clear picture of whether the heating controls are doing a good job. Some groups have been able to save fuel, make the building more comfortable, or both just by changing their settings. Others needed different controls that change what users can do, or have extra energy efficiency features: “optimised start control”, weather compensation, or load compensation. These are explained in our Guide Book.
  • Looking at how quickly heat is lost when the heating is turned off gives a rough idea of what there is to gain from retrofit options. Firming this up takes professional expertise – or a particular adventurous volunteer engineer. Some professionals welcome having the data so they can be more certain in the advice they give.

Our past have told us how much they value the data they get from the monitors. They’ve also told us how difficult they find them to set up. For buildings with wifi, the setup only has to be done once, so once the group has managed, it’s plain sailing – but not all get that far. For buildings without wifi, it has to be done every few weeks to get the data, and this is far too much hassle.

In response, when groups tell us they have wifi, we ask them for the wifi network name (SSID) and password before we ship the thermal monitor to them. Then all they have to do is turn it on. There are still things that can go wrong – many groups end up wanting to monitor locations where the wifi signal isn’t strong enough. Sometimes they move the router and discover it serves their users better that way – an unexpected benefit – but other solutions cost money, so instead they switch to no-wifi monitoring.

A new option for thermal monitoring, for spaces without wifi

For groups that tell us they don’t have wifi, foregoing our monitor and buying a Lascar logger for use with a laptop has always been an option, but there is a new inexpensive option on the market from Thermopro. It currently costs around £9. With it, you can use a phone app to get the data from the device. The full details are here:

Temperature and relative humidity readings — HeatHack Guide Book

After testing them, we have sent Thermopros to two groups to find out how they get on. They are much easier to use than our monitors and we expect to recommend all future groups without wifi use one. They are cheap enough that we will ask groups to buy them themselves – otherwise postage is a major part of the price – but with a sympathetic ear towards those in difficult circumstances.

There are some similar wifi-capable models starting to come on the market, too. They are from much less well-established brands with no presence in the UK, and none of them are available from websites that our groups will already know and trust. It is very difficult to know which have the features that will make them usable for our purposes. We could buy samples, but they are developing so fast that the features could change. We expect that to change within the next year, so our plan is to ship our own for now, and start evaluating them when the market has stabilised. If they are still a bit difficult to buy in the UK, we can buy them in bulk and send them out, but otherwise the arrangements will be the same as for the no-wifi groups.