Following on from my previous post about how to fix up your central heating and various components yourself, I though it was about time I finally finished writing the article on the OWL Intuition-H kit that I installed about a year ago.
The central heating and water was controlled via a SwitchMaster 400, a pretty nasty brown looking analogue timer which was a bit broken and sometimes would fail to start the heating, usually on the coldest day of the year.
I looked to replace this with a similar timer unit, but these were about £70 and after a bit of research I then came across the OWL Intuition-H (see here) which was only about £200 and offered me much much more.
Previously we had the SwitchMaster400 under the boiler in the utility room and then a cheapish analogue thermostat in the lounge. There was a 2-way diverter valve and Grundfoss pump (both of which I replaced fairly recently) upstairs in the airing cupboard where the hot water tank lives.
The new OWL kit comprised of 3 main components:
- Network OWL Gateway – This needs a wired internet connection and then wirelessly talks to all other units in your house, its the central hub of the system if you like.
- Intuition Room Sensor – This directly replaces the room thermostat (you can have many of these if your central heating is already zoned off). This takes a single AA battery which will last a good few years.
- Intuition Tank Sensor – This is located near the tank (I placed it on the landing wall outside of the airing cupboard at the top of the stairs) and has a sensor that then needs to be attached to the tank itself. (In the documentation you will notice that it is recommend to keep the original tank temperature sensor also as a kind of fail safe, just make sure its set for a higher temperature than you will set using the OWL, from memory mine is set to about 60C). This also takes a single AA battery which will last a good few years.
(I only realised after I bought it that the OWL electricity monitor, which I already had, can also talk to the Network OWL Gateway and then you can see live energy usage on your OWL dashboard (I’ll get to that later on)
The obvious question so far is probably along the lines of “why bother” with all this, well:
- The old timer needed replacing anyway as it was broken and nasty looking
- The old timer only allowed water or heating and water, not heating only.
- The old analogue thermostat was not particularly accurate and could be out by over a degree at times.
- The analogue timer had to be changed (if I remembered) whenever the clocks changed
- The old timer only allowed for 2 on and 2 off time settings, so I couldn’t set different times for specific days, or different settings for heating ans water (i.e. when the little ‘un is at nursery on certain days I don’t need it running)
- I also had to always have the temperature the same unless I manually changed the thermostat in the lounge.
So, all very archaic you will agree.
The wiring diagrams can be found here and are very clear. We have an ‘Y’ Plan system and so:
Effectively, the timer under the boiler has now gone (you can set it just to constant on but I removed it put a blanking plate over it – just in case I need to get to the wires in future) and is hard wired to be permanently on. The heating is then controlled via the lounge thermostat and the water via the tank thermostat.
It only took about 2 hours to install everything and so was pretty straight forward, I did however do it in summer just in case it went horribly wrong!
Once linked up to ‘tinternet, I can then control and program it using either my computer in a web browser or an iPhone app (which both myself and the wife have), there are also button on the room and tank themostats to boost them it if required.
(It’s worth noting that the system also has a safe temperature that stops it freezing if it get really cold and you have it in holiday/away mode. The holiday mode can be set when you go away to turn off all schedules, you can set this remotely from your phone at the airport, and then turn it off when you land so that by the time you get home it’s nice and warm)
Web browser (http://www.owlintuition.com)
This is main dashboard which shows all my devices and the current status of each:
I then can set the central heating times and temperatures for each day of the week: (Again its worth nothing that you only need to set the temperature you want at those times, the OWL will work out how long it takes to warm up and cool down and take care of all of that for you):
I can also set the settings for hot water, as you can see between 06:30 and 22:00 I have it set to 40C, but in the mornings and evening (after BMF, Footy etc) its a bit higher at 50C. this means I’m never without hot water and as it only takes 10-15 minutes to heat a full tank this is very nice to have.
The much more used interface is the iPhone app, and although you can’t set schedules from this, its much easier to control the system it if you ever need to boost it or put it into away mode etc.
This my electricity monitor talking to it in real time:
This is the lounge temperature:
This is the hot water temperature:
These are the controls:
All in all, I highly recommend this system. British Gas I believe see the Hive which is very similar but I couldn’t find any specs on this and after the crazy quote from British Gas that we got for a new boiler I opted to steer clear of them.
It’s been difficult to make any direct comparison on energy savings due to the wife being at home pretty much all of the last year with our new born, but saying that our bills didn’t really go up that much so hopefully this has already paid for itself 🙂