Why smart heating and cooling is finding a home in the self-build market

Two trends dominate the self-build market, which now accounts for around 10 per cent of all completions (and looks set to grow).

  • The first is to build a home that is more energy-efficient and eco-friendly than those currently on the market
  • The second is to use connected, automated, intelligent technology, such as smart heating, to make everyday living a dream

Let’s take a look at how smart heating and cooling combines the drive for energy efficiency with the desire for a smart home.

From the top down

So, why are energy efficient homes so important?

  • In September 2016 we globally reached the carbon tipping point of 400 parts per million of atmospheric carbon
  • Shortly after this, the Paris agreement on climate change obliged pretty much every nation in the world to take action that will keep the rise in temperature at no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels
  • While much of this shift toward low-carbon society will be achieved by investment in critical infrastructure and reducing our use of fossil fuels, it is important that action is taken at the level of each individual home
  • The domestic market outstrips industry in terms of its usage of kilotonnes of oil equivalent. In fact, it is second only to the transport sector in this regard
  • Zooming in further to the housing market we see that energy consumption per household continues to increase
  • This situation is, in part, caused by the poor state of the UK housing stock – with 6.6 million homes rated as having poor energy efficiency (achieving band E, F or G on their Energy Performance Certificates)

Lot 20 regulations for electric heating

Since 2018, all electric local space heaters manufactured for sale in the EU must comply with a minimum efficiency standard under Lot 20 of the Energy Efficiency Directive, the aim of which is to rule out inefficient heating products.

As a result of these efficiency targets, products now include energy saving features, such as better controls for end users.

Enter smart technology

Initiatives like Passive House design provide a compelling way forward. But, so too does smart technology.

While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, smart heating and cooling is most effective when the house itself has been designed with energy efficiency at its core.

For the self-build community, factoring in smart technology from the start means the home can be designed and wired to fit the needs of the tech.

What smart heating and cooling options are available?

Smart controlled electric radiators by Zehnder offer a choice of pre-set programmes, which work from a ‘comfort temperature’ set by the end user. The integral control unit also recognises if a window has been opened for an extended period and switches the radiator off.

Choices in Ventilation systems in the home are critical in driving energy efficiency. Options such as Zehnder’s ComfoAir Q mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) units use ultra-efficient counterflow heat exchangers that recover up to 96 per cent of the heat from extracted air. In addition, it is mainly made from locally sourced recyclable materials.

Cooling options such as ComfoCool can offer an extension to MVHR units to effectively temper the air and mitigate issues such as overheating. A multitude of automated and controllable options, can deliver comfort throughout the year. Encouragingly, due to innovative technologies and best-in-class components, this can be achieved in the most economical way!

Smart thermostats add a layer of intelligence to your heating systems, allowing you to keep your homes at a specific temperature during certain times of day.

Often device learning kicks in as the unit becomes accustomed to a household’s daily habits and begins to program itself to suit users’ preferences or integrates itself with your ventilation system for more connected efficiencies.

The benefits of smart heating and cooling for an energy-efficient self-build

Smart heating is cool

Of course, as well as all the energy efficiency benefits smart heating offers, it is also part of the connected home of the future. Heating and cooling fits perfectly as a solution in eco homes where a healthy comfortable indoor climate, along with energy savings, is key.


As devices and systems become smarter, the ability to both tailor them to your requirements and for them to act intuitively increases, requiring less user interference.


How often have we rushed out the door, only to realise the heating and/or ventilation is still on?

Smart devices can use sensors to detect lack of movement and switch off for you automatically, as well as activating automatically based on the external temperature. And, you can also control your settings remotely on your mobile phone.

Energy Efficiency

Smart controls ensure improved energy efficiency, less wasted energy with greater transparency on usage costs too. Monthly reports about your energy usage show you exactly how alterations to your settings, impact your overall usage and highlight whenever you have chosen a more energy efficient setting or otherwise!

Smart heating is on trend for good reason

Looking forward we may see heating devices drawing from the national grid only at cheapest prices or when the proportion of renewable energy is at its highest.

For now, though, let’s just hope the other 90 per cent of housebuilders follow the self-build lead in adopting it.