back to article British Gas bets you'll pay £150 for heating remote control

Following a trial run in the homes of 10,000 of its customers, British Gas has now launched its home-automation play: the Remote Heating Control, which will set you back £150. But for kit-provider AlertMe, the RHC could be more Trojan Horse than money-saving tech. The Remote Heating product connects wirelessly to the …

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  1. K

    Hmmm..

    Add the ability to boil the kettle or coffee machine, then I'll sign!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmm..

      and how would that be useful when you're at work? I know I'll boil the kettle before leaving work, and then it takes how long to get home? so will be cold again by then.

      Unless you're Mr Couch Potato who has lost use of legs and needs everything doing for them ... but you'll be lacking someone to put the water in the kettle too for that to work

      1. CaptainHook

        Re: Hmmm..

        and how would that be useful when you're at work?

        I use Tasker on my phone which I can set to run various commands as it enters certain locations, you could have your phone contact the website with the kettle on command as you arrive at the end of your street.

        Of course it's still hard to justify because you would need to have the coffee machine already filled with water and beans in the hopper ready and if you are going to do that before you leave the house in the morning, then it's ready for you to just hit the start button as you walk in the house, it will be ready before you get the coat and shoes off.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Headmaster

          Red Box

          I saw a home automation system in the 1980's which had the involvement of Chris Curry (post Acorn). You connected your Amstrad up to these boxes and then you could write a BASIC programme to do whatever you want. Think it was called Red Box.

          Ah, here you go, two reviews.

          http://www.cpcwiki.eu/index.php/Red_Box

          Has to be said that with 17 years of advances in technology, why aren't more devices wi-fi enabled so that you can just fire up your heating from your iPhone etc? The Red Box units look like they could pretty much automate any mains powered device and that was years ago.

      2. Archivist

        Re: Hmmm..

        @AC: and how would that be useful when you're at work?

        I guess you work fixed hours and leave at the set time no matter what... Many of us have unpredictable hours - things fail and have to be fixed, whatever. Arriving home to a warm house without wasting heat would be a blessing.

        I did look into a DIY system earlier in the year that would have cost about £140 plus the ddns fee. It's that which made me look around at free ddns solutions, to work with my existing kit but I got distracted.

        So if anyone has a free ddns solution that'll work with a Draytek 2920, please let me know as I'd rather not leave a computer on.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmmm..

          Huh. I replied to the person wishing a kettle to be able to be turned on. Read the post please

        2. Nigel 11

          Re: Hmmm..

          A quick Google for "Internet Wireless Thermostat" reveals a range of products starting at 120 quid. I would hope that a techie is capable of replacing his existing thermostat without electrocuting himself or creating a fire hazard.

          (I'm also assuming it's still legal to do so. It's legal to replace a cracked 13A socket without getting an Electrician in, so I guess a thermostat is the same).

    2. Jerome 2
      Thumb Up

      Re: Hmmm..

      On the plus side that would allow for the legit use of HTTP status code 418, which has got to be a good thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Error 418 Lol

        It would be great to buy some t-shirts with HTTP error codes for me and the family (so long as they didn't understand what they meant).

        Me - Error 429

        Missus - Error 426

        Young daughter - Error 451

        IF anybody has done this, and has photos, please link.

        Lol

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Error 418 Lol

          You mean you don't want a 501 or 503 for the missus?

        2. edge_e
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: Error 418 Lol

          You owe me a new keyboard

    3. Thomas 18
      Thumb Down

      Re: Hmmm..

      Or you could just buy a coffee maker with a scheduler... they cost about £10 more than the ones without.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm..

        Or you can just wait 2 minutes once you get home. Switch it on, take your coat and shoes off and it will be ready by the time you get back into the kitchen. That's why nobody is buying these things.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmm..

      Get one of those mains timers for a fiver and set it to switch on at X time?

      Reminds me of the old urban myth about tech-for-tech's-sake, "NASA spent millions getting a biro to work in zero-G, the Russians simply took a pencil up into space with them.".

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Hmmm..

        I vaguely recall that being debunked somewhere - it was pointed out that in zero G, a pencil would give off graphite dust, which would be the LAST thing you want floating around a capsule.

        Still it makes a good story.

        On the other hand, there was a story about a (US ?) scientist who travelled with the Russians, and noticed they used a mirror on a stick to help dock. When the scientist pointed out that NASA would probably have put a remote control camera to do the job, the pilot just said they had considered that and discounted it as too much to go wrong .....

    5. LarsG
      Thumb Down

      I think

      That they can go and suck on my lolly.

  2. jai

    but....

    My boiler has a 7-day timer function, so it switches off during the day while i'm at work. I don't need to check it, it does it all the time anyway.

    It's only a year or two old, but even so, the previous boiler that had been there since the 90s had a timer function too, but wasn't multi-day. Even so, i never found myself at working worried sick that i was heating the place when no one was there.

    How does it save £140 quid a year? are they assuming that people forget to turn their heating off every single day?

    1. ElNumbre
      Meh

      Re: but....

      I have all that, but where it fails is that the timing is fixed; three 'blocks' of heating per day, with different profiles for weekdays and weekends. If this wasn't so much, Id be sorley tempted because I don't necessarily work the same pattern every day - some days I'm up and out of the house earlier, some days I'm home from work later. In these instances, it would be great to be able to turn the heating on and off as desired from a web page, rather than messing around with a torch and a complex set of dials hidden in the airing cupboard. Plus, Id rather have different heat 'profiles' at different times of the day - toasty warm first thing in the morning and when I'm back from work - not quite so warm just before bed.

      Alas, I'm not spending that much on a thermostat with a real time clock and a network port.

      If it was £75 then maybe.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: but....@ElNumbre

        A decent programmeable heating thermostat will do what you want, including different temps, four or six time zones per day, split working days/rest days, easy manual overrides. The Eberle one I bought fifteen years ago still works flawlessly (and was easy as pie to swap in for a bog standard thermostat), although the brand is hard to find in the UK - Siemens and many others make products of similar claims at around the money you want to pay. If you've got a timer in the airing cupboard just set that to always on, and let the prog stat do all the controlling.

  3. Mad Mike
    FAIL

    Cost saving?

    How in gods name is this going to save £140 a year? Most heating systems are on timeclocks and therefore you don't turn them on and off anyway. You have everything sorted to work automatically according to your work etc. schedule. Even if you don't have this and turn your heating on and off manually, how is that going to save £140 per year? Just how many times must you use the system to turn the heating off? How stupid do you need to be. And, not only do you need not to have turned if off, but you also have to remember you have forgotton.

    Unadulterated tripe.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Unadulterated tripe

      It will be interesting to see whether the £140 figure survives scrutiny by the ASA.

      1. Mark 65

        Re: Unadulterated tripe

        Perhaps British Gas will just up their gas prices so that for their customers it would save £140.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easy

    Just add a home easy appliance module and you can turn on your kettle. It won't check that there is any water in it, but you don't want that do you?

    1. Pete 2

      you don't want that do you?

      Err, YES! All this home automation malarkey becomes utterly useless the moment it requires human intervention at any stage of the process. Once a person's presence is called for - filling the kettle, washing up a dirty coffee mug, getting the teabag out - then you might as well do the whole thing yourself. I would hazard a guess that is the main reason it's failed to take off.

      I do remember my old gran having a "teasmade" in the 1960's. Essentially, you filled a pot with cold water and at a predetermined time, instead of the built-in alarmclock waking you, it started up a heater that fizzed and bubbled and eventually woke you with a cup-o-char. From the little I've seen of commercial "home automation" there's been little or no progress in the past half-century.

      1. david bates

        Re: you don't want that do you?

        No...I have one - it wakes you up 15 minutes before the appearance of said cup of char by fizzing, bubbling and grumbling to itself as it starts to heat up.

        The best place for a teasmade is in another room - like the kitchen :(

        1. LinkOfHyrule
          Flame

          My heating is already automated

          I have this thing called a 'thermostat' - its rather clever, inside it are like two different types of metal or some shit and it like expands and contacts and that causes the heating system to switch itself on and off to regulate temperature. I also have this other gizmo called a 'timer' - it enables me to completely automate my heating requirements and only requires minimal human intervention mainly when the seasons change - and all this came FREE with my house!

          British Gas, you are silly sometimes expecting people pay actual money to turn a switch on and off, what are you like!

          Flame because as a kid I loved those adverts you did where people clicked their fingers and flames spouted from their hands, I must say that was a good way for kids to be encourage to play with lighters imitating them, we had lots of fun doing mild arson thanks to your marketing genius!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: My heating is already automated

            @LinkOfHyrule

            "inside it are like two different types of metal or some shit"

            I can just imagine Wilf Lunn coming up with a sentence like that while pottering about on one of his Heath Robinson style contraptions!

        2. Andrew James

          Re: you don't want that do you?

          My Mrs went out and bought one of those "one cup" kettle things. Put your cup under, press button, and it boils and dispenses one cup of boiled water. Takes about 30 seconds or so. She takes a cup up to bed at night with coffee, milk, sugar and spoon in it... then, when she gets out of bed in the morning and heads for the toilet she presses the button. She then comes back to a cup of coffee.

          Its a waste of money in my opinion, but she thinks its the best purchase of all time.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Demon Seed

  6. I think so I am?
    FAIL

    what? why?

    Do people not know that all decent stats since the early 1990 have a built in timer ?

    I go to work at 6:30 so my heating comes on about 6am (if the temp is below 18.5C) so its nice and toasty for me, it then goes off at 7:30am

    Magically it comes back on at 4:30pm (just before I get home at 5pm) and stays on until 10:30pm when I go to bed.

    Whats even more magical is that I can set it up to be different for every day of the week, it also as a summer and winter mode. Also if I'm in the house all day, I can manually boost the heating if its cold.

    People need to learn how to work standard house hold electrical items better, instead of being so completely moronic!!!!!

    1. Rob
      FAIL

      Re: what? why?

      You forgot to add the 'Holiday' mode which most modern systems come with as well.

      We're about to move and one of the costs I have included is a new boiler (current one installed isn't a combi boiler), mainly because of age and I want the fine control of the heating and a modern wireless thermostat.

      There isn't much excuse for not knowing how to work your modern boiler (especially if it's a Bosch) the manuals are so simple and easy to understand, which lets face it, is a rarity nowadays.

      I get the distinct impression BG has put the wolf in a different sheep's clothes as the national roll-out of smart meters has flopped for now.

      1. david bates

        Re: what? why?

        I too have an ancient boiler, with an ancient controller (two on, two off in a 24hr period - thats it). I dont trust Combi boilers as they seem to be very fragile...but thats by the by. The timer is now set to be on 24hrs a day, and plugs into a cheap digital 7-day plug timer. The digital timer switches on and energises the old mechanical timer and the heating system. The digital timer switches off and everything powers down.

        Digital timers are so cheap I even have a second one programmed for winter use and I just swap them over.

      2. JohnG Silver badge

        Re: what? why?

        My heating system (now 5 years old) has a seven day timer, along with Holiday and Party modes. I could also buy an add-on remote control unit, which would allow me to control the heating remotely, in the same way as British Gas are suggesting - it is hardly revolutionary.

        1. Robin

          Re: what? why?

          "My heating system (now 5 years old) has a seven day timer, along with Holiday and Party modes. "

          Any device with a party mode is an instant win.

  7. Crisp

    My heating runs off a 15Kg Butane Cylinder

    If this home automation app can unhook an old can and load up a new one and then fire up the pilot light, then it's well worth the money.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Open networks

    Given how many people leave their wi-fi wide open, fun could be had annoying the neighbours by turning their heating up and down at your whim.

    1. Tom_

      Re: Open networks

      Things certainly don't get much more amusing than imagining your next door neighbour putting a jumper on.

      1. DJ Smiley
        Devil

        Re: Open networks

        When the young innocent 21yr old next door starts stripping her clothes off because "she can't turn that damn heater thing off!" you won't be making such wise quips! ;)

      2. I think so I am?
        Devil

        Re: Open networks

        more fun to be had if next door is hot female - can you say 50C and bikini's

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Open networks

          * BIKINIS

      3. Jediben
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Open networks

        Or indeed, more exciting than taking one off. Am I right lads, ay, ay, ay?!

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Open networks

        she's a babe, my neighbour

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Already got one thanks. Using a Vera 2 Z-Wave system and a Horstmann Z-Wave thermostat.

    Okay, it costs a little more than British Gas's offering, but it does control of anything you can get a control module for.

    I have thermostat valves, room thermostat and motion detectors, I could if I wanted to vary the temp depending on if anyone is in the room.

    You can also remotely monitor security cameras.

    There are similar cheaper systems available in DIY stores using Lightwave-RF made by Siemens. They also do a home hub which can be remotely controlled with a browser or smartphone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You need to get out of the house a little more often mate!

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Exactly the point

      You could, *if you wanted*.

      But you don't, do you?

      I already have all the bits to attach my boiler to the internet as well, but I'm not going to bother.

      I'll might attach the lighting and security systems once I get the firewall appliance for the PVR sorted out.

      Yes, PVR. That is actually the killer home automation application.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: lightwaverf

      or via cron job....

  10. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Stop

    Beware

    I saw an interesting system like this in a local DIY store. Interesting until I looked at how it actually works, that is.

    With the DIY-store system you don't connect to your home-heating controller, you connect to a central website, and all your changes are made there. The home "hub" simply polls that site for updates. If the company ever shuts down the website, or you stop subscribing to it, you're screwed. Reminiscent of the various internet "radio" systems where everything has to be done via the supplier's central server. There's no server inside the 'hub' that you can connect directly to.

    What's the bet that the BGas system is the same?

    1. Steven Roper
      Big Brother

      Re: Beware

      And this was the first thing that crossed my mind when I read the article, although with a different rationale.

      Once again, the REAL reason behind all this remote control, is about taking control of your home, your devices and your life away from you and putting it into the hands of Big Business, while making it seem like a benefit to you.

      Not only can British Gas or whatever company runs your setup now turn it on and off as they like, they also know exactly when you or someone in your house turns it on or off. Like the "smart meters" for electricity supply, it's one more piece of control over, and information about, your doings that they can use to profile you and draw conclusions about who you are and what you like.

      I'm reminded of a passage in Orwell's 1984; something along the lines of the electric power being cut off during daylight hours "as part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week", and how Winston and Julia have a conversation about how the lights in Winston's flat are cut off at 11:30 pm, while it was 11 pm at Julia's hostel. On this, I can see the greenies and other AGW fanatics pushing for a mandatory Earth Hour or something - once these remote-control systems are ubiquitous, they'll push for everyone's lighting and heating to be cut off at certain times to "save the planet" or some similar bullshit.

      And of course the government would be all in favour of doing something like this - though not to save the planet, but simply because, as Orwell so eloquently put it, one man asserts power over another by making him suffer. This endless ongoing deprivation and centralisation of control of our own lives is purely towards this end: We can take it all away if you do something we don't like.

  11. ukgnome
    Trollface

    But what would happen to the wife if I enlisted this product?

  12. SJRulez

    Hmm, how many people are going to get this installed and then get to work and realize the office firewalls\proxies wont let you get to the website.

    1. Arbuthnot Darjeeling

      Hmm, how about

      using internet access on your phone?

      1. SJRulez

        Re: Hmm, how about

        That is a possibility, but for some of us even that isn't.... I work in a data center so no phones allowed.

  13. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    Er, no

    I'll be interested in knowing how one of these things is going to control my woodstoves (there's no gas at Tanuki Towers or anywhere else in the village).

    My suggested Killer App" for home-automation is central door-and-window-locking for the entire house (and the garage and the sheds and the greenhouse).

  14. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Interesting ...

    however, IMHO a better way to save money is not by time divisions, but space divisions (which of course, are much harder to implement). That is you only heat the parts of the house that need it. Although I have noticed you can now get individual radiator 'stats that can be programmed by time, *and* remote controlled.

    1. Pat 11

      Re: Interesting ...

      Yup, this is largely pointless. Individual rad thermostats are cheap and can link to a wireless programmer. This BG system is essentially just a remote on off switch for exceptions, which is a nice idea but realistically, how often would you want it, and if it were successful, soon all the programmers will have a little webserver in.

    2. Mad Mike

      Re: Interesting ...

      Only issue with not heating room is you can get condensation and other unwanted effects. Whilst the temperature can be turned down in some, I'd be careful how far. Seems like standard radiator stats are pretty good for this. I too have seen the ones that can be remotely controlled (by a controller in the house), but they are hugely expensive.

      If you have a house that has more than a single room requiring less heat, I would have thought your house is too big. Maybe a move to a smaller house would be more appropriate.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge

        Re: Interesting ...

        I live in a bungalow, as my wife uses a wheelchair. So we have a very heat-inefficient house - all flat and no heat rising from downstairs to upstairs. But thank you for telling me my house is too big.

        Regarding condensation - well you could simply have a once-a-week programme. Or just a tiny bleed of heat for 1hr a day.

        Once you can control every rad individually, you could probably save some serious dosh.

        1. Mad Mike

          Re: Interesting ...

          @JimmyPage.

          My apologies if I offended, it was not my intent. I simply said that if you have a significant number of rooms you want to permanently keep at a lower temperature (through non-use), then maybe the house is too big. If you're using all your rooms, then this obviously does not apply, but then you wouldn't want to have some turned off would you? If you're not using all your rooms (whether house, bungalow or whatever), then surely my point applies. Given that bungalows are normally smaller (in terms of number of rooms) than houses, surely this is less likely to affect you?

          I also don't see why a bungalow should be a 'very heat-inefficient house'. Yes, some losses are increased, but if well insulated, shouldn't make that much difference. Whilst a bungalow will have more roof area for a given number of rooms, it normally has less wall area, so there is a balance.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Stop

            Re: Interesting ...

            "I also don't see why a bungalow should be a 'very heat-inefficient house'. Yes, some losses are increased, but if well insulated, shouldn't make that much difference. Whilst a bungalow will have more roof area for a given number of rooms, it normally has less wall area, so there is a balance"

            Back to school for some geometry, for you my boy!

            As a "flat" object, a bungalow has a higher ratio of external surface area to accomodation volume. In practical terms the idea standalone house would be a cube (unless you want to live in a sphere), much like my house, by luck not choice, I'd declare. Eco weenies would actually like everybody to live in flats, because the area of external wall area is minimised due to property to property internal boundaries, and thus the heating energy losses are considerably reduced.

          2. FlatSpot
            Pint

            Re: Interesting ...

            Buy a dehumidifier, we have a part solid walled house (old part of the house) and it did the trick to remove the fridge smell from some of the rooms we dont use in winter. Additionally our neighbour has put this product on and reckons it does the business, Wallrock Thermal Liner.

            Also when I replastered the walls and ceiling in the office, I had that bubble wrap with foil on both sides stuff fitted, the room is now 2'c warmer than the other rooms.

            Good Luck

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Interesting ...@JimmyPage

          "Regarding condensation - well you could simply have a once-a-week. Or just a tiny bleed of heat for 1hr a day."

          Nope. Once condensation has formed it is already doing its evil, mildewey damage. If you have a condensation problem and you "burnt" it off once a week, or even once a day, you risk irreparable mould damage to paint, wallpaper and plaster in reasonably short order. That's why bathroom and kitchen paint is formulated differently to normal emulsion, and why those rooms have better, often powered ventilation.

          The condensation comes from the circa 2-4 litres of water per capita that well transpire in 24 hours, plus the additional housing functional evaporation (from baths, showers, gas cookers, boiling saucepans, damp tea towels, wet clothing etc). So what you can't do is stop the water getting into the air of the house. It doesn't sound like you have a problem, but it does regularly occur, I assure you. And when it does your two/three options are:

          1) Keep the air and surface temperatures above the dew point at the humidity in your house. You could measure this, but as the condensation occurs on exernal walls and windows usually it needs to be a simple "keep the heating turned up when its cold outside" decision rather than any science. That's why not heating all rooms can cause a problem, depending on the other factors of ventiliation and humidity levels.

          2) Ventilation. Get the humid air out of the house and replace with dryer external air. That's OK, and opening a window is another not-rocket-science solution. Downside is that you're losing warm air, and having to heat cooler dryer air. I won't bore you with powered ventilation and heat recovery options, you can work the first one out for yourself, and the second a web search will show you to be impracticably expensive for most people.

          3) Humidity control, aka air conditioning. Expensive to buy, expensive to run, but effective.

          In practice we all usually combine elements of 1 and 2, and adjust to avoid condensation. In older houses the high air exchange rates (ie draughts) made condensation less of a problem than cold. In newer houses, with well installed UPVC DG, filled cavities and draught control measures, plus vapour barrier ceilings, condensation is often more of a problem than the heat loss.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting ...

      Maybe a good idea, but remote control rad valves are £60 a pop (possibly plus extra if you pay somebody to fit it, and with a couple of quid each year for batteries). As a notional average a typical room costs about £60 a year for heating if the house meets decent standards of build and insulation (DG, CWI). So how much extra is a sixty quid remote control valve going to save you, compared to a £10 thermostatic valve? My guess is about three quid a year over a TRV, so about 5% of the energy use - and after batteries that's a quid a year saved, so a sixty year payback.

      Also, because each room is within the thermal envelope of the house, reducing the temperature does deliver a net energy saving, but will have a small offset in adjacent rooms if they are thermostatically controlled.

      I can't see remotely controlled rad valves saving many people money, particularly compared to the simpler options of turning the radiator down or off for unsused rooms, or fitting a TRV.

  15. Alfred

    Automatic door locks?

    Leaving aside the insanity of automating a door lock in a house - that if you actually need it unlocked you're going to be standing right there to go through it and thus manual mode seems pretty reasonable - does this mean that I'll be able to unlock someone's front door remotely? That'll make burglary a lot easier, thanks.

    1. Tom 260

      Re: Automatic door locks?

      Remote central locking works fine for cars, and though its a nice idea for a house, the practicality of wiring up existing window locks for power/motorisation would be a bit of stumbling block - and there's modern PVC doors that require the handle to be raised either while locking or before locking to get the locking pins into the door frame.

      However, I do now have a mental image of the house lights flashing 3 times when you lock up...

      1. Wensleydale Cheese

        Re: Automatic door locks?

        "However, I do now have a mental image of the house lights flashing 3 times when you lock up..."

        Nice one!

        Back to the article: "AlertMe's plan is to up-sell those British Gas customers on automatic door locks, smoke alarms and window sensors – all controlled from the hub and via AlertMe's cloud."

        Automatic door locks controlled from the cloud?

        What could posibly go wrong?

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Re: Automatic door locks?

      Why on earth would they faff around with hacking your wifi or the electronics?

      With a little practise you can snap a euro cylinder lock in about 45 seconds to a minute. Other methods include bumping where the pins bounce up and down on their springs until they fall into place.

      Decent locks from Avocet and others fix these problems with snap off front sections and magnetic pins but most locks are stupidly insecure.

      Electric locks have many safeguards. The keypanel can shutdown after a few wrong attempts, the system can notify an attempt to gain entry is in progress and if there's a failure to enter the correct pin the system can ring the alarm, take video or pictures etc.

      Contrast that with a normal lock where a criminal just snaps or picks it and no alarm goes off or camera takes a picture.

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: Automatic door locks?

        Automatic door locks are normally just automated standard locks. I've never seen a decent automated lock and regularly get by several when they've been left locked wrongly. It's hardly rocket science as they're basically identical to non-automated locks, minus the key. The most common type is simply a rim lock and this suffers from all the same flaws as any other rim lock. Normally worse, as the door jamb has a moving metal plate that can be 'played' with.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like a job for Arduino and fifty quid.

    If you want to save on your heating, get an external temperature probe and connect it to the compensation control on your boiler.

    1. Roger Greenwood
      Boffin

      Or . . . .

      a Raspberry Pi project.

    2. Anonymous Coward 15

      But be careful with polling a DS18B20 too often because they self-heat.

  17. BamBam
    Black Helicopters

    Fire sale

    Imagine if the system was set up in such a way that a hacker could turn everyone's heating on at the same time. One step closer to the scenes in Die Hard 4?

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Fire sale

      Haven't seen Die Hard 4 and don't know what you're referring to, but if a hacker one day could turn heating on full blast at unexpected times and parts of the UK, it could have a pretty awful effect on the National Grid.

  18. CaptainHook

    Retrofit

    One might suggest that this is because home automation isn't something people want, but not according to AlertMe.

    ***

    I've always liked the idea of home automation, but I think it's one of those things which really benefits from being installed at build time, rather than retrofitting it to a house will trying not to make it too ugly.

    Sensors can be run wireless with a battery without too much trouble, so you can be notified that a window is open etc, but actuators need wired power to be useful in the long term or a willingness to change a lot of batteries.

    It's new build/renovation where they should be trying to sell automation where the cabling (even if its only Ethernet over power) can be buried into the wall to locations which don't normally get power cables.

    1. Anonymous Coward 15

      Re: Retrofit

      Ethernet over power over ethernet over power over ethernet over power over ethernet over power over ethernet over turtles all the way down.

  19. Andrew Alan McKenzie
    Pint

    Why not/

    Leaving aside the economics, both in terms of the cost and potential saving, I quite like the idea of a nice integrated system - my phone would notice that I've left the office and am heading home, and siri or her freinds would say 'do you want me to turn the heating on?' and I could say 'yes please' or 'no thanks, i'm off to the pub, not back till 11:00' .

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why not/

      And then it could automatically alert the barman to have 2 pints and a packet of nuts ready for you when you arrive.

  20. Harry

    I have a better idea

    I have the heating in the office on a plug with a countdown timer. Cost was about a fiver from somebody on ebay.

    It doesn't come on at all until I arrive in the office, and it stays on for just 30 minutes (but is also on a thermostat, so probably goes off much faster). Thereafter, it only gets turned back on if I'm feeling cold. Which, often, isn't for several hours.

    I have a similar arrangement at home, though in this case its a scheduled 30 minute warmup early in the morning on the coldest part of winter and an hour on demand but only when it feels cold. The heating engineer looked at me most bemused when I insisted on him wiring it in to the circuit, but it does the job a lot better and a lot cheaper than fixed time slots.

  21. Jash
    Facepalm

    And how is this any different to a product that's been doing pretty well in the states for a while: www.nest.com/

    From what I've seen of Nest it more intelligent and learns your patterns - if you work from home one day a week etc?...

    People will pay good money for a gimmick, even more people will pay money for a 'Green/Eco' gadget.. Once you multiply the iFans into the equation you can easily charge £200 for a piece of kit..

    Personally, I like the idea of a systems that can learn the basic patterns of our occupancy, but cant see the return on a £100+ piece of kit that just connects to your wifi for remote connectivity - Especially when any modern house will a programmable thermostat fitted under the new building regs!

  22. Dave, Portsmouth

    I like the idea of it. I very nearly bought some bits to test it and see how I got on. Big limiting factor for me was that most of the systems are either dependent on an always-on PC (or something with a serial port to configure it), or rely on a third party website which you have to just hope doesn't disappear. Then there's all the different standards floating around...

    If someone can make a modern, small low-power box (like a router / Raspberry Pi-style) that acts as the hub and a standard, widely available set of compatible accessories then I'd be there!

    Biggest use: waking up in winter, being cold, turning heating up without getting out of bed ;o)

    1. Wensleydale Cheese
      Thumb Up

      "Biggest use: waking up in winter, being cold, turning heating up without getting out of bed ;o)"

      That gets my vote.

  23. robin penny
    Facepalm

    But will it have a decent GUI?

    Currently lots of people struggle to set their CH Programmer, so if this has a decent GUI it could make the process much easier and thus people would be more likely to update the program as their schedule/routine changes. Big savings to be had I think - I reckon an awful lot of people have their heating on full blast a lot of the time when they are out.

    What is really amazing is that here we are in the 21st century and this is not already commonly available... The technology must have been available for a very long time. Many people still have analog central heating programmers and plumbers still fit them - shock!

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      A thousand times this

      More importantly, will British Gas train their installers on how they work and how to use them?

      The central heating installer I had didn't understand the simple 7-day timer he fitted, telling me a completely different tale to how it actually works.

      What chance do ordinary mortals have?

  24. Tamer Shafik
    WTF?

    Why?

    My heating needs are completely predictable, a 7 day timer is able to take care of them. I have never needed to remember to turn the heating on or off, it just does it automatically.

    I can't think of a single situation where switching my heating over the Internet would be useful.

  25. AlanS
    WTF?

    Would this be the BG who want me to buy a new boiler, thereby saving at least £100 pa on gas, but then they would charge me £135 for its annual service?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a system like this....

    I have a system like this. It cost me no where near US$140. It is a thermostat with a scheduler, and a WiFi connection. (Google for Filtrete Radio Thermostat).

    Yes, a thermostat with a good 7 day scheduler will get you most of the advantages of this system. There are 2 main advantages to having the WiFi enabled thermostat:

    1) Easier programming. It is MUCH easier to set up a good schedule using a REAL user interface (e.g. browser) than the UI in a thermostat.

    2) *IF* you travel, it is nice to be able to set the away setting (minimizing energy usage), and be able to switch it back to normal mode the day before you get home, so that the house isn't [freezing code/boiling hot] when you get home and you spend hours waiting for things to get reasonable. Yes, you *could* just tough it out - but what's fun about that?

    Of course, advantage 2 only happens if you don't have anything else living in the house during the time you are away: no pets, no plants, no SOWMBO.

    And as for the "tied to an external server" - that is done largely to work around the issues of firewalls - if you have your home network firewalled from the Internet, how do you access your thermostat from outside? Yes, you could configure your router to pass the traffic in to the thermostat, set up a dynamic DNS for your network, and use that - IF you are a hard-core networking geek. Granny Fanny? Not so much. So by having the thermostat poll an external server (which will work through most residential firewalls) and by having your app contact that external server (thus giving the app a fixed name to look up) you work around that issue. Would I prefer not to have the external server? Sure - I *am* a networking geek, and could make it work. But if that were the only set of people to whom they could sell this product, they wouldn't sell enough of them to make a profit.

    Then there is the advantage that, IF you set up your physical location, the external server can look up the projected temperature for your location, and can use that to help your thermostat better control what is going on ("let's see - I'm supposed to have the house down to 27C by 17:00, it's currently 35C and 16:00, and it's 42C outside. I'd better start now....", or "I need to warm up to 22C. It's -15C outside - better turn OFF the heat pump and light the burners.")

    1. Ilgaz

      This (and yours) isn't home automation

      An easy benchmark is, does the heater at kitchen turn off when you run oven? Or, does light automatically turn off when there is no activity for certain amount of time?

      Such things can be done very cheap unless you ring the very expensive brands. They are all standard based (look up x10 standard).

      Turning on something remotely is not automation. They are abusing the term.

  27. gaz 7

    What happens when BG or Alertme give up...

    It's all very nice and pretty, and I like the interface - much better than the thermostat I have. It mey be me being too technical, but it has me baffled.

    I hate the thought of being tied into their service. I expected it to be a lot cheaper considering the amount of your data they get their grubby marketing mitts on.

    It's all about finer control for the system, although it is increasingly a case of diminishing returns

    Still trying to persuade the missus to let me fit a Home-easy control to my boiler so I can control it over the web. Especially when she turns the heating on, and I think it looks warm enough and can turn it back off and text her to go and put a bloody jumper on!

    I have one wire temperature sensors in every room, and attached to the heating so I can monitor the performance and check that it is coming on at appropriate times. Oh, and it all runs on a 24/7 server which only uses 4watts of juice,so doesn't cost an arm and a leg to run.

    Should run quite happily on a Pi, and when I get around to it, going to try it out on mine.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Nice!

    I want a remote that'll turn off the cooker when I leave the gas on - web enabled, with a web cam that goes on via a gas sensor and sends me a text.

    How about a remote that allows me to turn the taps off when I leave them on - keep doing that, leave the bath running when I go out - daft!

    Hmmm, maybe a remote for my brain when I forget to think - it sends a reminder "Matt, you fool, you left your brain off again - your house is flooded, your heating is on and the entire property is a ticking gas time bomb!"

    FAIL.

  29. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    They bet wrong!

    title says it all.

  30. Ilgaz

    Vaillant had it for years

    Vaillant has something like that for combination heaters. The issue is, it is expensive and it runs win ce which loses because of brand, I know it has nothing to do with win desktop even server.

    I can't understand British pricing scheme, is this expensive or not?

  31. Blacklight

    s'been done...

    HomeEasy (www.homeeasy.eu) make both an SMS receiver, and an RF remote which can turn a heating remote on/off (either zero voltage or in-series with a thermostat).

    Quite nice to ring/sms the house on the way home and have the lights on, heating on etc ready to get in. They do door openers too, but I don't have them.

    Their parent/sister company does wifi remotes too, but they are not "sideways" compatible, usefully :\

  32. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance
    Mushroom

    Will I....

    ...fuck?

    I had my gas cut off. In the coldest year this country has witnessed for over a hundred years.

    Then they bullied me. The only way they could do that was by saying they would take the meter out.

    Oohhh. I'm afraid. I'm very afraid. Take the fucking meter out.

    Gets letter month later. It 'may' cost money to put a meter back in. I bet it fucking don't if I agree to pay money to you. Whatever.

    A year or two later. I wash my hair in the stream. Actually, I have no hair left. The bit I do, I wash at my mum's.

    I wash my dishes with 4 kettles full of electricity fueled hot water.

    Ironically, I have a gas cooker in my shed. It cost me nearly a ton. A hundred pounds to youse...

    I would like to plug it in and use it and pay you every month for said usage.

    British GAS: Okay, give us nearly five hundred pounds first to prove you are not a filthy gas-stealing thief.

    Me: choking. splutter. what? wtf? you have got to be shitting me?

    Okay, you want to act as a monopoly in a fascist manner? Come and take the fucking meter out. fuck you.

    Saved a fortune. I'm a single man living alone on the autistic spectrum. I don't like fucking washing anyway.

    But I have a nose like a bloodhound. I bet I am cleaner than you. It is amazing what five kettles can do.

    Fuck you British Gas. When I get around to changing, I will, but you are all the same. You stitch us all up.

    I get along.

  33. ntsmkfob

    What about?

    When some bright spark at the server centre starts passing info about the 'holiday' status of users heating systems to mates with crowbars...

  34. Camilla Smythe

    Yay!!!!

    I WAKE UP IN THE MORNING AND BOIL SOME WATER IN THE KETTLE FOR A <FONT+5> MUG OF TEA </FONT>

    WHAT THE FUCK USE IS THIS TO ME AND WHY ARE YOU CLUELESS NIBBLE BOTTOMS TRYING TO IMPOSE IT?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A burglar alarm

    that rang you up when it went off is one thing, being able to hack into my neighbours alarm and switch it off when he's away for the weekend would be lovely

  36. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance
    Windows

    eh Camilla Smythe

    I drink too much.

    But I think you are drinking a bit more.

    Please delete your post or face embarrassment in the morning.

    At least turn the caps off. I am not deaf and I have seen previous posts of yours. You are not an unintelligent person.

    Please do the right thing. The Webley is in the mess room. In the cabinet. You know what you need to do, old boy. Please god, do not let your children see that post in the morning. It will frighten them.

    Btw, do you work for British Gas? Never mind. Doesn't matter. Just delete that post, eh, old chap?

  37. Giles Jones Gold badge

    They charged the former (elderly) owner of my house £4400+ to replace her heating system with a new one (Should have been £2800 tops). They fitted the smallest combi boiler in the range, didn't secure the flue properly and didn't flush the system correctly.

    Luckily for me I had the boiler upgraded and the independent engineers I called out spotted all of these faults.

    Would I buy anything off British Gas? never!

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I do hope

    my kettle doesn't start tweeting before I do

    1. Anonymous Coward 15

      Would anyone like

      any toast?

  39. JaitcH
    Happy

    When I lived in Canada, all Canadians are cold experts, I ...

    made a remote control that simply switched the thermostat into circuit. Most systems have a 40 F minimum built in for anti-freezing purposes and all it required was to switch in the normal thermostat. My switch was activated through the phone line using touch-tone controls.

    Way under $600, too.

    BTW, bill payers, if you have children who seem to be working for British Gas and always are turning the ;stat up high, fit another, concealed, thermostat in series with the regular thermostat so no matter how high they set it, you control the maximum!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This bit tweaked my interest :)

    "AlertMe's plan is to up-sell those British Gas customers on automatic door locks, smoke alarms and window sensors – all controlled from the hub and via AlertMe's cloud"

    A burgler system that can be remotely disabled from the 'cloud`, what could be more safe than that :)

  41. -tim
    WTF?

    Proper home automation would be your GPS figuring out that you're heading home and telling your heater to crank up only if its cold outside and increase a degree or two if its wet and humid.

  42. MRC1980
    Unhappy

    Home Automation

    PAH! I have economy 7 heating. It has a switch in the airing cupboard for the hot water and a switch next to a storage heater [which you can't actually use correctly as it only has one rate on it]

    If I want hot water I have to push the switch and about an hour later I will have enough for a shower. I also have to remember to turn it off before I leave to avoid paying more.

    For heating I have to turn the heater on a day before It gets cold and hope it won't get any warmer.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why does BG solution use batteries?

    The BG solution seems dumb. The BG solution needs batteries for the new thermostat, and for the boiler receiver. Hurray: more things with batteries in, to need replacing.

    I already have a thermostat with mains power, that talks to the boiler, and I have a wireless router. Why don't BG offer a mains-powered replacement thermostat that'll talk wirelessly to my mains powered router?

    That'd be less grief to install, and probably cheaper. Haven't they heard about "making it easy for customers to purchase"?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why does BG solution use batteries?

      Not less grief to install. Not all thermostats have 240V supplies, and so to design a solution that requires a 240V supply may well involve new cable runs behind finished walls. Also, even if 240V powered, the stat needs power to hold the memory settings through a power cut (unless you're going to redesign a more expensive EEPROM solution).

      Either way, a few AA batteries that last for one to two years aren't a big deal (unless you need forty of the things).

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