Earth Notes: Smart Radiator Valves Video

1014s "20201112 EcoHomeLab talk on smart thermostatic radiator valves TRVs [VIDEO]" (poster) (captions) Uploaded . Downloads:

product is Radbot and this thing is technically


Radbot 2R, so it's Radbot 2 with a radio in it.


I'm Damon Hart-Davis, right, here we go.


So tell them what you're gonna tell them.


What problem is Radbot trying to solve?


What's our solution?


A little bit of history, where are we now?


And there's a bit of alphabet soup there.


How does it work?


Don't worry, I won't wait right until then to tell you,


but I'll try and make sure I'm in a position


to answer a question.


And some secrets for devs and the more techy of you in here


who'd like to tinker.


Okay, so what is the problem?


The problem that we're trying to fix is climate change.


It's actually written into the articles


and memoranda of Vestemi, that its job is to help


ameliorate climate change and we're doing it


through space heating.


So you're probably all aware of these facts,


but to reiterate, carbon emissions contribute


In the UK, over 10%, I mean, I used to think it was 20%


and I saw government as just quoting a number back at me,


but I think it's about 10% of all carbon emissions


are from domestic space heating.


So not water, you know, in the home, not offices,


not cooking, domestic space heating.


And the scary thing is that maybe half of that


in to cut entire carbon emissions that we could just do


without and be no colder.


And one huge source of that waste is heating empty rooms,


e.g. your bedrooms during the day.


You sit downstairs in the lounge or whatever,


and you only need them warm when you go to bed,


And, you know, another problem we're trying to fix


is that people do come out with technical solutions,


but absurdly technical that need wifi and broadband


and Bluetooth and I don't know.


One of the systems I tried out, programmable radiator valve,


I found too bloody complicated to use.


And I have a master's degree in theoretical computer science


which convinced me there needed to be a simpler solution.


So one of the early things in Open TRV's existence


was winning a prize at a thing run by British Gas,


which preceded Hive, their connected homes thing.


And it was noted that all the winners


weren't actually connected.


So we're kind of IoT without the eye,


but we can do the eye and I'll show you some of that later.


So what's the solution?


So Red Bot attempts to make it all easy,


solve all your problems, having to lift a finger


by soft zoning.


So a number of you have mentioned


that you have multiple zones in your house.


So it's not as it used to be,


sort of when the arc was being launched,


that is either all gets hot or it doesn't all get hot


or even worse, you have to balance it


'cause some bits overheat and some bits never get warm enough.


Treat every occupied space as its own zone


for heating control


and do it without having actual pipes and valves to do it,


but do it with soft zoning.


And that's what Red Bot does.


Now, some of you've been coalescing multiple radiators


in a single room to make a zone, each Red Bot acts by itself.


So each radiator really is the zone,


but not vast quantity of rooms actually have two radiators.


And anyway, Red Bot's quite happy


to control those two radiators separately.


So what's it all about?


How do you save energy?


Well, set back the temperature when the room is vacant


and likely to be for a while,


set it back further when you're even more sure,


and on the other hand, start preheating the room


when you're predicting occupancy.


So hopefully you never walk into a cold room,


but do not require anyone to do any programming


or connectivity or pay attention, blah, blah, blah, blah.


people don't know how to do it, don't do it very well,


patterns change and they forget how to do the programming.


It's a nuisance to program and it doesn't work very well.


And there's reasonable evidence anyway


on requiring your attention persist much better,


maybe up to the life of the device rather than


maybe one to four years otherwise.


So Radbot's magic is, I do love it when people ask me


in a pitch or something and say,


so how does it work?


And I say magic with a completely straight face.


Mainly light, there are other things going on as well,


but stuff like when you flick on the light


or draw your coat and the robot knows you're there,


when it's pitch black and always is at that time,


it can be pretty sure you're either not there or asleep


and don't need the heat cranked up,


but it also detects your use of controls.


And there's other things in development


right at this moment.


And then that setback size, well, we risk weight it.


The more sure we are, you're not in the room,


the further we allow the temperature setback.


And in the middle of the night, when we're pretty sure


that you don't need the heat,


we set it back as much as six degrees,


which in principle would be a 60% energy saving


to a rule of thumb.


One degree setback for its duration is about 10%


of the heat requirement for that duration.


Brief history, oh, go back to 2009 or something,


David McKay was writing Sustainable Energy


Without the Hot Air.


And we were talking about all sorts of things


from solar panels onwards.


And that's a tiny credit to me,


somewhere in the depths of the book.


When he got to DEC, he claimed he wrote himself


the chief scientist role at DEC by writing that book.


And we continue chatting about what was likely


to be the best carbon bang for the buck.


What should we do?


I was very keen to do something.


And we decided probably domestic space heating


was really ripe for improvement.


People do it really badly.


Less than half the systems in England, for example,


would meet current building regs.


They wouldn't be allowed to be built.


And those are pretty poor regs.


He invited me to organize a meeting.


He invited me to lead a meeting at the end of 2012


about home heating, including zoning.


The great and the good were there, academics


and people from BRE and so on.


We all agreed that zoning was good


and probably some other things as well.


So, and some chat from one of the big companies said,


oh, and I'll send you all our kit, which does it.


Well, nothing happened.


And the government didn't do anything.


I kind of sent a snippy email in January saying,


well, what have you done?


It's been months.


You haven't done anything.


And they said, we're government.


We don't do anything in a hurry.


So in 2013, I started the open CRV open source project,


which is still there.


And we'll talk about it in a minute.


And in about 2014, created the company.


And about 2018 got some really good investors on board.


And we changed the name of the company


to one that wouldn't frighten utilities and thus Vestemi.


And we're commercializing it


because it's no good being a boutique tinkerer.


There's more than a billion rads,


which should benefit from a rad bot.


And we're not going to get there by tinkering.


We need some real commercial oomph there.


We've done testing.


So Energy House, I don't know if any of you saw Energy House 2


was launched today, which is rather good


where they've got Energy House 1.


They've got a whole Victorian end of terrace inside a lab.


So we tested in there.


So we're about 25% energy savings.


And we just completed two years of trials


with Bays and Off-Gem money in real houses,


more than 100 real houses.


And we've done other testing, qualitative testing.


And yes, it works.


We're pretty sure it actually works.


It's not a figment of my imagination as the inventor.


We're still arguing about how much it works


because it's really difficult to measure.


But we've got good numbers and our target is up to 30%.


So what are we doing now?


Sales, sales, sales.


Every rad bot can save as much as a tenth


of a ton of carbon per year from its rad.


And there's quite good--


oh, I've got a missing bracket there--


in a few hundred bytes of code on an AVR.


So that's what it looks like.


You don't have to keep your finger on the rad bot.


You are allowed to walk away.


But that's the boost button on top, if you see.


And I press it to close nice and red.


Otherwise, it's just like a normal TRV.


You set the temperature you want on the dial.


And rad bot, when you're in the room,


will do its standards to make sure that is the temperature.


Clearly, it can't work miracles if your boiler isn't on or




But it will do its standards.


Rad bot will also, with a boiler controller,


but it's not the way we're selling it,


any rad bot can call for heat.


And so if you do that boost, it will turn the boiler on for you.


So some alphabets, alphabets spaghetti,


SAP, GHD, ECo3, alphabet soup.


So where would we be without TLAs and ETLAs?


And for those who don't know, three letter acronyms and


extended three letter acronyms.


So we've had some pretty industry awards,


like the one down in bottom right,


which I seem to only got a monochrome version of.


It was shiny, the original one.


But the important thing was that at the very end of September,


we went into the SAP tables.


SAP is the standard assessment procedure,


which, for example, drives your energy performance


certificate for your house.


And you need to get on that to go into all sorts of programs.


And for example, now people can pay for rad bots under the green


homes grant as a secondary measure.


And the thing that we're currently pending is all our


stuff is sitting with off gem to go and spot up on their fingers


and toes and see if they will accredit us for the ECo3




So how does it work?


Well, I told you magic already, but maybe you won't believe me.


It's just like a mechanical TRV for the normal human beings we


want to use it.


If we're going to get anything like a billion of them in,


it can't be too fancy.


So it's just like a mechanical TRV.


And like a more normal mechanical TRV,


one of its jobs is to stop overheating.


And it quite took me by surprise to put one of our case studies,


someone was in quite a new house, only six years old,


which I assumed Radbot wouldn't be able to do much for.


But they said that downstairs was always too hot,


whatever they set their TRVs to.


And upstairs was so cold that they


had to run an electric heater.


Well, they put TR of Radbots in, and it stopped both problems


because it's presumably the one downstairs


was close to their boiler.


And Radbots really quite forceful about turning the Rad off


when it wants to be.


And it let more heat go upstairs when they wanted it.


So fabs, so it can stop overheating as well as


the other.


It's got the boost button.


Big problem that used to annoy me as I'm still school resources


governor is come to pick my kids up on a cold winter's evening


and see all the windows open because they're


being a bit cold in the morning, turned everything up to max,


forgotten, massively overheated, and they


have to turn everything off, all the windows.


So you press the boost button.


It basically raises the temperature threshold


for 10 degrees for half an hour and then goes back


to where it was before, so you don't need to remember.


Radbot is driven by occupancy and vacancy detection,


including some optimum on, optimum off,


a mixture of live detection and prediction.


So it's got a kind of rolling seven day memory


of various things like occupancy level, temperature, and so on.


It's got multiple sensors, light, temperature,


which it needs to regulate the room temperature, obviously,




So we do some things to reduce condensation risk


and use of controls.


Outputs, it's got motor valve controls.


There's a little motor which drives the pin up and down.


And some haptics, I can do the equivalent of your phone


vibrating to tell you something's going on.


There's an LED at the top, and there's a radio.


We are probably going to do a cheap one


to get costs down with no radio fitted,


but nonetheless, it is happy to send properly


encrypted stats frames in JSON across the radio, which


will get across a typical house, cheap radio.


And there's some patent pending cleverness too.


We are galloping towards an expedited patent


of our first patent, which means it'll land in a year, we hope,


and four other ones as well.


So I'd have to kill you all if I tell you about some


of the stuff that's pending.


But lots of it is to do with making lots and lots of value


out of the cheap sensors in here.


These are not fabulously expensive,


highly calibrated sensors, but we can do a lot with them.


And so for example, when we use lighting to detect occupants,


we're doing all sorts of things.


We're doing edge detection.


We're looking at how much it wobbles.


We're looking at level detection.


We look at what typical things are by hour of day and so on.


Anyway, on savings in Energy House,


which is this Victorian end of terrace inside a lab,


we were seeing, for example, 60% savings of energy


in the bedrooms, 25% for the whole house.


We think realistic is 30% for houses for which it's suited.


So if you're in a tiny one bedroom studio or studio flat,


which is modern and well insulated,


Redpot isn't going to help you much.


It wouldn't in a passive house either,


because zoning won't have much effect.


But if you're in a big old draughty house which


loses heat like the clappers, yes, Redpot is your friend.


OK, some secrets for you.


Now, you can tell me again if I could show you this again


after we come off.


I'm hoping you can see.


I've just taken the lid off of Redpot,


and you won't be able to see it.


But inside the cap is a little row


of pads there, which includes power and serial.


So if you look at the Open TRV documentation,


you'll see that there's a documented 4800 board 8N1


serial interface with a CLI on it, which means you can do


things like set the key and the ID


and do some other bits and pieces.


And any stats, as provided you've got the key.


know the IDs, the existing open TRV stats hub and boiler controller received stats,


and there is a little graph courtesy of new plot of occupancy from all the sensors, all


radiative valves in my house a bit of last month. And if you look carefully, you can


probably see the difference. I think that's a weekend first one, the kids in and the kids


not in and different patterns of usage during the day, of course, under lockdown, a bit


more occupancy that would otherwise be the case. So a summary, it's been an overnight


success that took eight years. We've got we receiving accreditations, we've won some awards,


we've got 1000 devices still in stock, we're hoping to make, well, 10s of 1000s, if not


100,000 next year, we're ready for the green homes grant and eco three, or eco three sorry,


is the energy company obligation. Third round of the program where the government pays to


put improve the energy performance of the homes of people who are fuel poor or vulnerable.


About a quarter of the population is eligible for that. Our aim is save mega tons of co2


affordably and simply, we also aim to reduce fuel poverty to put up that horrible eating


versus heating dilemma for some people. And we want to go on supporting tinkering in a


way that doesn't terrify our investors. So there are some links for you the product has


its own page There was a count Radbot if you go and search for Radbot in


Wikipedia. Vestemi is the company. And if you want to go and look at the open TRV reference


code which still exists the open source stuff that's in GitHub. And there's also a wiki


on there. And if you want to drop me an email, there's my email address.


Slide Text Content


  • What problem is being solved?
  • What is the solution? Does it work? What about the rest?
  • Some history
  • Where we are now: SAP, GHG, ECO3
  • How does it work?
  • Secrets for developers

Problem: climate change, space heating

  • Carbon emissions contribute to climate change
  • In UK ~10%+ of all carbon emissions from domestic space heating
  • Maybe 50% of that is unnecessary
  • One huge source of waste: heating empty rooms, eg bedrooms during day
  • Another: complex / expensive controls that fox users
  • Not everyone has reliable always-on Internet

Solution: soft zoning, Radbot

  • Treat each room/rad/TRV as a soft heating 'zone'
  • Set back temperature when vacant and likely to be so for next hour or so
  • Set back further when more sure, preheat when occupancy predicted
  • DON'T require programming or connectivity or attention
  • (Reasonable evidence that autonomous measures persist better)
  • Occupancy detection is driven by light (in various ways), use of controls and other things (development continues).
  • Size of temperature setback is risk-weighted.

Brief history

  • ~2009 David MacKay discussions re SEWTHA
  • At DECC, what was best carbon bang for buck?
  • Late 2012 meeting, home heating including zoning good
  • 2013 OpenTRV project
  • 2018 Vestemi commercialisation to try to reach >>1bn radiators!
  • Tests (Energy House) and trials (ROWR and ECO): yes, it works


  • Sales, sales, sales (every Radbot can save ~0.1tCO2/y)
  • Cost reduction, continuous improvement (h/w and data science)

SAP, GHG, ECO3: alphabet soup!

  • Where would we be without TLAs and ETLAs? B^>
  • Industry awards and key accreditation… SAP
  • Standard Assessment Procedure for home Energy Performance Certificate
  • SAP score allows use under Green Homes Grant
  • Coming: Energy Company Obligation deemed scores for ECO3 programme

How does it work?

  • Just like a mechanical TRV, simple display, dial clicks
  • Plus boost button!
  • Occupancy/vacancy detection
  • Prediction and 'usual at this time' 7-day-ish memory
  • Sensors: light, temperature, humidity, use of controls
  • Outputs: motor valve control (+haptics!), LED, radio
  • Some patent-pending cleverness too...
  • 60% savings in bedrooms, up to 30% realistic in suitable homes

Some secrets for developers and tinkerers!

  • Radbot 2 exposes serial connection (4800 baud, 8n1) for CLI
  • Key and ID can be set via the CLI (Command Line Interface)
  • JSON stats receivable by OpenTRV stats hub and boiler controller


  • 8 years in the making: in stock!
  • Ready for Green Homes Grant and ECO3
  • Aim is to save megatonnes of CO2, affordably and simply
  • Also aim to help reduce fuel poverty
  • Supports tinkering

Get in touch, buy Radbots, cut carbon!

  • Damon Hart-Davis

Show Notes

My presentation (~17 minutes) brutally extracted from the live EcoHome Lab Zoom meeting video of the larger smart radiator valves meeting (thanks Matt of Carbon Co-op!) without top or tail.

It was a good evening with some familiar faces, about 16 people present, from around the UK.

(The covid-19 pandemic lockdown was a thing...)

Download PDF slides for the talk.

Locally-recorded audio:

1039s "EcoHomeLab talk local audio" Uploaded . Downloads:


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