Categories
Environment How To Guides

How to be a little greener

We all leave a footprint on the world, just by being alive we contribute to environmental degradation. No matter what you do, you can’t eliminate your effect (offset it maybe) on the world, but you can minimise it.

In this article I am going to look at some very simple things you can do to reduce the impact you have on the planet, making you a greener individual.

Water Usage

The amount of water we use has a big impact on the environment, as well as other people. Last April I posted an article which asked you to question your usage of water. I have included a brief summary of the article

Of all the water on earth, just 0.007% is drinkable, and whilst our usage of water and the number of people on earth are both rapidly growing, water supplies aren’t. Drought is a real issue in many areas of the world and one in nine people don’t have access to safe drinking water.

Rainwater storage tank
Wall mounted water butts are becoming more popular – a great way to collect and store rainwater.

Excessive use (and arguably wastage) of water via things like regular use of hose pipes and using water hungry appliances (like washing machines) when they have spare capacity, can easily be reduced, and can significantly decrease our water usage.

In the comments, there was some great feedback. Jonny suggested using a water butt to collect rainwater to water your garden, saying “it is really shocking to think that many people use drinking water to keep the lawn green“. Shane told us how he plays 5 minute songs when having a shower, so he know when it’s time to get out, and Jean noted how he tries to fix leaks as soon as he finds them, as they are a massive waste of water – and money!

Buy Local

Another step you can take which will reduce your carbon footprint is choosing local. In 2009, I wrote an article on the technology behind food, discussing the journey food takes, and the impact it has on the planet, getting it to our table. Although the figures might have slightly changed, the concept behind the article is still the same: buying local produce significantly reduces your carbon footprint.

Local doesn’t even have to mean that close. Ideally, within 20 miles of the shop you buy is the best sort of ‘local’, however even food that has been grown within 200 miles is much better than food that has been flown across the globe.

Local food not only promotes energy conservation, but it also supports local farmers. Farm shops are a really good place you can get local food, why not check out BigBarn, a site designed to help you find where you can get locally produced food.

Farmers shop
Farm shops are a great place to source local food.

Reuse, Repair and Recycle Technology

It is important to use technology to its full potential, and to keep using it until it is no longer viable. Once something stops working, or is no longer able to fulfil your needs, whenever possible, repair or upgrade it. If your PC is starting to run a little sluggish, try to speed it up again (maybe visit my speed up your computer article) add some more RAM, upgrade the graphics card, and consider increasing the storage capacity.

As Jonny wrote last year, electronic waste is a real problem, computer components can be hard to recycle, and are often toxic. Therefore it is important to try to reduce electronic waste, and when it does occur, ensure it is disposed or/recycled properly.

If you have reused and repaired a device as much as possible, the next step is recycling. Recycling electronic waste is a growing industry, computer recycling and schemes which enable you to recycle mobile phones, so your technology is either properly recycled, or repaired and reused, either resold locally, or distributed to developing countries are becoming ever more common. Many firms (like the one I link to above) are even paying you for your old technology – reduce your ecological footprint, and get paid, what more could you ask for!

Save Energy

There seems to be a growing resistance to nuclear power, fossil fuels are running out and this matched with the lack of investment in renewables, is leading us to a global energy crisis. Every individual can make a difference, by reducing their consumption.

Electrical energyTurning off devices instead of leaving them on standby, switching to energy bulbs, and insulate your home and relatively simple and cheap ways to save energy, which we have probably all heard many times. Steps which involve using smarter technologies, such as getting Remote Heating Control installed and choosing smarter energy using devices are also good ways to save power, and are now also becoming more common.

In Summary

Four of the best ways you can reduce your environment impact are to: be more frugal with water; try and buy local produce; maintain technology for as long as possible, and then recycle it; and reducing your energy usage.

Feel free to critique any of my points, and by all means, suggest your own ideas below.

Categories
Gadgets Technology

The Gadget Show Live 2013

The Gadget Show's 'G' logo at The Gadget Show LiveOn Sunday the 7th of April, I went to the Gadget Show Live at the NEC in Birmingham. It was a really great day, and I want to share the experience with you, I just haven’t had time to finish this post!

First of all I must give thanks to British Gas, who were very kind to give me tickets to the sold out event. As you may know, thanks to a collaboration between Technology Bloggers and British Gas, I have been able to step into the future of smarter living, and experience how technology has the potential to improve our lives. The technology I tested was of course their Remote Heating Control system, and I got to try it a few months before the national roll-out; I reported my findings via a series, which British Gas later posted on their website.

The day was very good fun, and I live tweeted from the event – take a look at our Twitter account and you can find some of the Tweets.

There was a lot of technology on show, some of which was cutting edge stuff, just being brought to the market.

Super Show

I had tickets to the ‘super show’ which was an event in which the three presenters of the Gadget Show: Jason Bradbury, Pollyanna Woodward and Jon Bentley, showcased exciting gadgets, offering various prizes to members of the audience. The show was good, however it did feel slightly commercialised, as pretty much every third word was plugging a product!

Smarter Living

After the show, the first stand (there were hundreds!) I visited was the British Gas stand. They had been kind enough to send me to the event, so I thought it only fair to pay them a visit!

They had designed their stand to look like a home, and had equipped it with all the very latest smarter living technology. Their Safe and Secure security system, Remote Heating Control and smart meters were all on show. It was very well designed and the complimentary Stuff magazine was appreciated!

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Microsoft

A tweet I posted about the Gadget Show, had attracted the attention of the team at Microsoft Windows UK, and they invited me to check out their stand, and to use their bloggers lounge.

As the main sponsor of the event, Microsoft got a pretty big stand – making it hard to miss!

Microsoft's stand at The Gadget Show Live 2013On their stand, Microsoft were showcasing many of their different software and technologies, including IE 10, Windows 8, Windows Phone, Surface, Bing, 3D scanning software and a real time, 3D webcam!

There was quite a lot on display, and the amount of technology was quite impressive, that said, as the event was so busy, they needed it all, as their stand was quite crowded at times.

I got talking to the person manning the 3D printing section, and was then offered (as a blogger) to go to the bloggers lounge. There I met some great guys from the technology giant, including the faces of @IE_UK and @WindowsUK, and the Senior Product Manager for Windows at Microsoft UK. I was given a tour of Surface and IE 10, and got to test them out for myself. I was quite impressed.

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I love Windows 7 and don’t have any problems with it, so I have never really thought about upgrading to Windows 8, however having been given a Windows 8 license, I am going to test it – expect more soon!

AQUAdue Loo

There was some really innovative technology on show this year. One example was AQUAdue‘s toilet system, when you need to flush, a tap which runs into a basin on top of the loo, starts to run. Use this to wash your hands, and it fills up the toilet for the next flush. What a great idea to save water and space!

AQUAdue toilet system

3D Printing

TARDIS 3D printout
3D printed TARDIS cufflinks.

The 3D printer Microsoft were using on their stand was an Up! 3D Printer. On another stand there was a firm called Denford Ltd there, who were showcasing the capabilities of a 3D printer. Probably the best giveaway I got from the event were some 3D printed TARDIS cuff links – as a techie, and a Doctor Who fan what better freebie could you get?

The technology has been around for a few years now, however it’s now starting to become mass market. Fancy a 3D printer? Well they aren’t as expensive as you might think, here’s a link to somewhere you can buy an Up! Mini 3D printer for less than £1200!

3D printed objects
An Up! 3D printer and some printed objects, included a printed TARDIS, castle and Yoda.

Microsoft were also using the Up! 3D printer to showcase their 3D scanning technology. You could get your head scanned, and then a miniature version printed out, right there and then – how cool is that! Gadget Show presenter Jason Bradbury seems to think so too, as he went to get his head scanned and printed! Take a look below.

Gadget Show's Jason gets a 3D printout of his head
The Gadget Show’s Jason Bradbury gets a 3D scan and print out of his head.

Too Much!

It was a really great day, and there was far too much there for me to talk about it all. Some of the best bits I have mentioned above, there’s loads more that I haven’t mentioned, mainly because I don’t want to run too far over 900 words – people tend to switch off after that!

I think from the number of tweets and images in this post, you can see that there was a lot going on 🙂

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Categories
Competitions Gadgets Technology

Win a Solar Go Go Car to celebrate The Future Car Challenge

Petrol cars have no future. That is a fact, in 50 years time there will be no crude oil left on planet earth (assuming current consumption rates don’t decrease) therefore there will be no oil left to make petroleum or diesel.

Biofuel, hydrogen, LPG and electric cars are the future, there is no doubt about that. Right now there are many hybrid cars which use petrol with another power source, but in the future, petrol from natural oil will be no more.

There are of course other ways you can power cars, using compressed air is one method as is water-cell technology. These are not however currently concepts in mass production. If you follow those two links, you will find posts written by Jonny on the concepts mentioned.

Arguably the greenest option for the future is electric cars. The electricity used to power the cars can be generate from renewable sources, (it isn’t necessarily, but that is an option) and electricity from renewables is a lot less damaging to the planet than energy generated from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels – be it in on the micro scale inside an engine of a car, or on a macro scale in a network of power stations.

Electric cars are starting to look more and more normal, (in the past some have looked somewhat abstract!) and are becoming more efficient every year.

The Future Car Challenge

This year, British Gas (the company who installed Remote Heating Control in my home) became an official partner of The Future Car Challenge. The Future Car Challenge is an annual event, which showcases the latest developments in the electric car industry. This year, members from the British Gas team drove fro Brighton up to London, with the aim of using the least amount of energy as possible, using the latest electric cars. The team included comedian Robert Llewellyn, Ben Collins, (A.K.A. ‘The Stig’), and Commonwealth gold medal swimmer Ross Davenport.

The Future Car Challenge Ross Davenport
Ross Davenport playing his part in the British Gas Future Car Challenge

British Gas are setting up a national charging network, to help increase the viability of electric cars. A charging network is as vital to electric cars as service stations are to petrol and diesel cars. Some electric cars do have the ability to transfer energy generate from breaking into electricity, (as seem in Formula 1 cars) however this alone isn’t enough to power them, so electric recharge points are essential.

Here is a statement from British Gas on their involvement with electric cars:

The Future Car Challenge Robert Llewellyn
Robert Llewellyn taking part in the Brighton to London Future Car Challenge

“British Gas is dedicated to making the world a more sustainable place now and in the future. We are leading the way in providing expertise and charging solutions in the Electric Vehicle market through partnering with Nissan, Renault, Hitachi Capital, Toyota and Vauxhall.

British Gas’ dedicated charging solutions are safer, convenient and more compatible than plugging electric vehicles directly into the mains supply socket at home. Not only do we offer charging solutions that can cut charging times by around a third, but British Gas also offers its customers specially designed tariffs to help them charge for less.”

For more information on The Future Car Challenge, check out this article on British Gas’s blog. The article also has an embedded video of the event.

The Giveaway

To celebrate the event, we have five solar power car sets to giveaway, courtesy of British Gas!

The prize is a John Lewis Solar Go Go Car, (click the link for more info) a cool kit from which you can build your own solar powered car! Okay it isn’t quite as good as an electric car, but it looks great fun, and could make a fantastic Christmas present…

John Lewis Solar Powered Car KitThe giveaway will run for 8 days, from today until the end of next Wednesday (12.00am on Thursday the 13th).

The prizes will be sent out by British Gas to the UK only, so if you don’t live in the UK I am afraid you can’t enter. If you have an address in the UK you can get the prize sent to if you win, you are in!

How To Enter

It is really easy to enter the competition, all you need to do is enter an email address we can contact you on (if you win) in the Rafflecopter widget below. If you like the blog on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or are subscribed to our feed via email, then you can gain some extra entries.

Want a Solar Go Go Car kit? Enter below!

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Winners will be emailed on Thursday the 13th to let them know that they have won, and will be announced on the blog shortly after.

Good luck everyone!

Categories
Series Technology

My experience of smarter living

This is the conclusion to a series of articles in which I explored Remote Heating Control – a technology of the future. Learn more about this series by reading the introductory article, called stepping into the future of smarter living.

Three months ago, I wrote an article in which I told you how British Gas had approached Technology Bloggers and asked if I would like to have Remote Heating Control technology installed for free, to test the technology as part of their don’t take our word for it (DTOWFI) campaign. Remote Heating Control is a technology of the future, and therefore they wanted reputable bloggers to test it out and give their honest feedback in order to help people (consumers) understand the pros and cons of getting the technology, and just generally what it is like to live with an intelligent (or smart) heating system.

Now my part in the DTOWFI campaign is coming to an end – this is the final article in my series. In this article I am going to summarise my journey with the technology, highlight the advantages and disadvantages and give you my honest feedback as to my experience of Remote Heating Control.

I hope that home-owners (potentially you) will be able to use this series to evaluate whether they feel they would benefit from installing Remote Heating Control.

Installation – The Start Of The Journey

My journey with Remote Heating Control started on Thursday the 16th of August, when a British Gas engineer called Nick came to my house and set up the hardware I would need to run the technology.

British Gas remote heating control
My British Gas smart linked thermostat

First Nick installed a wireless receiver near to my boiler. Then he removed my old thermostat and replaced it with a band new LED display, smart linked thermostat. Finally Nick installed a wireless hub which I plugged into my internet router. These three devices now communicate with each other and between them and the myHome internet portal, determine what my boiler should be doing. Clever huh?

For more info on the installation, check out my article on: how is Remote Heating Control technology installed?

First Impressions

In the next article I discussed what my first impressions of Remote Heating Control were. I explored the myHome online interface, from which I was able to control my heating online. Once I had my login credentials, it was easy to login and navigate around the site.

I was impressed with the amount of data and functions that are available to me. For example, I can see what the temperature has been in my house over the last 24 hours, or the last week, or even month. I am also able to see a weather summary, letting me know what the temperature has been like outside recently, and what to expect in the near future.

At the time of writing article three, I was yet to use the technology on a daily basis, as it was mid-September and still relatively warm.

Setting Up A Heating Schedule

Two weeks later (early October) I published my next article, in which I let you know how I found setting up a schedule for my heating. In summary, it was really easy, I just had to choose what temperatures I wanted my house to be and when, and then drag some sliders accordingly to make a rather complex, but easy to understand, schedule.

Remote Heating Control Schedule - Advanced
My heating schedule

My heating is now designed to fit around my daily variations in lifestyle. I get up later of a weekend, so my heating doesn’t come on until later. I go to bed later on Friday and Saturday, so my heating keeps my house warmer for longer. Instead of me having to adjust my heating to my daily life, my heating now knows what to do and when – meaning little need for interference from me. Check out the article for more on setting up a remote heating schedule.

Daily Changes

From mid-October, I was using my heating on a daily basis, however unlike last year, I wasn’t turning it on and off daily, or controlling it via the thermostat. My heating was doing all the hard work for me, turning itself on just before I woke up/got home, and turning itself off when I went to bed/left the house.

But what happened when my life didn’t fit perfectly around my heating schedule? Say I knew I was going to be home 20 minutes early, would I have to come home to a cold house? No I wouldn’t, thanks to the myHome smartphone app! It was really easy to download and install, and after logging in with my normal username and password, I was able to instantly adjust my heating. Quite literally I could change the temperature to 18°C and in the 10 minutes it took me to get home, my house would have warmed up.

I have found that there is nothing wrong with using my smart linked thermostat (my houses internal thermostat) to control my heating, it works very well in fact, however I just don’t seem to be using it. My heating schedule seems to be regulating things rather well for me, and when I want a change making, a quick alteration on the app, or a text is often much faster and easier.

For more on my views of what the technology is like to use, check out the: using Remote Heating Control on a daily basis article? The article also contains more information about the myHome online portal, what can be found there, what you can control etc.

A Scenario

I recently had the thought, what if I were to go on holiday? My heating is set to a schedule, which I would have to change. I wouldn’t want to have to change the schedule just for my holiday and then reset all the temperatures and time periods when I got home. Well I wouldn’t have to.

All I would need do is login to the myHome app and set my heating to ‘OFF’. It is usually programmed to ‘Auto’ which means stick to the schedule, but were I to set it to ‘OFF’ then it would just lie dormant. When I get back, on my way home, a quick SMS of ‘HEAT AUTO’ or just setting the heating to a specific temperature via smartphone or text message would get my house lovely and warm for my return. It seems that there isn’t much that this technology can’t handle!

Basically if there is going to be a disruption to your ordinary daily life, and you don’t want your heating to be wasting money on unnecessary heating, you can effectively stop the schedule. Likewise if you want your home to be hotter than it is you can override the schedule for that period.

The Money

One of the key factors in the technology for me is the money. I want to be green and save gas, whilst at the same time use the technology to help me save money. So, do I think that Remote Heating Control will save me money?

I haven’t any bills to compare yet, and the weather does vary year on year anyway, so it is hard for me to tell, but from what I have seen so far, my honest answer is yes, I think that the system will save me money.

The way I have programmed my system, it stops my house from getting really cold when I am not there, so it should take less gas to warm it up when I get home. Also the fact that I can instantly change the temperature via the internet, or my phone mean that if I am out of the house, I am still in control, whereas before I couldn’t be. Therefore any mistakes I make – like leaving the heating on when I am going out – I can fix before my boiler burns away my money heating an empty house.

To Conclude

I am really pleased that British Gas asked me to become a part of the DTOWFI campaign, as it has not only given me an insight into the future of smarter living, which I have been able to share with you, but also an amazing system which I now use to control my heating with.

I would personally recommend the technology, as I feel it has the potential to save me a lot of money, whilst helping me limit my environmental impact, at the same time as letting me live slightly more comfortable.

Thank you very much for following the series, I hope it has been interesting and educational. I also hope it has been useful to people who are considering getting a Remote Heating Control system.

I would also like to say thank you for all the comments I have received on the articles during the course of the series. I am more than happy to answer questions and give my opinions, just ask anything you may have either on the relevant post, or below.

My final thank you goes to British Gas for letting me test out a technology of the future.

… and that’s the end of my second series! 🙂

Categories
Series Technology

Day to day use of my Remote Heating Control system

This is the fifth in a series of articles in which I am exploring Remote Heating Control – a technology of the future. Learn more about this series by reading the introductory article, called stepping into the future of smarter living.

Well Autumn really has begun, it’s now mid-October and the days are starting to get shorter. Trees are starting to drop their now golden brown leaves and there is a chill in the air that hasn’t been there since last winter.

Now that it is Autumn it is getting much colder, and this means that my heating is now really important to me. It’s that time of year when I want to stay warm, but at the same time am conscious to save energy.

Controlling My Heating Via Smartphone

I have recently bought a Samsung Galaxy S III, a smartphone powered by Google’s Android operating system. This means that I am now able to test out the Remote Heating Control app. British Gas have made an app for both Androids and iDevices, as I have an Android powered Samsung, I will be talking about the Android app.

The application is available for download from Apple’s App Store and from Google play, and is called myHome – after the online portal that you log into to control your heating.

The app is free to download, however (as you would expect) you need to have Remote Heating Control technology in your home for it to be of any use. You need internet access to be able to use the app, as it has to connect to the myHome portal in order to fetch real time data and store any changes you make; however that shouldn’t really be an issue though, as most smartphones now come Wi-Fi enabled and have optional 3G/4G. A smartphone isn’t really that smart without the internet!

Installing The myHome App

I was pleasantly surprised by how fast I was able to install and log into the app. I clicked on the Google play icon on my handset, I then searched for ‘myhome’ and third on the list was the app I wanted. I clicked on the app and pressed install and within seconds it had installed. I then ran the app, and it brought up a login screen, very similar to the one that can be seen if you log in to myHome on your PC.

British Gas myHome
British Gas’s myHome log in screen

After I logged in I was presented with a very similar screen to the one I see when I am online. I was able to control the temperature of my heating right this moment. As you can see, I was at work at the time, so the temperature in the house wasn’t set very high, however it had been on earlier in the morning, so the house was still relatively warm.

A screenshot of the myHome dashboard
A screenshot I took of the myHome dashboard once I had logged in to the Android app.

The heating status was set to Auto, as it was following the schedule. It was really easy to change the temperature, which I did by moving the sliding on the right up and down with my finger.

If you click on the thermometer at the top you get a temperature summary – showing you the temperature in your house and outside.

I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t edit my heating schedule via my Samsung, however I suppose the settings could get a little fiddly on the smaller screen.

If I want to change the schedule, the easiest way is online. That said, it is really easy to change the immediate temperature via smartphone. I am happy with the app, it loads very fast and is well designed. The layout is clean, and easy to use.

Other Features Of The myHome Portal

In previous article I have discussed some of the main features of the myHome online portal, such as being able to see your heating status and the temperature, and being able to set up a schedule for your heating, however there are some other features which are of use.

Under the ACCOUNT heading you are able to change details like your name and email, along with your PIN (the code you have to text when you want to change your heating via SMS) and alerts. I have the system set to alert me via email in the case of a failure of any of the technology and also it will contact me with any warnings that may be relevant, like to let me know the battery on my smart linked thermostat is running low.

As I mentioned in a previous article, it isn’t ideal that my thermostat now needs a battery, that said, it has been running for around 3 months now, and still has 5/5 bars of battery, and if it does start to run low, I will be told in advance of the batteries dying.

If you click on the DEVICES heading, you will be taken to a page displaying all the devices that are currently in your system. On this page I can see my wireless hub and smart linked thermostat. Both are reading status ‘All ok‘ and have full battery and signal strength. My wireless hub is plugged into the mains, to the battery should always read full on that, as the power is mains supply.

Finally, if you click on the HELP heading, you are taken to a screen where there are various guides to help you use the software. If you ever get stuck you can either call British Gas, send them an email, or consult one of their PDF help guides. There is also a link to the app download pages on this page.

British Gas myHome Help and Advice page screenshot
A screenshot of the Help and Advice page in the myHome online portal.

That’s about it for this week.

In two weeks time I will publish the sixth and final article in the series. It will summarise and conclude what I have learnt and shared with you over the last five articles, and I will also give my verdict as to whether the system met my expectations, and whether it is really a technology of the future. See you on the 2nd of November!

Categories
Series Technology

Setting up and testing my heating schedule

This is the 150th article I have posted on Technology Bloggers!

This is the fourth in a series of articles in which I am exploring Remote Heating Control – a technology of the future. Learn more about this series by reading the introductory article, called stepping into the future of smarter living.

In the last few weeks it has been getting colder, and around a week ago, I decided that it was time to put my heating on. I would usually try to hold off until October, however this year, as I now have Remote Heating Control installed, I didn’t think about it in the same way. Why set a date before which you will not turn on your heating? If it is cold in September but warm in October, why not have your heating on in September and off in October?

With Remote Heating Control I can tell my heating to come on only when the temperature in my house drops below a certain level. I know it may sound odd, but I can have my heating scheduled to come on in July if the temperature drops below say 15°C. Is that likely? Probably not, however if it were to happen, I would be able to justify putting my heating on, as it isn’t the time of year that should govern my heating habits, I believe it should be the temperature.

Setting Up A Heating Scheduled

I was now ready to become one of the first people in the country to programme a heating scheduled via the internet!

To set a schedule is really simple. I login to myHome, and on the homepage click the heating box – remember from last time, there are two boxes on the home screen, temperature and heating. This takes you to the schedule screen where you can set your heating schedule.

The schedule is split into four sections, Sleep, Wake, Away and Home. Sleep covers late at night until early morning, Wake covers early morning, Away covers the day, and Home is the evening. These times are obviously just guidelines, and you can use them for whatever you want, but I imagine most people will use Sleep for when they are in bed, Wake for when they get up in the morning, Away for when they go out, be it for leisure, work, school or whatever, and Home for when they return.

That schedule plan worked for me, so I set mine. For the moment, as it isn’t that cold, I decided that at the time of day I want my house the hottest I would have it at 18°C – I don’t mind wearing a jumper, but I don’t want to freeze! That is in the evening and morning, when I wake up and return home. During the day I am out, so I don’t mind the house getting colder so I have set this to 8°C – no point heating empty rooms! Then at night, I want to be comfortable if I get up, however I should be in bed for most of it, so I have set the temperature to 15°C. It will keep the house from going cold but wont waste unnecessary gas.

The image below shows my heating schedule.

Remote Heating Control Simple Schedule - Simple View
My heating schedule

The image above shows the temperatures at which my heating will be triggered. You may notice that there is one schedule for weekdays, and another for the weekend. This is because of a weekend, you are likely to do different things than on a weekday, so you may want your heating different. If your days are all pretty much the same, then setting your heating via the Simple schedule is probably the easiest way. For me however I use the Advanced schedule option (see the blue tab at the top right of the image).

Below is my heating schedule as viewed from the advanced view.

Remote Heating Control Schedule - Advanced
My heating schedule – advanced view

As you can see, throughout the week my heating has slight daily variations. I can only make these changes on the Advanced heating schedule tab. Some noticeable variations are that on Monday morning, my heating comes on a little earlier than the rest of the week. This is because I have to get up slightly earlier. On a Friday and Saturday, my Home period lasts slightly longer, keeping my house warm later into the night, this is because I will usually stay up later on these days. Also on a weekend I am usually in the house all day on Sunday, so during the day my heating is at 18°C.

The brilliant thing about setting a schedule is that I can still change the temperature whenever I like. Say it is Monday and I come home at midday, my heating will only be set to come on if the house temperature drops below 8°C. When I arrive home I want the temperature to be 18°C though. The change is really easy to make, I just get out my phone and text HEAT ON 18 to a number British Gas have given me, and for the duration of that heating cycle (which would be Away) my heating schedule will be overridden and my house will stay at 18°C. When the next cycle (Home) starts, the heating schedule will automatically turn back onto the default temperature for that time.

I could also change the schedule via an app. Both Android and iDevice apps are available, so you can change your heating temperature via any iDevice or Android powered phone with an internet connection.

The heating temperature can also be altered from within my house on the smart linked thermostat, but it is often much more convenient to do it remotely – it means coming home to a warm house!

Hopefully you now understand how the schedule part of British Gas’s Remote Heating Control technology works. I have been using it for around a week now, and it has been really great. I have been getting up and it has been warm, and when I come home of an evening the house is already warm.

I am sure in the weeks to come when it gets colder, I will change the schedule, to make it hotter than 18°C, however at the moment, with the weather like it is seem to be just the right temperature to be comfortable whilst not wasting too much gas.

An interesting and useful tool that the myHome system has is that is tells you the temperature your smart linked thermostat has read in the recent past month. This means you can work out when your heating will have been triggered, and when it wont have because the temperature will have been above the ‘kick in’ level.

I am able to use the temperature history graph (reached by clicking on the temperature box on the homepage) to see what sort of temperature my house has been at recently, and judge against how I have been feeling (e.g. too hot, comfortable, nippy, cold etc.) the temperature it has been, to ensure that I only have my heating come on when I really want it to.

To conclude this article (4/6 in this series) I am really glad to have been asked to be a pioneer in testing the technology, as it is proving very useful at saving my money – we will have to wait for a bill to come through to try to see just how much.

Next Time

The next article in the series will go live on Friday the 19th of October, when we will be well into mid-Autumn, and looking at a 14 day forecast the temperature outside will be around 9°C where I live, so I will surely be using the heating every day, most of the time.

In the next article I will be talking some more about the other resources that are available behind the buttons on the myHome console. I will also be updating you as always on my experience of the system.

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Series Technology

My first impressions of Remote Heating Control

This is the third in a series of articles in which I am exploring Remote Heating Control – a technology of the future. Learn more about this series by reading the introductory article, called stepping into the future of smarter living.

So far in the series, I have introduced Remote Heating Control technology, its capabilities and potential, and discussed the installation process, with specific reference to my installation. In this article I will be sharing with you my experiences and first impressions of using the technology.

Logging In For The First Time

Remote Heating Control really is a technology of the future. Why? How many parts of your home can you currently control via the internet? Probably non. In the future I believe that most of our home will be remotely controllable. Technologies like smart meters and Safe and Secure are all linked to the internet, meaning that you can secure your home or see what electricity you are using remotely. These are two new technologies which will also be making their way into our homes very soon, and are part of the future of smarter living.

So Remote Heating Control is a technology of the future, as you can now control your heating online.

To login to my heating (I know, at first it sounds a little odd and at the same time cool ‘logging in to your heating‘!) I have to go to this URL: https://myhome.britishgas.co.uk

This URL is British Gas’s myHome homepage, which is the portal that I will log into to change/check my heating. It is also the portal you would visit if you have Safe and Secure technology installed at home.

Basically, myHome could soon be where you go to control your homes heating and security.

British Gas myHome
myHome – where I now go to check and change the temperature of my house

I was given a handy User Guide by Nick (the British Gas engineer who installed my technology) which has been very helpful, as it contains practically everything I need to know about remotely controlling my heating. That said, as I am relatively technical and have found that as the interface is so easy to get to grips with, I have rarely had to refer to the User Guide.

After logging in for the first time, like I explained in my previous post, I had to get the devices to find each other. This is usually all done online, so you don’t need to actually change the device setup at all, the portal just connects to your devices and then synchronises them.

In my case it had been a while since my installation before I got round to setting up my online account. This meant that my smart linked thermostat had fallen out of pairing mode, so the hub was unable to find it. British Gas were more than helpful in getting me up and running, and I was given a personal contact (engineer Steve Plumb) who helped me get my system working. Being a techie, I took the initiative to see if I could get the smart linked thermostat homing again myself, by taking the batteries out, and then putting them back in again – hence restarting the device. It worked. I have no doubt that the phone call I had scheduled with Steve would have helped me solve the issue just as fast, but it felt good to solve it myself.

Tutorial

After all my devices were connected, I was presented with a four step tutorial, which explained how to use the technology.

The first step was a quick guide to the SMS control function. It let me know the commands I would need to control my heating when not in the house, or near an internet connection.

The next step gave me a link to download the app (iPhone and Android) that I can use to control my heating via smartphone.

Step three explained the homepage of the console, what everything meant and how I control my heating instantly – i.e. if I decide to make my house hotter/colder than my scheduled plan.

The final step gave me an explanation of how to set up a heating schedule.

Homepage

When I login to myHome, I am now presented with a very interesting screen, which is filled with data and options. At the top of the screen are some navigation links, and then taking centre stage are two main boxes: temperature and heating.

British Gas Remote Heating Control online homepage
myHome homepage – where I control my Remote Heating Control from

The temperature box lets me know the temperature inside my house at the moment (rounded to the nearest degree) along with the weather and temperature outside too. It also shows me the average temperature in my home today, and this week.

If you look at the image above you will see that my home must be pretty well insulated, as I am yet to have the heating on, and despite it being 17°C outside, inside it is a comfortable 19°C. The average temperature for my house today is 19°C, and in the last week it has been 20°C.

The heating box tells me the exact temperature inside my house right now to one decimal place – the same reading on my smart linked thermometer (18.5°C).

If I click on the temperature box it takes me to a page where I can view diagrams of what the temperature in my house was like over the last day, week and month. Very interesting and handy when setting a schedule

If I click on the heating box I am taken to a page where I can set up a day by day heating schedule. The weather seems to be pretty mild (at least where I live) at the moment, so I haven’t yet set up a heating schedule, as I don’t really need my heating on, so more on this next time.

Overall I am very pleased and impressed with my new online heating portal myHome. It is very well designed, is easy on the eye, and makes me heating seem a lot easier to control. I look forward to using the technology in the next week or so as the weather gets colder.

Next Time

In the fourth post in this series (launching on Friday the 5th of October) I will be exploring how remote the technology really is. I will discuss how to set up a schedule, and how easy or difficult I find that, along with how effective my remote commands are at affecting the temperature of my house, whether programmed via text, app, online or smart linked thermostat.

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News Technology

Sponsored: Airbus and the future of aviation

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Airbus. To find out more about sponsored content on Technology Bloggers, please visit our Privacy Policy.

If you have been following the news lately, you will most probably have seen Airbus popping up a fair bit. I am personally really interested in Airbus, as it is an exciting company which I believe is set to revolutionise the aviation industry. That is why, when I was approached by Airbus, I couldn’t refuse to write an article for them!

At the moment I am trailing a technology of the future, Remote Heating Control in my home. Remote Heating Control is the future for smarter living. I believe that Airbus are the future for smarter air travel.

Inefficiencies

Currently the aviation industry is incredibly inefficient. It’s a fact that if you get a plane from London to Dublin, the CO2 emission you would produce would be about 3 and a half times great than were you to use a train and ferry. Flights are also often more cramped, however they are usually a lot faster.

The massive fuel costs not only cost the consumer, but also the environment. Okay, maybe I am being a little unfair to current aviation, but the fact is it isn’t all that good all of the time.

A Sustainable Future

Earlier this month, Airbus unveiled its vision for sustainable aviation in 2050 and beyond. That’s right, aviation which doesn’t have to cost the earth. Airbus says that its plans will create ‘smarter skies’. Remote Heating Control is one of the features of smarter homes, now Airbus are going to generate smarter skies. It looks like technology really is making the future ‘smarter’!

4D Light Show

Airbus being a futuristic visionary unveiled their vision for the future of aviation in style, with an amazing 4D projection light show in Berlin. The display started with a simple paper aeroplane and went on to show viewers its vision of what planes of the future would be like.

4D light showWish you hadn’t missed the event? Don’t worry there is a video of the show below!

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The Future For Air Travel

Airbus believe that in the future aviation will be so efficient that it will be almost unrecognisable from what it is today. Airbus believe that aeroplanes will take more inspiration from nature in the future, being designed more efficiently, and like birds plotting their routes based on daily changes in weather and atmospheric conditions.

Planes are also more likely to run on biofuels, which are likely to be cheaper and better for the planet.

Redesigned planes matched with more efficient flying – like flying in certain weather conditions, or in formation with other aircraft to reduce drag (known as ‘express skyways’) – mean that Airbus can predict that aircraft emissions will be 50% of their current levels by just 2050.

An interesting fact for you here, 1.5 billion dollars could be saved across the globe every year, if every aircraft flight were just one minute shorter. Just one minute. In the future more direct routes, better designed aircraft and better planning could save a lot more than one minute of airtime per flight. Currently only 65% of airlines sometimes take the most direct route, so imagine what would happen if 100% of airlines always took the most direct route.

Airbus also believe that planes will become more spacious, comfortable and quieter. Airports themselves are also likely to become more efficient, with specially designed vehicles taxing the aircraft to and from the runway, saving immense amounts of fuel.

Aviation is about to get greener, as we move into an age of smarter skies. We live in exciting times, as technology seems to be constantly improving the way we live and our prospects for the future.

Categories
Series Technology

Installing Remote Heating Control

This is the second in a series of articles in which I am exploring Remote Heating Control – a technology of the future. Learn more about this series by reading the introductory article, called stepping into the future of smarter living.

In this article, I will be reviewing the installation of the technology I have had fitted in my home: Remote Heating Control.

The Parts

The install involved three main parts: the wireless hub; the wireless receiver; and a new thermostat.

Installation

The wireless receiver was installed first. This was installed near to my boiler, and receives the wireless signal from my new thermostat controller. The wireless receiver is connected to the boiler using a cable.

British Gas Remote Heating Control
My British Gas wireless receiver

After the wireless receiver was connected, Nick (the British Gas engineer who installed my technology) installed my new smart linked thermostat. This looked much more advanced than my previous thermostat controller, and wasn’t just a dial. My new thermostat controller has an LED display and four buttons for programming. Programming can be done via two main methods, on the device itself, or via the online portal. The online portal can be accessed either by smartphone or computer. The easiest way to manage my heating will be online.

British Gas Remote Heating Control
My British Gas smart linked thermostat
British Gas Remote Heating Control
My British Gas wireless hub

Finally, the wireless hub was installed. This is a small device, which plugged into my internet router and the mains – AC power supply. I needed one spare Ethernet port in my internet hub, and a free mains plug socket nearby, which I did. I imagine for most people the mains plug socket shouldn’t be an issue, as the likelyhood is that your router is near a plug socket, so an adapter plug or extension lead can be used. I would also imagine that you will have a spare Ethernet port in your internet hub, however if you are using all the available ports, you may need to buy an extension hub to ensure that you can still have all your devices connected.

How It Works

Here is a brief synopsis of what is now installed in my home, i.e. the technology that makes up Remote Heating Control. My boiler is now connected to a wireless receiver. This wireless receiver ‘talks’ (communicates wirelessly) with my smart linked thermostat, which communicates with my wireless hub. The wireless hub it plugged into my router and sends and receives information to and from the online portal.

To control my heating I can either login to the British Gas portal, online or via a smartphone app, text commands to my heating via SMS, or programme it manually. My new smart linked thermostat which can be used to control the system is wirelessly connected to my boiler. When I change settings on my smart linked thermostat, this affects the behaviour of my boiler, and the information is transmitted to British Gas, which updates the online system.

Opinions

I have a few opinions and thoughts on the installation that I would like to share with you.

The first is that Nick (the engineer) was very friendly, curious and acted professionally. He phoned me before his arrival to check it was okay with me still and let me know his estimated time of arrival.

When installing my wireless hub, Nick asked me to plug it in at the wall, and into my internet router. This is because he didn’t know exactly how my technology worked, and therefore didn’t want to damage it. I have a standard router, however I think it is good that he asked me to do it, yes it removes his liability, but it does mean that I know nothing was broken.

My impression of what British Gas staff (specifically engineers) are like is very good, Nick seem to be no trouble to deal with.

Regarding my smart linked thermostat, it is a little inconvenient that it runs on batteries. My old thermostat was directly wired into my boiler, however this one is wireless and takes two AA batteries. The batteries are no big deal really, I imagine it will get as routine as checking/changing a smoke alarm, however it is a task I had not anticipated I would need to do. That said, it will be easy to know when to change the batteries, as there is battery indicator online!

Online Control

In order to set up my online control I need to log in and get the devices to find each other. It was really easy, and the web based interface gives you a really well explained walk through. Once my devices had been discovered by the system, I was asked to create a four digit pin, which I would have to use when texting heating commands. If you get Remote Heating Control, it would be a good idea to write this down – which I did needless to say!

Next Time

In the next article in the series I will give you my first impressions of using Remote Heating Control for the first time. I will be exploring any issues I encounter, how it helps me, and the potential I believe it has.

Categories
Series Technology

Stepping into the future of smarter living

Technology Bloggers is getting bigger and growing day by day. When the community was founded in April last year, our readership was just a few hundred people a week. We now have tens of thousands of visitors a month.

With size comes opportunity, and recently we have been gifted a fantastic opportunity by British Gas. In the past Technology Bloggers has been British Gas’s blog of the month, demonstrating that they understand the work we are doing.

A few weeks ago I was offered the chance to step into the future of smarter living, becoming one of the first people ever to have a Remote Heating Control system fitted. How could I refuse such an amazing offer?

On behalf of Technology Bloggers, I am to test and review an innovative new technology which is going to be making its way into all of our homes very soon.

British Gas’s Campaign

There have been some great technological advances in the last few years in the energy sector, like for example smart meters and Baxi Ecogen boilers which can ultimately help us to be more efficient in the way we use energy.

British Gas are now starting to offer these innovative new technologies to me and you – the consumer, and in order to give the consumer an unbiased view of the technologies, they have asked a handful of bloggers to test out the technology. This handful of bloggers (including me from Technology Bloggers) will then blog about their findings, in order to help people better understand the new technologies available, and the potential implications of upgrading/installing the technologies.

Here is a television ad British Gas have launched, to raise awareness about smarter homes.
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During the campaign, my aim (as always and as stated in our privacy policy) is to remain impartial and give you my honest feedback and views on the technology. As with every technology, there are always positives and negatives. I will be exploring both the advantages and disadvantages of the technology I have been selected to test.

Series

Testing a new technology is a journey, and therefore I feel as I am going to be writing about my journey and experience of the technology, it would be appropriate for me to write in the form of a series. Our blog has had two series before, making this its third. If you are unsure what a series is, please check out our writers guide to writing a series, which gives an explanation.

I feel that if I write the posts in a constant flow (i.e.) a series, it will feel less fragmented then were I to write the posts individually.

The series will post fortnightly on a Friday, meaning that every other Friday, you will get an update as to how my experience and understanding of the technology is progressing.

The next post will go live on Friday the 7th of September.

About The Technology

The technology I am to test and review is known as Remote Heating Control, and really it does what it says on the tin. It is an innovative new technology which gives you better control over your heating, whether you are in the house or a remote location.

Heating control via smartphone
Controlling your heating via a smartphone – Android and iPhone

The technology is programmable via three methods: on the device itself; via smartphone; via an online account – accessible anywhere you have an internet connection.

The technology also has a very advanced and programmable timer system. You can set exact temperatures that you want your house to be at, at exact times. From what I understand it is very easy to set up a reasonable complex heating scheduled, to make sure your comfort is maximised, whilst you potentially save money at the same time, by reducing unnecessary heating.

More to come on the technology over the course of the series.

About Me

If you have been a loyal reader for sometime now, you probably know a lot about me, my views and the way I like to operate. If you don’t, below is an extract of my profile on the British Gas user reviews site, which can hopefully help you understand a bit more about who I am.

I am a techie at heart and love to follow the latest innovations and developments in the industry. I specifically take an interest in green (sustainable, efficient and renewable) technology, and always consider the environmental implications of new innovations.

I have always thought heating systems are inefficient, and this ultimately leads to big waste of resources. Therefore I am really pleased to be testing a technology that could potentially revolutionise the way we control our heating.

I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to test a new technology which is set to revolutionise the way we all use energy in the future, ultimately changing and hopefully improving our lives!

I really look forward to having better control over my heating, by having Remote Heating Control installed in my home and am really excited to test and review this new, innovative, green technology!

Promotion

As British Gas want to get the word out, the have said that they will be promoting the content myself and the other bloggers involved write via their website and social media. This means that the content published on our blog, could potentially help hundreds of thousands of people (maybe even millions) in formulating their opinion on these new technologies. My hope is that this should also help speed up the growth in our readership ever further.

Who Benefits

As a community blog, we are very used to analysing who benefits from a given activity, but who will benefit from this project?

  • Me – I will get Remote Heating Control installed in my home, giving me better control of my own heating
  • Technology Bloggers – I hope that the promotion British Gas can offer us will boost our readership, helping us grow the community further
  • The consumer (you) – The information and reviews of the technology I provide, I hope will benefit anyone who is a potential install candidate, make their mind up about whether or not to embrace the new technology
  • British Gas – British Gas will be getting impartial reviews which they can show to consumers, potentially boosting their sales

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on the campaign? Do you think it will be beneficial for the blog? What sort of things would you like me to mention/discuss in my series? Are you interested in getting a smarter home?

Throw your comments at me below 🙂