Verifying the performance of new technologies is essential. Where energy is concerned, it perhaps becomes even more vital, with people’s comfort and living costs at stake.
Field trials, taking place in people’s homes under regular operating conditions, are a sure-fire way of assessing company claims, and seeing where, if necessary, work needs to be done to ensure a smooth roll-out into the mainstream.
Our product performance team has just finished a field trial for Fischer Future Heat, looking at the performance of its new electric storage heaters. It involved the installation of five of Fischer’s systems in homes, replacing existing electric heating, as well as analysing two existing installations. It looked specifically at comfort, electricity consumption, running costs and responsiveness.
The results are promising. The trial indicated more consistent temperatures in homes, easy controllability, and lower energy consumption. The results of the trial enabled us to endorse a number of claims about the product, which can be used in marketing materials for up to a year.
But how does a field trial like this initially come about?
James Russill, Energy Saving Trust Technical Development Manager, explained: “Initially, a company might be interested in working with us, valuing the independence and reach of our verification. Then we’d meet to get more detail about what they wanted to get from the field trial, and what claims they wanted to make.
“Then it’s a matter of getting a representative sample of homes – usually 10 to 15, but variable – needed to generate the data to look into claims. This is something we can do more easily than some other organisations, given our regular contact with householders, plus we can recruit participants through social media. Our Home Analytics tool is also used to narrow down criteria for possible suitable homes.”
The team have a number of relationships with companies offering energy and environmental monitoring services – field trials can sometimes involve installing extensive monitoring equipment. Once homes are selected, this needs to be installed – then it’s all about the data.
"We first do baseline monitoring, to find out what’s going on in the homes as things stand. Then we look at performance after the new technology has been installed, so we have two data sets that are then analysed by our Data Services Team. In addition to that, we do householder evaluation, something we have a lot of experience in. We survey about everything from installation to performance, comfort and bill savings." James Russill, Technical Business Development Manager, Energy Saving Trust
Heating technologies are likely to diversify considerably in coming years. From growth in district heating to the increased installation of renewable technologies such as heat pumps with support from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), it’s rigorous testing in realistic scenarios like this that should enable householders to have confidence in the options available.