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 thermostat …

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K
Bronze badge

Hmmm..

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Thumb Down

Re: Hmmm..

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

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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.".

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Thumb Down

I think

That they can go and suck on my lolly.

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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

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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.

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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 .....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hmmm..

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

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Error 418 Lol

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

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Error 418 Lol

You owe me a new keyboard

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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.

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Silver badge

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).

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jai
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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?

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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.

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Silver badge

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.

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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.

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Gold badge

Re: Unadulterated tripe

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

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Silver badge

Re: Unadulterated tripe

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

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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?

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Silver badge

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.

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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 :(

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Anonymous Coward

Demon Seed

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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!!!!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Silver badge

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.

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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.

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Re: Open networks

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

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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! ;)

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Devil

Re: Open networks

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

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Paris Hilton

Re: Open networks

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

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Open networks

she's a babe, my neighbour

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Open networks

* BIKINIS

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

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

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

re: lightwaverf

or via cron job....

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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?

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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.

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Trollface

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

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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.

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