A Dublin- headquartered group foresees that the Internet of Things can help to reduce emissions from household heating. It’s researching smart ways to make it happen

The most popular option for cutting greenhouse gas emissions is quite simply to avoid using energy in the first place. According to the European Investment Bank’s climate survey, EU citizens say that energy efficiency is the best way to counter climate change. That’s how Glen Dimplex sees the future, too.

The Dublin headquartered company’s main research and development focus is on innovations in heating and ventilation systems for buildings. The aim is to create increasingly intelligent and energy efficient systems which run on clean electricity, rather than oil or gas.

“We see the challenge of decarbonisation as an opportunity and obligation for us to affect lasting change,” says Fergal Leamy, Glen Dimplex’s chief executive.

Glen Dimplex, whose Europe-wide range of heating and ventilation brands include Nobo, Noirot, Xpelair and Dimplex, is researching ways to make heating and ventilation systems more efficient through smart devices connected to the Internet of Things.

Digitalisation to drive energy efficiency

The move to electricity automatically reduces carbon dioxide emissions; improved connectivity along with smart electronic controls within, say, a single home, then cuts the amount of that electricity that’s used. This can bring energy efficiency improvements of over 15%, according to Aris Pofantis, lead engineer for sustainable and digital industries at the European Investment Bank.

The EU bank made a loan to Glen Dimplex in 2021 to help finance the company’s research and development. In the European Union, the majority of residential heating is based around fossil fuels. Glen Dimplex’s research emphasis on electrical solutions, including, for example, heat pumps, panel heaters and storage heaters, creates a significant potential to cut the amount of energy used—and wasted—in homes. “Sometimes the term digitalization is used too broadly,” says Pofantis. “But Glen Dimplex is really incorporating connected and smart solutions to their products and systems. The benefits are important.”

Cost efficient and cutting emissions

Glen Dimplex executives are keen to emphasise that their products are intended to be more energy-efficient for consumers, which can help reduce running costs and contribute to lower carbon emissions. Rowena McCappin, Glen Dimplex’s Group External Affairs Director, notes that, though climate change is a pressing issue for all of us, companies need to provide solutions that are cost-effective for consumers as well as environmentally sustainable.

“Consumers are starting to make purchase decisions not solely on cost, but also on the impact products they buy are having on the planet and the environment they live in,” she says. “However, the costs for buying, installing and running a heating system are still very important for the majority of consumers.”

Glen Dimplex ‘s Internet of Things innovation provides new benefits to customers who can now control their heating appliances remotely through an app, meaning that they can turn on their heaters just in time for arriving home from work, and never need to unnecessarily heat an empty house. Appliances are intelligent and can operate more efficiently thanks to functionality such as room temperature sensors, weather forecasting and open window detection.          

The company has also been involved in trials and early commercial partnerships with utility companies and energy management platform providers in which the Internet of Things has been used to manage populations of individual heating appliances across multiple homes to unlock further flexibility and energy efficiency without compromising consumer comfort.  For example, heaters can be sent signals to charge and store heat for later or to switch on and off depending on when it makes sense for the electricity grid, to manage peak demand and use more renewables.  When this is done at scale, it can potentially have a major impact on emissions.

“The technology is there today and is robust,” says McCappin. “The issue is to build offerings which are scalable and allow us to deliver tangible benefits to consumers.”

Electrification is likely to play a big part in the fight against climate change.  In the future, we can expect to see electric heating systems like those Glen Dimplex is developing, working together as part of a fully connected electric home, incorporating smart charging electric vehicles, solar panels for onsite renewable energy production, batteries, and multiple other smart technologies such as lighting and domestic appliances.

Europe-wide Internet of Things energy efficiency

The European Investment Bank backed Glen Dimplex, because of its potentially positive impact on digitalisation, and climate and sustainability, all of which are EU policy goals. The Bank’s financing supports the company’s research in France, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands. “It’s a truly European company,” says Jason Leoussis, the loan officer who worked on the Glen Dimplex deal. “They have operations of equal importance in several EU countries.”

Just as Glen Dimplex aims to confront the biggest challenge facing humanity in the next decade, climate change, it also suffered from the most recent global threat. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted Glen Dimplex, because construction work ground to a halt, as did the refurbishment of heating systems. The company reports that this business returned after the end of lockdowns, however, as a result of pent-up demand.

Throughout the pandemic, Glen Dimplex has kept its laboratories and research teams working. That, says CEO Leamy, puts it in a strong position to contribute to the solutions needed for tackling climate change. “Throughout the European Union, COVID-19 recovery plans are intrinsically linked with green growth,” he says, “and the just transition to a more sustainable world.”