For the heating industry, the rapid developments in artificial intelligence (AI) open opportunities to make installers’ jobs easier, as well as reducing the risk of downtime for customers.
Navien, like other manufacturers, is recognising that the full potential of AI technology can be further unlocked when used in combination with smart controls; giving homeowners more control over their heating systems, and installers deeper insight into what is happening inside appliances.
Being only in its infancy, AI is still very much an unknown. Some see it as a huge developmental opportunity for mankind, while others fear it as the technology that will take over their jobs and put an end to life as we know it.
For the heating industry, however, AI is unlikely to completely replace the knowledge and experience of a qualified engineer. Rather, it provides an opportunity for those working in the industry to grow their skillsets, improve the experience of their customers, and give themselves an edge in a competitive job market.
AI technology can automate many of the repetitive and time-consuming tasks that engineers typically perform, such as live monitoring, remote detection of boiler faults, or prevention of a fault before the problem can arise. By learning how to operate these new tools, engineers can become more efficient in providing a first-time fix, providing the best results for their customers, and fitting more work into their own schedules.
It is important to note, however, that some situations will always require human judgement and problem-solving skills. Experienced engineers can rely on their critical thinking skills to analyse complex issues, adapt to changing conditions, and make quick decisions in a way that AI currently cannot.
One of the key benefits of AI so far is its ability to automate complex and repetitive tasks, and extract insights from large amounts of data sources in a way that is impossible for humans.
Typically, this data can be accessed at the touch of a button via smartphone applications, providing engineers with live updates on the status of internal components of a system. With such information gathered in one handy place, engineers can prevent faults, know the required parts for a job, and advise their customers on how to monitor usage.
Using mobile apps, AI also gives homeowners the ability to have a live self-monitoring and reactive system that can recommend calling an engineer for support even before a fault has occurred; meaning fewer problems for the engineer to fix down the line, and less disturbance to the household.
Crucially, it can also learn homeowners’ daily routines so that they don’t have to think about it. This knowledge then allows the AI to adjust flow temperatures or understand when to turn the heating on or off.
The development of intelligent diagnostics allows for preventative maintenance as AI monitors the health of the boiler and pushes notifications about potential faults to homeowner that can be shared with their engineer; giving installers more time to source any parts for the repair, and helping them achieve a first-time fix.
Many homeowners have become accustomed to the benefits that come with owning smart systems. From smart plugs to light switches, we can control our homes at the touch of a button, and, in the case of smart thermostats, these can ultimately improve comfort and reduce energy consumption.
Not only this, but smart thermostats allow multiple users to manage the control system while the main user is away – something that is particularly useful for people with elderly relatives, or for landlords with short-term lets.
Ideal for improving energy efficiency, some smart thermostats provide zone control which allows different spaces to be heated to a specific temperature, at different times of day; meaning that unused rooms are not heated unnecessarily.
Additional features can also include weather compensation and geofencing, both of which ensure that the boiler only uses energy when needed – so are particularly handy in winter when customers want to maintain the right temperature without using too much energy.
Weather compensation uses data to respond intuitively to the current local weather conditions to ensure the home remains at a comfortable temperature, without the homeowner having to lift a finger.
In the same sense, geofencing will switch the boiler on or off based on the proximity of the homeowner to their home – which can be set up to a maximum of 5km. This is a especially useful feature for those wanting to return home to a warm house without racking up a large bill.
Manufacturers are already releasing products harnessing AI’s potential in improving home heating. Navien UK, for example, has developed ON AI, which is designed to incorporate seamlessly with its existing ON technology.
It is still impossible to tell where the rapid developments of AI will lead. In the meantime, what the technology already makes possible can only benefit the homeowner and the installer, and should therefore be embraced.
If you'd like to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in the heating and plumbing industry, why not subscribe to our weekly newsletters? Just click the button below and you can ensure all the latest industry news and new product information lands in your inbox every week.