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How Cylinders Are Becoming Smarter

With millions of householders relying upon conventional hot water storage cylinders, there’s exciting developments on the horizon that could make these reliable products even smarter. George Linder, Product Manager for cylinders at Heatrae Sadia, explores the future of cylinders and how the USER project has the potential to reduce energy bills, improve efficiency and help to balance the national grid.

While cylinders have remained mostly unchanged over the years, the focus on a decentralised and lower carbon economy has led to the introduction of new initiatives such as the Ubiquitous Storage Empowering Response (USER) project. Designed to meet the objective of improving the efficiency of existing heating and hot water systems, the USER project intends to investigate how hot water cylinders and the smart energy grid can be linked together to improve efficiency and cost savings.

Although still in the research and development stages, the project is proving to be successful and has so far shown that demand side response technology for hot water provision is possible. It also signifies one of the biggest areas of potential change for cylinders in recent times.

How hot water cylinders are used

When considering hot water usage, most people with a hot water cylinder either time it so that the cylinder has hot water for the morning and the evening, or whenever they need it most. Alternatively, if on an economy 7 electricity tariff, the cylinder is heated overnight to take advantage of cheaper rates.  Beyond this, homeowners do not tend to change these settings often or closely monitor usage, which can lead to inefficiencies. This is due to the amount of hot water stored often being more than is needed, eliminating the need to boost it. However, there is a smarter way to manage hot water more efficiently while reducing energy bills.

USER explained

The premise of USER is that by connecting new or existing hot water cylinders to the grid with a smart interface unit, this then enables the hot water store to become a grid interactive storage heater, to heat hot water when there is low cost electricity available. With wholesale electricity prices sometimes dropping to zero, or even negative values, this could in some instances lead to households being paid to use electricity.

In the case of a new build estate, with a large network of properties all using the technology, demand side response capability could also be aggregated and offered to networks to help alleviate local grid balancing issues. This has a two-fold effect of saving money for the user and helping with grid management.

To trial this, Megaflo Eco cylinders have been provided to help facilitate trials for the USER project and test demand side response.

What will the future hold?

By 2021, Baxi Heating will have contributed to the findings report of the USER project. The results of this research could enable a business model to position how the programme could work on a national scale. With around nine million hot water cylinders currently in use throughout the UK, there would then be potential to tap into this vast combined thermal storage capacity.

For installers, depending on how the technology is implemented either directly via hot water cylinder manufacturers or via the route of energy providers, this could mean a few different outcomes. Essentially, the installation should still be very straight-forward if the interface is attached to the cylinder, or could even mean no change for the installation at all if energy providers decide to deploy USER by an alternative means.

The USER project is still being trialled this year, so it will be interesting to see how the research continues to develop. Heatrae Sadia is committed to supporting this initiative and the benefits of using demand side response to provide even more efficient hot water solutions.

For further information about Heatrae Sadia’s unvented and vented hot water cylinders range please visit


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