Boiler experts say wireless controls don’t make outdoor reset systems more efficient

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We tend to assume that any wireless device must be better than its wired counterpart. When it comes to outdoor reset systems for boilers, however, experts tell us that wireless control delivers no difference in performance but that it still could save you money.

At the International Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigerating Expo in January 2015, Burnham Boilers told us that by the end of 2015, all of its boilers would allow for the use of a wireless outdoor reset control. Honeywell will supply the device.

A wireless outdoor reset control is the next generation of outdoor reset controls, which are exterior sensors that monitor the weather. Rather than just crank inefficiently at full capacity, a boiler that has an outdoor reset control can adjust its heat output based on the weather conditions, thereby saving consumers up to 15 percent on their energy costs, according to experts. Most outdoor reset controls have a wired connection to the boiler.

Evan Trethewey of RST Thermal, which is a heating and cooling, or HVAC, consultancy, says wired and wireless outdoor reset controls have no functional difference aside from how they’re installed. Wireless controls, of course, require no drilling to make a connection to a boiler.

Trethewey says the most important factor for any outdoor reset control is its capability to get an accurate outdoor temperature reading, and he contends that no difference exists in accuracy between wired and wireless outdoor reset controls.

Industry expert Dave Yates, who is an HVAC installer and a frequent Consumers Digest contributor, says you can expect to pay more for a wireless control. A wired control costs $100–$200. A wireless control costs $200–$300, according to Dan Cork of Burnham.

However, you most likely will make up the price difference on the installation cost, Yates says, because installing a wireless outdoor reset control takes less time, particularly when the installer retrofits a boiler that’s in a difficult-to-reach location, such as a cramped basement. Yates says the average installation-cost savings is $250.

Trethewey and Yates agree that the next logical innovation would be for boilers to have Wi-Fi connectivity, which would produce a more accurate temperature reading than what an outdoor reset control delivers. That’s because weather data would be gleaned from the Internet rather than an outdoor sensor, which can be affected by shade, sun or other factors. Such technology would allow a boiler to account for upcoming weather changes and adjust its output in advance. Yates, who expects Wi-Fi connectivity within 3 years, says such capability would render outdoor reset controls of any type obsolete.

– K. Carlson