Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) and Smart Radiator Covers (also referred to as Thermostatic radiator enclosures (TREs)), like those made by Kelvin are both used to regulate the temperature of individual radiators in a heating system. While they serve similar purposes, there are many differences in functionality, energy efficiency, and return on investment.
Let’s compare these two options.
- Individual control: Both Smart Radiator Covers and TRVs allow users to independently adjust the temperature of each radiator in a room. This enables greater flexibility and customization as different rooms can have different temperature settings. However, Smart Radiator Covers also actively monitor the room temperature, allow for temperature schedules, store energy, and communicate back to the boiler to ensure all spaces are comfortable and not overheated.
- Energy Efficiency: By actively managing the radiator’s heat output based on real-time room temperature, Smart Radiator Covers optimize energy usage and boiler operation which reduces heating costs by 400% more than TRVs do, according to the New York State Technical Resource Manual. While TRVs can save energy by individually controlling radiators, TRVs still waste energy due to temperature variations and the inability to improve steam or hot water distribution throughout a building. More favorably, the Smart Radiator Covers improve steam and hot water distribution, resulting in more energy efficiency than TRVs (and more energy savings equals more financial savings and a larger reduction in greenhouse gas emissions). Expected energy efficiency for a Smart Radiator Cover can be calculated from the New York State Technical Resource Manual.
- Cost savings: By regulating the temperature of each radiator, both of these solutions reduce fuel consumption, which lowers heating costs and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. However, Smart Radiator Covers will lower energy costs more than TRVs because the Smart Radiator Covers not only control the temperature in the apartment, but also improve the distribution of steam and hot water throughout a building. TRVs only control heating at individual radiators.
- Integration: Smart Radiator Covers are integrated with the boiler controller ensuring that boiler operation is optimized to provide the exact amount of heat required throughout the building. This results in lower fuel consumption, lower energy costs, and lower carbon emissions than TRVs.
- Installation: Both solutions are relatively simple to install and may be retrofitted to most radiators without major modifications. TRVs will require a plumber or someone with specialized knowledge to install, while Smart Radiator Covers do not. Smart Radiator Covers are simply installed over existing radiators (or recessed convectors, or baseboards), and do not require specialized knowledge to install.
- Cost: Smart Radiator Covers do cost more than TRVs however, these costs are offset by utility incentives and tax rebates which cover more than two-thirds of the cost. TRVs do not receive the same amount of incentives and do not receive tax credits. Smart Radiator Covers, like the Cozy from Kelvin, are also available for a monthly subscription, removing the barrier of an upfront purchase. Therefore, it is actually cheaper to own the Smart Radiator Covers.
- Durability: Smart Radiator Covers are virtually indestructible. The enclosure is made from steel. Inside there is a fan, which has a rated lifetime of 12 years, at which point it could be replaced, when needed. TRVs on the other hand have an internal mechanism that can break if over pressurized. If the mechanism in the TRV breaks, it will have to be replaced by a plumber. TRVs have an expected lifetime rating of 5 years while Smart Radiator Covers have an expected lifetime of 15 years, according to the New York State Technical Resource Manual.
- Carbon Reduction: Smart Radiator Covers have higher energy efficiency than TRVs. Estimated performance may be calculated from the NYS Technical Resource Manual. For the same building, Smart Radiator Covers will reduce carbon emissions more than TRVs. Additionally, Smart Radiator Covers are included as a prescriptive measure in New York City’s Local Law 97.
- Hybrid Electrification: Smart Radiator Covers are the first step in Hybrid Electrification, which pairs a Smart Radiator Cover with a heat pump. In a Hybrid system, the heat pump runs most of the year, but the Smart Radiator Covers and the traditional boiler system is used on the coldest days of the year when the outdoor temperature is less than 38OF. While TRVs could be used in this arrangement, they cannot store energy, improve steam distribution or reduce emissions as much as the Smart Radiator Covers. The Smart Radiator Covers are able to reduce the rate of condensation between the radiator and the surrounding room, thereby improving the distribution of steam or hot water throughout a building, meaning that they will provide a larger reduction in energy usage and carbon emissions on the coldest days of the year.
While TRVs might seem tempting at first, with their perceived lower cost, Smart Radiator Covers are the smart way to go thanks to the environmental and tax benefits, lower cost of ownership, and additional reduction in operating costs.