Tom McAndrew, Project Manager at Prefect Controls, witnessed an auspicious event this week. The installation of the 50,000th control unit on the Irus Portal!

For those unfamiliar with Irus, it is the Building Energy Management System designed specifically for multi-occupancy dwellings, ensuring energy can’t be used unnecessarily.

It maintains comfortable environments by heating spaces to a pre-determined Setback temperature but, gives occupants a Boost range should they require more heat. As soon as pre-set times elapse, a room is vacated, or windows and doors are opened, heat input is reduced.

Tom has been with the company since March 2021 and quickly learnt the ropes with all things Irus. He has managed installations at more than 40 sites in all corners of the UK from Aberdeen to Exeter.

He comments, “It’s been a steep learning curve, but on the whole installation goes very smoothly. Our company ethos is ‘Cleverly simple control of energy’, and that applies to the design of our products, how they combine as a system, installation, and the user experience.” He continues, “We use Mains Borne Signalling (MBS) for communication between room controls and the brains of the system. Using the mains as a mesh-network for the site speeds up installation and negates the need for the cost and disruption of installing additional cabling. Our team can complete 250-300 rooms per week.”

The numbers just keep growing.

There are now 50,000 control units at 101 sites. These include university campuses, PBSA student accommodation providers, and hotels. Currently the largest single site is UWE with over 3,000 controls. Additional blocks are going on-line over the next few months. The site in Bristol saw a saving close to 900,000kWh* in the year following the initial installation.

Along with UWE, Prefect clients include universities in Bangor, Bath, Bradford, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Greenwich, Lancaster, Oxford, Surrey and York. While PBSA operators include Unite Students, Study Inn, Curlew Capital, Every Student, Host, UPP, Student Roost and Collegiate.

“It’s been a steep learning curve, but on the whole installation goes very smoothly. Our company ethos is ‘Cleverly simple control of energy’, and that applies to the design of our products, how they combine as a system, installation, and the user experience.”

Remote monitoring and management.

But it’s not only the size, and the number of installations that are growing. The scope of what Irus is capable of controlling is also rapidly increasing. First there was heating control for individual rooms. Then environmental conditions – humidity, light, sound pressure (db) and CO2 monitoring.

The control units report data back to designated personnel via the internet portal, raising alerts when unusual conditions are detected, such as high humidity, excessive noise or temperatures that are greater than the pre-sets.

Broadening the scope.

The number of interconnecting devices that seamlessly integrate to monitor and control has also expanded, boosting the power of the Irus Portal.

Earlier this year, SMART Tank was introduced – the only pre-plumbed, pre-wired hot-water cylinder with on-board controls. It enables complete monitoring and management of water temperatures and volumes. It detects and reports leaks around the water system and, in the event of water escape, will activate Auto Shut-Off valves, helping to minimise flood damage by preventing additional water from entering the system. Being pre-plumbed and wired means installation is quick and efficient.

PipeSense uses Bluetooth to communicate with the Irus system, taking the legwork out of water temperature data-logging. It measures water temperature within pipes at point of use. This information can be used as evidence to prove water safety plan criteria is being met. It also monitors room AND pipe temperature, identifying water wastage through dripping taps or leaking toilet cisterns.

HobSensus is helping to keep residents safe in kitchens. It ensures electric hobs cannot be left switched on if the person preparing food is distracted and leaves the hob unattended. This reduces the risk of cooking appliance fires, which is the top cause, accounting for almost half (46%), of all accidental house fires in the UK**. HobSensus is a standalone device, however, when integrated with Irus, greater functionality can be unlocked.

Energy savings, de-carbonisation and net-zero targets.

Tom concludes, “Being part of the drive to de-carbonisation, and helping accommodation providers on their journey to reach Net-zero targets, is a fulfilling part of the job. With Irus and our local controls, we calculate that around 10% of the UKs student accommodation estate is now controlled by a Prefect product***.”

*On pre-install consumption
**Information from Morgan Clark Loss Assessors
***Based on approx.200,000 controllers (Irus and Ecostat/Local controls) / 1.7Million student rooms