New Three-In-One Smart Billing Technology Takes Risk Out Of Community Heating

Heat metering and billing specialist Switch2 has launched a stylish new three-in-one smart pay-as-you-go billing and energy management system for community heating schemes.

Incontro  helps developers and landlords to manage costs, reduce debt risk and improve environmental performance, while making it simpler for residents to pay for their energy and control and monitor their energy usage.

The UK designed and manufactured technology takes smart metering to a new level. It is an advanced multifunctional energy system that combines either prepayment or credit billing with monitoring household energy usage; simple to use multi-zone thermostat, time and temperature control; and an in-home display.

Incontro enables developers and landlords to comply with building regulations, new Heat Network regulations, and the Code for Sustainable Homes (worth up to 2 points). It is also compatible with the new CIBSE Heat Networks Code of Practice and Heat Trust scheme

The new technology  builds on the success of Switch2’s award-winning G6 pay-as-you-go system, which is transforming energy prepayment in more than 25,000 homes connected to district housing. Customers include housing providers such as Hyde Housing, Gentoo, and Notting Hill Housing and Sheffield City Council.

Residents can instantly top-up credit via smartphone, tablet, or any other web enabled device, as well as via phone, direct debit, Post Office, or Pay Point. Automatic top-up options enable residents to make an automatic payment should their credit drop below an agreed level. There are also an emergency credit facility and other features to help residents who run into financial difficulties.

“Our intelligent technology makes pay-as-you go billing so easy, flexible and transparent that it is becoming the option of choice for residents,” said Ian Allan, Head of R&D at Switch2. “For landlords and developers, pay-as-you-go billing dramatically reduces debt risk – helping to secure the income and improve cash flow for a viable community energy scheme. Residents benefit because they find it simple to monitor and control exactly what they spend and how much energy they use.”

He continued: “Incontro is supplied with upto two discrete heating zone sensors. It provides everything residents need to programme and control their heat by temperature or time, monitor their energy usage and carbon footprint, and take care of budgeting and payments without any hassle. If they forget to turn the heat off, or want to return to a warm house after a holiday, they have remote control via a mobile app.”

Switch2 remotely manages and monitors the Incontro system from its UK customer service centre, which provides complete billing, prepayment and administration services to more than 50,000 homes across 400 community energy and district heating schemes.

The slimline tablet-style Incontro unit  measures 22cm x 13cm  (about the size of an A5 sheet of paper) and is  designed for stylish, aspirational living.

The touch screen has a large, clear colour display – providing a weather feed, account balances, meter readings, CO2 emissions performance, and current and historic cost and consumption histograms showing various time periods – from hourly to yearly. Landlords can also message residents via the system.

Ian Allan added: ” In our experience, where unmetered community heating sites make the switch to smart metering, the savings can be as much as 50%. By putting residents in charge of their heating system and costs, as we are doing, the results are often amazing. Our current prepayment billing system is predicted to reduce annual bills for 6,000 residents connected to Sheffield City Council’s heat network by a total of £1.4 million.

Incontro can also monitor six other utilities, including water, and handle billing of electricity. It uses a GPRS/3G modem with roaming SIM chip to operate via any mobile network, avoiding the need for complex and costly infrastructure. Diagnostics and system upgrades are made remotely to the system ‘over the air’, thereby reducing installation, servicing and maintenance costs. In addition, the technology platform and interface has been designed to accommodate future expansion.


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