Controlling "Non-Computer" Devices Remotely

A little background:

I have a client who owns a small chain of self-serve car washes in the mid-west.  During the winter months, he has to run "floor heat" in each car wash bay to keep ice from forming on the ground.  This floor heat consists of hot water flowing through pipes beneath the concrete.  He must turn each system, essentially pumps controlled by electronic switches, on and off manually at each of his locations.  With the rising natural gas prices, running the floor heat is costing him a fortune.  So, to cut down costs, he turns the systems off on milder days, when the temp get above 35 degrees F, but the night-time temp will still drop below freezing so he needs to make another trip out to all his locations to turn the systems back on.

He wants to be able to turn these systems off and on over the web so he doesn't have to spend so much time driving to and from each location.

From what I know I should be able to set up the computers he has at each location with a PC board and software that can control these switches.  What I need is a starting point of what to look for.  I haven't found much online but I think it's because I'm not sure the proper terminolgy I need for something like this.  Once I get the system set up, I can handle setting up access to his systems over the web.

So, I need to know what hardware/software/parts I need to set up a WindowsXP computer to turn small industrial pumps on and off.

Can someone point me in the right direction here?
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And a thermostat is a bad idea because?
pmascariAuthor Commented:
It's not quite that simple.  If this works, he wants to be able to extend it to control other equipment.

This is in swedish, unfortunately, but the product is a box with several I/O channels controllable via the internet.
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pmascariAuthor Commented:
Thanks, rid...but I don't necessarily need  a component that will both control equipment and be accessed via the web.  What I need is just the hardware.  I can wirte an app to access it via web, or just set him up with a VPN and Terminal Services.

Heck, all I really need is the correct terminology of these components and I'll be able to get better results from my searches, not to mention, have a better idea what Im looking for.
B and Q in the uk sell a range of three pin 13 amp sockets with a rj45 socket that you can connect to your pc and switch on and of remotely if memory serves me the produce several kits ie 4 sockets plus breaker/surge protector and a piece of control software.
pmascariAuthor Commented:
Found what I was looking for here:

The "term" that was eluding me was: relay.

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