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A guide to central heating controls


Your boiler’s main job is to heat up your home and hot water. It offers controls allowing you to set the temperature you prefer, while monitoring your own energy use. Learning to use these can help you maintain a more comfortable home, minimising running costs and improving your system’s energy efficiency. Here’s a look at the different types of controls you might come across, and how to use them effectively.

Boiler thermostats

The boiler thermostat is your main port of call when it comes to controlling the temperature of water flowing through your central heating system. You can adjust this according to your own preferences. If you set it to the MIN or LOW setting at approximately 50°C, you’ll benefit from greater energy efficiency. For warmer months, this can be ideal and you’ll also run less risk of accidentally touching scalding water. At the other end of the spectrum is the MAX or HIGH setting, which heats water to 80°C or above. This allows your boiler system to heat up radiators as quickly as possible and warm the home during the winter months. The boiler timer is also useful for this, so you can set an ideal hour for radiators or water to heat up.

Room thermostats

The second type of temperature control is the room thermostat, which you can use to control the home’s temperature. This works by switching off the boiler and central heating once the ideal room temperature is reached. If the temperature within the home drops, the thermostat will switch the heating back on.

There are many different types of thermostats. For instance, some room thermostats are positioned on the wall, ideally in a central area away from radiators or direct sunlight. Some are wired to the boiler, yet others are wireless and battery powered. Digital thermostats offer a clear electronic display and high level of accuracy, while mechanical thermostats use a bimetallic strip or gas bellows in order to function.

Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs)

Another way to control your property’s interior temperature is with thermostatic radiator valves, or TRVs. These valves are fitted to each radiator in the home, allowing you to control the temperature in each room as needed. This allows for greater personalisation and comfort, as well as serving as an energy-saving measure. They don’t control the boiler, merely the flow of hot water through the radiator.

Boiler programmers

Do you want to keep heating the off during the day when you’re at work, but hate coming home to a cold house? A programmer or timer switch allows you to set your heating to a pre-chosen schedule. While the basic principles of a timer switch are the same, these types of boiler controls can be simple or sophisticated depending on the model chosen. You can match them to your family’s schedule for a more efficient heating plan.

Some allow you to adjust the settings by the day of the week, while others will turn on and off at the same time every day. There are digital programmers with an electronic display and built-in clock face, as well as more traditional options. Like the room thermostat, the programmer can be wired to the boiler or wireless. Naturally, the benefit of a wireless programmer is that it can be fitted anywhere in the house for swift access, yet it also means that you can update your system more easily as there is no need to run new cables between the programmer and boiler.

Cylinder or pipe thermostats

If your boiler is the traditional type with a hot water cylinder, it will include a cylinder thermostat affixed to this component. The job of the cylinder thermostat is to measure the water temperature contained inside, so that the boiler only runs to heat the water during timed intervals or when the water temperature is below the desired setting. There’s usually a motorised valve connected to the boiler outlet so that hot water only flows to the hot water cylinder or central heating, rather than both at the same time.

Smart thermostats

Are you looking for a smart solution to your home heating needs? The latest generation of controls are fully digital and smarter than ever before. A smart thermostat like Hive can be controlled remotely with a smartphone app, and some like Nest® even learn your behaviour over time to anticipate your home’s heating needs without any further input from your side. Smart thermostats use internet connectivity and motion sensors for a more energy-efficient, in-tune result and help you save energy and ultimately money on your utility bills.

Compensation controls

In the interest of greater efficiency, there are a few compensation controls you’ll find as part of the heating system. Load compensation controls adjust the heat level going to each radiator. When the room starts to heat up, the feature will lower the temperature accordingly to prevent the radiators from getting too hot. Another compensation feature accounts for external weather conditions, using outdoor sensors to adjust the boiler supply. These types of features boost energy efficiency and may be controlled via smartphone app or thermostat.

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