How do heating controls work?

Heating controls allow you to set your heating and hot water to come on and off when you need it, or when it is hot enough. And there are grants available for fitting the controls.

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Various types

There are various types and a large number of manufactures of heating controls.

The main types are:

  • Boiler Thermostat – This allow you to set the temperature of your hot water and the water used in the central heating. It generally will be marked with a ‘Min’ to ‘Max’ and you should aim to try and achieve a temperature of approximately 60° (or 140°F) although this will be down to personal preference and trial and error to get the right temperature that you’re happy with.
  • Programmer – This control allows you to set when the heating, and in many models the hot water too, will come on and off. This should be set to reflect your lifestyle and when you need heating and hot water, and remember this might well change depending on the time of year, so you will need to switch the heating off in summer for example. It is often useful to have an override to give a short boost if required.
  • Room Thermostat – This measures the temperature of the room and when the desired temperature that has been set is reached it will turn off the heating system. There is typically one thermostat in the house and it shouldn’t be covered by curtains or fitted next to heaters, electrical appliances, lamps etc or it will not sense the true air temperature of the room effectively.
  • Thermostatic Radiator Valve – (TRV) is a self-regulating valve fitted to hot water heating system radiators which allows you to control the temperature in each room. They do not control the boiler like the room thermostat or boiler thermostat and therefore need to be used in conjunction with one or the other. Working in conjunction with the room thermostat you can adjust the various TVR so that each room is at the particular temperature you prefer.
  • Programmable Room Thermostat – this combines the Programmer and the Room Thermostat into a single devise.

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Heating controls will have to be installed by qualified electrician or heating engineer. Most installation or upgrade work done on your heating system is subject to Building Regulations. These regulations vary depending on where you are in the UK, but generally all work must be notified to your local authority. Your installer should do this for you. Find out more about the Installation of Heating Controls


Can I use a wall mount thermostat to control my heater if it has an in-built thermostat?
Yes, to override the in-built thermostat, turn the thermostat on the heater to the highest setting, then use the wall thermostat to regulate the room temperature and control the heater.
What should I do if my wall thermostat feels hot to the touch?
You should replace the thermostat. A 'hot' thermostat may indicate that it is not working efficiently; decreasing its accuracy. It may also indicate an overloaded capacity. NOTE: A normal operating thermostat will be slightly warmer than the room temperature by about 3 to 5 degrees.
How can I use my thermostat best to save energy?
If energy efficiency is important, keep in mind that wide temperature fluctuations in thermostats can waste energy, increasing the cost of running your heaters and decreasing your comfort level.
What other features do programmable thermostats have?
Another function available in some programmable thermostats is optimum start, a function designed to adjust the start up time automatically depending on the ambient temperature in the building. As a example, the heating can be turned on later in mild weather, which saves energy.
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