Central heating controls explained: what are they and are they worth it?

As the pace of household boiler and energy technology has stepped up, so has the measure of control we have over our central heating and hot water systems.

With energy prices soaring, it’s even more crucial to be aware of the smart heating technologies that are available to you. Sophisticated and user-friendly central heating controls, such as smart thermostats and thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs), ensure precise and economic direction of room and water temperatures.

A weather compensation control, for instance, can cut 15% from your annual fuel bill simply by monitoring external and seasonal temperatures and automatically adjusting your own internal settings to compensate*. Many new boilers and smart thermostats already have this option available. Smart thermostats can not only control your heating and water more intelligently, but can be adjusted remotely – particularly crucial if there is a change of plan or a sudden weather upset.

If you would like expert advice from Swale Heating on any of the above, please click here.

Central heating controls explained – the boiler

If you choose to purchase a boiler with a timer or programmer, then this is a simple and effective way to control your heating.

In systems using a hot water storage tank, this will control both the heating of the property and its water, but may also include a separate set-up for an annex or other zones/areas within or attached to the main house.

One boiler with heating controls included is the combi boiler. Combi boiler systems have just one timer/programmer as household hot water is heated only when needed.

Householders use the timer/programmer to set moments when the central heating (and hot water if applicable) switches on and off, with a ‘boost’ over-ride available for moments when the need is outside the normal timetable.

Traditionally, households would set the boiler to run only at the start and end of weekdays and then run longer on weekends when more people were likely to be at home.

But central heating controls have become increasingly sophisticated, and it is possible to fine tune settings on a daily, weekend and holiday basis, especially as people often prefer to have heating ticking over at certain times to avoid the property cooling and then needing an expensive re-heat later.

Programmers also no longer need to be ‘hot-wired’ to the boiler installation. They can now be installed elsewhere in the home to suit your needs.

Central heating controls explained – the thermostat

Often also called a ‘room stat,’ this measures heat and tells the boiler to switch on and off according to the desired temperature set by you.

A single unit set-up will usually have the thermostat located in the hall, stairs or the landing area or another large space or room. It must be away from a radiator or direct sunlight, otherwise this could skew the operation of the device.

Thermostats used to be relatively simple devices but the advent of ‘smart thermostats’ now enable high levels of customization and monitoring of your energy usage patterns. Smart thermostats can answer increasingly important questions like:

• How much energy and cost does it really take to heat your home comfortably?
• Could a small tweak save you big money – especially as energy bills are soaring?

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to programme these new generation thermostats. They are called ‘smart’ for a reason, being wi-fi enabled and able to learn your habits and preferences over time, as you make day-to-day adjustments either directly on the device or via an app you install on your mobile phone or tablet.

Can a smart thermostat save you money?

You will find many claims online – the most optimistic tend to be around 20% – but it truly depends on how you managed your system previously.

Some units also have a ‘Far Sight’ feature that senses your presence on entering the room and briefly illuminates the current temperature. Used in conjunction with thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs), smart thermostats can also be used to set up different heating zones around the house.

Alternatively, if you were the ‘set it and leave it’ type, who acquired a smart thermostat after a hefty series of bills, then you should quickly notice savings and justify the cost of your new gadget within a year or two.

Ultimately though, whatever your attention to usage was before, we are certain that by ‘going smart’ with your central heating controls, you will be running your system more efficiently for the benefit of your wallet and the planet.

Please click here if you would like any expert advice from Swale Heating on running or upgrading your central heating controls set-up.

How much does a smart thermostat cost?

It depends on the model, brand, and how sophisticated you need it to be. There are a vast range of smart thermostats to meet you personal needs and budget.

We are available to help and advise – please click here to chat with our sales team.

Central heating controls explained – the thermostatic radiator valve

TRVs are one of the most cost-effective ways to take control of household heating, but with even greater benefits coming from upgrading to ‘smart’ versions working in conjunction with a smart thermostat.

Also, TRVs are now a Building Regulation requirement on all new, and updated, central heating controls and installations due to their money and energy saving qualities.

How does a thermostatic radiator valve/TRV work?

The TRV is a relatively simple self-regulating valve with a head section that responds to heat changes in a room. It automatically opens or closes access to hot water from the central heating system in accordance with your setting for the valve head, which can vary from ‘frost’ level to the maximum selectable.

Where should I use a TRV?

TRVs can be used in any room; you would typically want higher settings in living and dining rooms, with lower ones for bedrooms and – if a radiator is fitted at all – in a kitchen where there are plenty of other heat sources.

They are also useful on a low setting for little-used rooms where you can select the frost setting or a low temperature to avoid damp and moisture damaging your décor and belongings.

But there are two rooms where you don’t need a TRV:

• The bathroom – where heat from baths and showers will cause the TRV to close, taking heat away from a room where users are most sensitive to a chilly atmosphere and where you want to avoid moisture condensing  on cold or cooling walls.
• The room occupied by your central heating thermostat, as the TRV might clash with the main device and potentially cause it to shut down all heating across the household. If you do have one, set the TRV at maximum to try to avoid this.

Are Smart TRVs worth it?

Linked with a smart heating system thermostat, these are a more accurate way to create heat ‘zones’ in your house and will have an LED reading confirming how the room is performing.

Again, it aids controllability, plus the energy and cost savings of a smart or intelligent heating set-up. They can often be simply fitted onto an existing TRV rather than needing isolation of the radiator or a system drain down.

How reliable are TRVs?

Admittedly, TRVs haven’t always had a great reputation, but reliability has increased markedly, and past issues were often down to ‘user neglect’ and other factors such as curtains and furnishings or direct sunshine confusing the heat sensor – always consider these factors when you think your TRV may be faulty.

To maintain your TRVs, clean out any dust and detritus from the valve head or this may obstruct air to the all-important heat sensor. Carefully unscrew the valve head occasionally as well, to ensure the operating pin moves freely – if it doesn’t, then consider a new TRV as the savings from a fully-operational TRV outweigh the small upfront cost.

How to use central heating controls

While details can vary from supplier-to-supplier, central heating controls are set up to be user-friendly and intuitive. The advent of ‘smart’ installations means that your system can be more finely tuned to your needs and even learn and anticipate them – a huge reassurance during times of uncertainty and increasingly expensive energy supply.

Swale Heating has invested in and trained our teams so we can partner the right boiler and fuel source with the best controls. With the right controls, you can get to know and draw out the very best in your set-up to control the heat in your home and hot water supply.

We have the expertise and know-how to install the most popular thermostats and smart heating controls on the market, including the Nest Learning, Worcester Easy Control and Honeywell EvoHome ranges.

Even if your boiler and system are relatively new, you can still be more economic and eco-friendly, by talking to us about upgrading controls to optimize your heating and water use.

Why choose Swale Heating?

We were founded in 1972 to focus on top quality installation with follow-up maintenance to the same standard.

Swale Heating is now one of Kent's largest installers of boilers and heating systems, completing thousands of installations each year, and keeping homes safe and warm, via our maintenance and repair services.

We understand that the failure of your heating system can leave you feeling anxious, which is why we're available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can find out more about our boiler cover plans and use our online portal to book your repair or annual service. If you would like a quote for a new boiler, click here.


Information source:

* Installer Online