What Are Heating Controls?
Heating controls allow you to easily regulate the temperature of your home. The controls automatically turn heating on and off based on settings input by the user to ensure maximum comfort. This process moves away from a fixed, traditional timer system and can therefore be used to better control the temperature within your home.
An important, often overlooked fact is that by installing other efficiency measures in your home (such as cavity wall insulation or loft insulation) more heat gets trapped in the home; so people often just accept their home is warmer. However, to see savings in energy bills, the temperature of the home needs to be kept the same as it was before – then the heating system will have to work less hard to keep it at the required temperature and you will use less gas/electricity.
The benefit of all these energy efficiency measures should in fact be to decrease the amount of energy we use for heating, rather than just have warmer houses. Heating controls (such as thermostats in the home), allow you to keep track of the temperature of the home so you can adjust it accordingly.
Newer heating control systems also work on an optimum start/finish, which further distinguishes them from fixed timers. Ideally the heating and temperature control should be automatically regulated to work around your daily schedule.
Products that make up a heating control system
There are four products that normally make up a heating control system (based on the home using a traditional central heating system):
- A room thermostat
- A boiler programmer
- A hot water cylinder thermostat
- Thermostatic radiator valves
In our experience, many homes currently only have one or two of these.
Room thermostats take the temperature of the ambient air in the home and feed it back to the boiler (now normally wirelessly) to tell it to either fire up to raise the temperature of the home, or to turn off since the home is warm enough and no additional heating is required.
They require free flowing air so the sensor can always work out the right temperature. You’ll need to ensure that the thermostats are not blocked by household objects like curtains or furniture and avoid placing them near heat emitting objects (fireplaces, radiators, household appliances etc). It is also recommended to house these in the lounge, since this is where homeowners typically spend most of their time and also these rooms tend don’t tend to be privy to the sort of draughts often associated with corridors or halls leading outside the property.
A boiler programmer is an automated way of turning the boiler on and off. People tend to like their homes to be warm when they wake up or come home from work. There seems little point in heating the home when no-one is there to get the benefit from the heat. A programmer allows you to set very specific time frames when the heating comes on from day to day.
So for example for a family that go to school/work during the day, typically the boiler would come on at approximately 6-7am to heat the house ready for when the family wakes up. This would then go off at about 9 when the people in the home leave for work or school. The boiler could then fire up again about 4pm in preparation for everyone coming home and go off just before everyone goes to bed.
These programmers allow you to set different heating patterns for each day, so if at the weekend more time is spent at home, you could use the programmer to reflect that.
The hot water cylinder thermostat
If you have an older boiler with a hot water tank, a hot water cylinder thermostat is a great way of ensuring the temperature of the water in the tank isn’t too warm. Storing water at a very high temperature increases your bills since you need to use more gas (or electricity if you use the immersion heater) to get the water to the higher temperature. In addition, unless you can handle a scalding hot shower or bath, you tend to add cold water to this hot water to shower comfortably, which means you are heating it to an unnecessarily warm temperature in the first place.
The hot water cylinder thermostat is strapped to the hot water tank and has a dial on the front where you can adjust the temperature. Normally this temperature is set between 60 and 650c, which is hot enough to kill any bacteria but not so hot as to scold you when it comes out of the tap. It is a important to check the temperature of the thermostat on your hot water cylinder, since if it is set any higher than 650c, the chances are that you can turn it down and still get nice warm water, but save a bit on your gas bill at the same time.
If you don’t have a thermostat on your hot water cylinder it is certainly worth getting one fitted, since they cost less than £20 and can really help you to use less gas, but we do recommend getting a trained plumber to fit the thermostat.
Thermostatic radiator valves
Using programmers and thermostats you can pretty much dictate when you want the heating to come on and the temperature that you want it to be, however thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) allow you additional control to further fine-tune your heating system.
Much like the main thermostat, these TRVs track the temperature of the room in which the radiator is situated and will turn the radiator down in temperature (or off altogether) depending on the temperature of the room. TRVs allow the temperature of each room to be controlled individually from one another dependant on their own ambient temperature.
TRVs therefore really allow you to fine tune your heating system. For example a room may have a lot of glazing so potentially gets warmer than the rest of the rooms in the home when the sun is out. In this case, the thermostatic valve would shut of that radiator independently from the rest, ensuring the occupant maximum comfort.
Intelligent heating systems are the future
Heating optimisation works through an intelligent system that should help to save consumers additional money on energy bills in the near future. Most people set the time for their heating to come on at least an hour before they need it (in the mornings and evenings), but an Intelligent Heating System can sense the time it will take to heat the household to the required temperature (dictated by the thermostat).
For example, a household gets up in the morning at 7am and requires the rooms to be heated for this time. The traditional timer turns the heating on at 6am and works for an hour before everyone gets up. However on warmer days, the warm up time may only be 30mins or less, thereby the intelligent heating system will take this into consideration and set your boiler to fire up later, meaning less fuel will be used, which will result in savings in energy bills.
Optimum regulation for your intelligent heating system
Thermostats are a great way to ensure your home stays at a comfortable temperature; however the problem is that they instruct the boiler to switch off when the required temperature is reached. Unfortunately because it will take time for the hot water to run out of the radiators (in a wet central heating system) it is likely that the room will actually go slightly above the temperature required. This can also work in reverse with a room dropping in temperature further than instructed by the thermostat.
An intelligent heating system will accurately control the heating to within 0.1oC to 0.5oC increments by being able to sense how quickly the room is heating up and cooling down, therefore it can turn off the heating before the temperature is reached, knowing that the hot water flowing around the central heating system will continue to produce some heating. This means you will use less fuel and keep the temperature range of your home precisely to how you want it.
Ultimate flexibility for your intelligent heating system
You might have a programmer that at most allows you to turn your heating on or off two or three times per day. An intelligent heating system can set multiple points where you set the time and temperature requirements for that day. The idea being that one may have different heating requirements for each day of the week.
Certain products on the market can have over 20 built-in plans with further programmes available for customisation to an individual’s personal needs. For example if you are a flexible worker you can set customised patterns to suit your needs. When you go on holiday, a plan of choice can be set that works around you.
In addition, these intelligent heating systems can be linked wirelessly to your phone or computer, so you can set the heating to come on as you are beginning your commute home. If you go away in cold weather, you can bring the heating on in your home even if you are not there to help prevent freezing.
Many of the intelligent heating features discussed above are now built into new heating control products available on the market today, and over the next few years they will become far more commonplace. All of the features work to more effectively regulate the temperature of your home, helping to minimise the amount of gas and electricity required to heat it.
The importance of heating controls
Installing huge quantities of loft or wall insulation will increase the energy efficiency of your property However to reap the benefits of saving on your energy bills, it is absolutely key to be able to regulate the temperature of your home. Thermostats and TRVs are a really important way to help benefit from the increased energy efficiency of the envelope (floor, walls and roof) of your home. If you don’t have them, your boiler will continue to operate as it always has, which means your home will be warmer, but you will be using the same amount of gas. Therefore they are integral to the money-saving aspect of making your home more energy efficient
It is also worth remembering that most of the features discussed will run behind the scenes in your home, so once you have set them up, you can then forget about them.
Finally – and this is a tip we always tell customers – once you have a thermostat in the home, for every 1 degree you can turn it down, you will save an average £65 on your energy bill (for an average sized 2/3 bed home) – so the lower you can go, the more you save!
- Heating controls allow you to accurately control the temperature of your house.
- They are relatively simple to set up, then they will run in the background and you can forget about them.
- Install a room thermostat if you didn’t have one before: this can save you approximately £70 and 280kg of carbon dioxide a year.
- You can also make savings by using your controls more effectively. Turn down your room thermostat by one degree to save around £65 and 230kg carbon dioxide a year.
- Replacement of your current heating system such as your boiler, piping and radiators can be a significant investment, particularly if your current system is over 10 years old. However, the intelligence system will not bring about the financial benefits if you have a fairly new system in place.
- Different suppliers offer different solutions but costs can start from £150 for a simple room thermostat to £1,000 for an integrated intelligence system that will combine both the room temperature regulation and programme setting capabilities.