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Blog Post 15 February 2022 Updated 12 April 2023

How to control your central heating system

Did you know that heating and hot water accounts for over half of what you spend on your energy bills?

Boilers are the most common type of central heating system in the UK, with around 23 million homes getting their heating and hot water from gas boilers. Read on to learn how to set and use your central heating controls correctly.

Set your room thermostat

A room thermostat prevents your heating system from using more fuel than it needs to. It will turn the heating on until the room reaches the temperature you have set and then off until the temperature drops below your programmed temperature.

The thermostat should be set to the lowest comfortable temperature, typically between 18°C and 21°C. You don’t need to turn your room thermostat up when it is colder outside; the house will heat up to the set temperature whatever the weather, however it may take a little longer on colder days. Turning up your room thermostat won’t make your home heat any faster.

Also, bear in mind that room thermostats need a free flow of air to sense the temperature, so make sure they’re not blocked by curtains or furniture, and keep them away from heat sources.

Learn how to use your programmer

A timer or programmer allows you to control when your heating and hot water comes on and when it goes off.

This is useful because it means you can programme your central heating to fit around the way your home is used. If you’re not at home or don’t require heating at night, for example, then you can programme the heating system to switch off during these times.

Programmers allow you to set ‘on’ and ‘off’ time periods. You should set the central heating programme to come on around half an hour before you get up, and go off around half an hour before you go to bed. And if the house is empty during the day, or you can manage without heating during the day, make sure you’ve set the programmer to go off for this period too.

Check that the clock on the programmer is correct before you set your programmes. Remember, you might need to adjust it when the clocks change.

Use thermostatic radiator valves

Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) allow you to control the temperature of your individual radiators, so you can turn down the heat in rooms you are not using.

They work by sensing the air temperature around them. If the room is warmer than the setting on the TRV, the valve will close a little, reducing the volume of hot water flowing into the radiator. If the room temperature is lower than the valve setting, the valve opens, increasing the flow of hot water into the radiator.

They are usually marked with a scale from 0 – 6, where zero (0) is off and six (6) is fully open. Aim for the lowest setting that keeps the room at a comfortable temperature, as this will reduce the volume of hot water, using less energy and saving you money.

Check your boiler thermostat

Your boiler should have a dial or a digital temperature setting, usually marked in numbers or from minimum (min) to maximum (max). This sets the temperature of the water that is pumped from the boiler through the radiators to heat your home. If it’s not set high enough when it’s very cold outside, your home may not reach the temperature you need to be comfortable.

Invest in smart heating controls

Many companies now offer more advanced smart controls for central heating systems that connect to the internet, allowing them to be accessed and adjusted remotely.

One advantage of a smart heating control system is that you can make changes remotely if your plans change – for example, you can change the time that your heating comes on if it turns out you will be home sooner or later than you thought.

Having a system that can learn your habits and adjust times to minimise energy use requires very little input from you once the system has been set up.

Keep your boiler serviced

A boiler service is recommended every year and will help maintain its performance. The cost will vary depending on where you live and how much work is needed, but those living in rented accommodation should always have this paid for by the landlord.

If your boiler needs replacing, we have advice to help you buy a new, energy efficient model.

Other heating controls

If you think you might have other types of heating controls as part of your heating system, we have more advice to help you set them correctly.

Or if you’re looking for other ways to save money on your energy bills, our tips and information on financial support could help.

Last updated: 12 April 2023