Central Heating Controls Explained

Central Heating Controls

Controls are an essential part of any central heating system. They give homeowners full control over the function of their heating systems. Allowing them to be turned on or off whenever required. Central heating controls help systems work properly and efficiently. Especially with the new regulations that have come into play over the past few years.

Central heating controls used to be relatively simple. There was a thermostat to control the temperature, a programmer to set the times and a hot water stat to control the cylinder. And, a bit later on thermostatic radiator valves to control individual radiators.

Nowadays things are a bit different. With multiple different options available to control a heating system.

This post should help you understand:

  • What each control is
  • How they work
  • What homes they are suitable for
  • How much they cost

Central heating controls explained


Room Thermostat (room stat)

Regulating the temperature, room thermostats stop homes from getting too hot, or too cold. Room stats have been around for years now and are commonly found in hallways. Room stats sense the ambient temperature around it and control the heat accordingly. When the temperature is below what is set, the stat will send a signal to the boiler telling it to fire up. And, vice versa when it has reached temperature. Generally, older room stats work mechanically and are wired directly into the boiler. Whereas newer room stats are mostly electrical and work wirelessly. Contrary to common belief, turning the room stat up doesn’t heat up the room quicker. The speed a room or home heats up depends on the size of the radiators and the quality of the central heating system.

Honeywell Room Thermostat

It’s important to ensure your room stat is installed in a suitable place. Room stats should always be installed in the coldest area, away from direct heat or sunlight. Or somewhere where they may be subject to drafts. Any form of unwanted heat will stop the room stat working how it should. And, may prevent it from coming on, or off when it is required.



Programmers set the time when the heating and hot water (where applicable) come on and off. Working with room stats and cylinder stats. They dictate what time the boiler should fire up and how long for. There are two types of programmer, single-channel and twin-channel. Single-channel can only control one function – heating or hot water. Whereas twin-channel control both – heating and hot water. Most newer programmers are digital but mechanical ones can still be found.Drayton LP241 24 Hour Twin Channel Programmer

Programmers are overruled by thermostats. Meaning, if the programmer is set to come on at a certain time, but the thermostat is up to temperature it won’t fire up. Some programmers are fairly advanced and allow almost unlimited customisation. Enabling you to set different times for different individual days. Less advanced programmers usually only allow times to be programmed for the full week, or weekdays and weekends separately.


Working as a programmer but much more basic. Timers can be found attached to the front of combi boilers, and allow the heating to be set to come on in 15-minute increments. Timers only work on a 24-hour clock, meaning there is no flexibility on different days. This makes them inefficient without a thermostat installed to control the temperature. 

worcester mt10 timerCylinder stats

Cylinder stats work in almost exactly the same way as a room stat, but instead of monitoring the temperate of the room they’re in. They monitor the temperature of the cylinder. To prevent legionella disease, cylinders have to be kept at 60° at all times. Cylinder stats work with the boiler to ensure they stay at this temperature, and don’t get too hot. Which can cause serious problems.

Programmable room stats

Combining the functions of programmers and room stats, programmable room stats are a much easier way of controlling your heating system. Available hardwired or wireless. They provide you with complete control over the temperature and programmes in one unit. Making them much easier to use than a separate programmer and room stat.

Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRV’S)

Thermostatic radiator valves allow radiators to be set to a certain temperature. TRV heads contain wax which expands when it heats. Reducing the flow of water to the radiator. Or even shutting it off completely. Enabling radiators to be turned down to suit the room temperature. As with all homes, some rooms are much warmer than others. TRV’s can turn radiators off in rooms that don’t require extra heat without affecting the heating system. This increases efficiency and helps reduce energy bills. As they will contradict each other, TRV’s can’t be installed in the same room as room thermostats.

TRV’s are a good way of regulating the temperature of a room, but aren’t as accurate as a room stat or smart TRV’s.

Smart TRV’s

Smart TRV’s are a great innovation, they work just like manual TRV’s but can be controlled via an app. Meaning, they must be installed with a compatible control. Smart TRV’s are a much cheaper alternative to zoning a house. And offer unlimited customisation. Allowing each radiator to be controlled individually, without even touching them. This can help drastically reduce energy bills by turning radiators that aren’t being used off. And, setting radiators to comfortable temperatures. Also, being digital, smart TRV’s can control the room temperature accurately. Unlike standard TRV’s.

Worcester easy control and trv's

Smart Room Thermostats

A recent innovation, smart room stats have all the functions of a programmable room stat but allow you to control them with your phone. Obviously, they need an internet connection to work and are great for people that have a changing schedule. Like shift workers, or people that travel a lot. Or even people that just can’t be bothered to get up and turn the heating! We all know one or two!

Smart thermostats aren’t cheap but can help save money on energy bills when used properly. Some smart thermostats are also learning thermostats, that monitor when you come in and out of your home and set the heating programme to suit.

Also, a lot of smart thermostats use geofencing to see whether you’re at home or not, so if you leave the house whilst the heating is still on, it will turn it off. This can be set up to multiple phones, so it won’t turn off until everyone has left. Smart thermostats typically cost better £150-£300 depending on which one you go for. Installation should cost between £50-£80. Although it may be tempting to try to install one yourself, exercise caution unless you are highly competent at wiring. All it takes is one wrong connect to blow the PCB on a boiler, and that is not a cheap fix! There are three main brands when it comes to smart thermostats.

What smart thermostats are best?

Nest – Google owned, the Nest is possibly the most well known smart thermostat and has been around for a number of years now.

Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation - Stainless SteelNest offers everything you’d expect from a smart thermostat including smart programming and built-in activity sensors to avoid heating an empty home. The Nest is hard-wired, meaning a cable will have to be installed to power it. Or you can buy the stand and plug it in.One of the main things you notice about the Nest is the quality of the design. It’s beautifully made, feeling solid and hardwearing.

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Tado – Not as well known as Nest or Hive, the Tado is a very good smart thermostat. Very subtle and minimalist in design. The Tado offers an easy to use app in conjunction with geo fencing and even an air comfort feature. This tells you how good the air quality is indoors and outdoors. Unlike the Nest, the Tado is battery operated giving added flexibility to its installation.


Check PriceTado Smart Thermostat – TECH4






Hive – Made by British Gas, the Hive has been improved in recent years and now offers a learning feature like the Nest. Also offering multiple different colours to match the colour scheme of your home. The biggest problem with the Hive is the design, the thermostat feels very basic and a bit cheap. Unlike the Nest and the Tado, it’s app isn’t as easy to use either. But, it is a bit cheaper than the Nest. So if you’re not bothered about the design the Hive would make a good choice.

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Hive Active Heating & Hot Water Thermostat | Wireless Thermostats ...

Boiler Plus 

Introduced in April 2018, Boiler Plus is a set of standards aimed at improving the efficiency in homes across the UK. 

With the new set of standards three new regulations were introduced.

  1. All new gas boilers have to be at least 92% efficient.
  2. All gas and oil boilers require time and temperature controls. 
  3. Combination boilers have to have at least one of the following efficiency measures installed.
  • Flue gas heat recovery
  • Weather compensation
  • Load compensation
  • Smarth controls with automation and optimisation 

If you would like more information on boiler plus you can find the full government document here. We will be writing our own simple explanation of the efficiency measure that have to be followed in the coming weeks.

Summary: Central Heating Controls Explained

Central heating controls are an essential part of any warm and efficient home. We hope this post has helped given you food for thought. Are you going to be jumping into the modern age with a smart control? Or are you just happy with a programmable roomstat?

If you enjoyed it or think we missed anything out please get in touch – info@heatingbritain.com



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