For a long time, people have tried to make their homes warm, especially during the winter season. Heating systems have developed newer and better technologies, but prices have risen as well.
With all the environment-care movement around the world, people have changed their approach to heating their homes. Now, people aren’t just worried about bringing some warmth and comfort to their homes, but they think about making sure the heating systems are cheap and energy or environmentally efficient.
Most of the homes in the United Kingdom use central heating systems, the most complete system as it includes a boiler, some radiators, underfloor heating, and hot water. Some families don’t use the whole system, but rather they install individual storage heaters and an additional boiler to provide hot water with some others install just a system that pumps hot air into rooms.
On the other hand, these central heating systems can run with different types of fuel, being gas the most common and cheap. There are other options available (which we’ll cover later on), but these are the most common.
Additionally, there are different types of boilers. Combi-Boilers are the most popular in the United Kingdom, these only heats the water that you use. Other types are called conventional, regular or heat-only boilers which send hot water to the radiators and a hot water cylinder. There are also system boilers, which take up less space but provides a steady flow of hot water.
There are lots of options and it will depend on each one’s needs or priorities to find the one that fits those needs.
Through different websites, competitions, and campaigns, the United Kingdom government promotes the use of more energy-efficient central heating systems by providing advice to consumers on how to choose the best equipment to make their houses warmer but at the same time greener. Heating systems, installation, replacement, and maintenance are also regulated by the government, to make sure people comply with safety measures that prevent accidents or health issues to happen.
In this article, we will go through all these regulations, helping to not only understand these regulations but to also understand how central heating systems are built, what are their components and how they operate.
- How does a Central Heating System Work?
- Types of Central Heating Systems
- Central Heating System and Boiler Regulations
- Building Regulations (Heating Systems Related)
- Common Central Heating System Problems
- Best Energy-Efficient Central Heating Systems
- Central Heating Systems Pros and Cons
- Tips for maintaining your Central Heating System in Good Conditions
How Does a Central Heating System Work?
The main device for operating a central heating system is a boiler, then some pipework and radiators are connected to this boiler. It creates the heat that moves or pumps the heated water from the pipeworks to the radiators, and this water comes back to the boiler for repeating the process. This system also provides hot water to be used through the taps.
A thermostat is a device in charge of monitoring the boiler’s activity, it’s usually placed in a communal area of the house or premises. When the temperature has dropped and hot water is requested then it turns the boiler on, and it also turns it off once the temperature hits the high thermostat setting. Then, waste gases from the boiler will be expelled to the outside through a flue.
Boilers come in different sizes with bigger ones usually carrying more kilowatts (kW). The right size of boiler will depend on the different circumstances and requirements of every specific property that they’re installed in. A professional heating engineer can make the calculations to identify what’s the right boiler to have to make sure it’s suited to the job.
If you’re considering installing a new boiler or replace an old one, consider contacting us at Perfect Plumbers. We have qualified and registered heating engineers who can solve any type of consultation related to boilers and heating systems, so feel free to get in touch today!
Pipework are also important devices of the heating system, they can be made of copper or plastic, this second one has become very popular as it’s cheaper and easier to install. Pipeworks size can also be different according to the boiler they’ll be connected to. Their sizes can range between eight and 35 millimetres.
In modern boilers, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is smaller than when using a regular fireplace, and this is because the combustion is shut off from the indoor air.
Another benefit of using a Central Heating System is the boiler is higher efficiency in terms of heat, compared to having separate heating sources.
Regarding the radiator’s operation is important to know each radiator has valves that help to control the rate at which the water flows through them. This means they make sure the water keeps the heat during all the process of passing from the boiler to the radiator and back.
Not all heating systems operate the same way though, due to there are different types of them, each one can have variations on the way they work, so that’s why it’s important to identify first what type of heating system is and so that then it will be easier to do any work to it, such as a repair, maintenance or a new installation.
Types of Central Heating Systems
There are three main types of Central Heating Systems: wet systems, warm air systems, and electric storage heaters.
Wet systems are the most popular in the UK. They include a boiler, radiators, and a heat exchanger. Usually, they operate with a combi-boiler. The boiler burns the fuel and heats the water that is sent through the pipes to the radiators. Sometimes the heat exchanger replaces the boiler.
Warm air systems are more used for businesses or bigger premises and they can also provide cool air. They are not as cheap as the wet systems but still operate very well. The boiler heats the air and enters the rooms through ducts.
Electric storage heaters, these systems are wired into the house’s electric system and they collect and store heat during the night in bricks with a lot of energy storage capacity and release it during the day.
We mentioned it before and there are also different types of boilers, but let’s see in detail how each one is and how do they operate.
Combi-Boiler: Get their name from ‘Combination Boiler’. This type of boiler heats the water just right when the system is turned on, or when you open the water tabs. It doesn’t need a water storage place so that’s why it uses a very small space and it’s also easy to install.
Conventional Boiler: These have more complex systems as they must be placed at a higher level of the property as they operate with gravity. They include a storage tank for cold water and one for hot water, plus a storage cylinder that can be placed on a lower floor. Coldwater passes to the storage cylinder where it’s heated up, then passes to the hot water tank and finally to radiators and taps.
System Boiler: It has a boiler and a hot water cylinder. Coldwater coming from the water supply is heated up and it’s stored in the cylinder until it is needed. This kind of boiler is a bit harder to install and maintain, but they’re a good option for houses with multiple bathrooms and higher water pressure.
For the boilers to function they need fuel, there are different types of fuel that boilers can use to operate: gas, oil, LPG, or solid fuel are the most common.
Gas is the most popular and cheap. The gas is transported to the boiler through the gas distribution network and then the boiler burns it to heat the water that travels through the system.
Oil is the best option for those places with no gas network installed. Oil is delivered by a private company on a truck and you must have a storage tank for it. It operates similarly to the gas and has also a semi cheap price.
LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas), it’s similar to oil as this one also needs to be delivered to you and stored, but the costs are significantly higher.
Solid fuel isn’t a very common one but it’s still good to mention. It’s essentially coal or Biomass, which is being known for being sustainable but at the same time requires frequent cleaning.
There are lots of options and different variations of the systems, that can be chosen as per each house’s needs and preferences. Whichever you choose will do the work though, it’s all about considering the pros and cons of each type.
It’s also important to make sure all Central Heating Systems and Boilers comply with the building and installation regulations stated by the government, so they can be safe for users and increase energy efficiency.
Central Heating System and Boiler Regulations
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) introduced new legislation from 6th April 2018, it’s called Boiler Plus and regulates the heating manufacture and installation in the United Kingdom.
The main purpose of the legislation is to help the UK meet the carbon emissions reduction targets by 2020. These measures are part of the government’s efforts to tackle climate change.
The Boiler Plus regulation states all boilers should meet certain requirements to increase the energy efficiency of homes. New manufactured and installed boilers must be at least 92% efficient and also time and temperature controls are required to be installed previous all gas and oil boiler’s installations. Additionally, boilers should include one of the following: Flue Gas Heat Recovery, Weather compensation, Load compensation, Smart controls.
We’ve highlighted each one in detail.
Flue Gas Heat Recovery: It’s described as a device that pre-heats the hot water supply by recovering heat from the boiler’s flue emissions. They’re not part of boilers but they can be built in as an additional device. It’s recommended to check with the boiler’s manufacturer to confirm compatibility and other installation related considerations.
Weather Compensation Thermostat: A device that adjusts the radiator’s temperature depending on the outside temperature. For this to happen there must be two elements: a temperature sensor placed at the outside of the house or any other device that could receive outside’s weather information and control functionality that varies boiler’s temperature about the temperature measured from the outside.
Load Compensation Thermostat: Using a thermostat to adjust the radiator temperature, so to be hotter when the home temperature is cold, and to be cooler when the temperature drops. The difference with the weather compensation thermostat is that the load compensation one will measure the internal and not the external temperature.
Smart Controls: Smart controls are a smart thermostat with automation and optimization, it’s a more sophisticated option and it’s a type of thermostat that can be controlled through a Tablet or Smartphone. It allows to control the temperature of a house during different hours of the day and so to be able to easily control regulators.
It is also a requirement that users know how to use the different controls that have been installed to reduce energy consumption. It’s for this reason that many of these devices must have operating instructions available for all users.
When installing a new boiler these regulations should be taken into consideration, so it won’t be only important that the boiler adapts to the property’s needs but also to make sure that complies with the efficiency levels required by the Boiler Plus Regulations. If you’re planning to install a new central heating system in your property that will include a boiler, you can always contact Perfect Plumbers where our experienced engineers will give you advice on what’s the best option for you and also will install any type of boiler.
Building Regulations (Heating Systems Related)
Not only the specific boiler’s regulations are required to be followed, but also the Building Regulations. These regulations are in charge of making sure buildings are safe to use and inhabit. So, any time a heat-producing appliance is installed in a property, a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate must be issued.
So, the homeowner, landlord or person in charge of a property should self-certify within 30 days of installing the device to the relevant local authority that the installation has been made by a qualified and Gas Safe registered engineer complying with the regulations.
To obtain the Building Regulations Certificate, your Gas Safe registered engineer should notify the installation to the Gas Safe Register, who will inform the local authority and will generate the certificate and send it in about 10-15 working days. The certificate will state that a boiler has been installed in your property properly and safely, which can be a useful document to have in case you decide to sell your property and buyers ask for it.
A Declaration of Safety Certificate is different from the Building Regulations Certificate, as the first one is only optional for when a flueless gas cooking appliance (such as a cooker or hob) is installed. If a central heating system is going to be replaced or fixed it will need to be notified to the Building Regulations for consent. These installations should always be made by a Gas Safe registered engineer who will have the responsibility of notifying it to the Building Control. It’s mandatory to do this as the homeowner could be subject to enforcement action in case of not doing it.
Regulations for Replacement of Primary Heating Appliances
If a heating producer appliance is going to be replaced for a new one, the homeowner and installer must make sure that the efficiency of the new appliance is not less than the old one. Additionally and specifically for gas-fired combi-boilers, the installation should include energy efficiency measures.
For those heating appliances to be replaced for another one with the same fuel or energy supply, the efficiency of the new equipment should not be worse than 2% points lower than the efficiency of the controlled service being replaced.
If the new appliance to be installed uses a different type of fuel, a calculation should be made to find the ‘carbon equivalence efficiency’.
If the tank of an oil-fired heating system is about to be replaced, then the installer or engineer should make sure to follow the guidelines to comply with the fire safety regulations and for limiting the risks of oil pollution.
With there being lots of aspects of installing, replacing and maintaining the different types of central heating systems, it also helps to know about the most common problems people have with having a central heating system installed. It helps to know about the problem and the ways to solve it, whether is doing it yourself or calling a professional.
Common Central Heating System Problems
Boiler Leaking: This type of problem should be checked and repaired by a Gas Safe registered engineer as any boiler’s leak could be potentially dangerous. The first thing should be to locate or identify where the leak is, and depending on where it is the problem can be identified:
A leak from the pressure valve: the boiler pressure might be too high.
A leak from the pump seal: the seal could be worn out.
A leak from the pipes: there might be corrosion inside them.
Low Boiler Pressure: It’s easy to identify a low boiler pressure by checking the pressure gauge, if the needle is below 1 it means there is low pressure. Usually, this can be caused by a water leak, a damaged pressure valve, or because radiators were bled recently. It could be possible to fix it by yourself by re-pressuring the system by following the heating system’s manual, but it’s recommended to ask a professional Gas Safe Engineer to do so.
Thermostat Not Working Properly: If the thermostat it’s not being accurate and turning the heating on and off when it shouldn’t, it could be a sign it needs to be replaced for a new one. If you feel your house feels warmer than what thermostat shows, it might be because it’s been programmed for allowing the boiler to heat at a certain temperature and it won’t go above that, so in that case, you only need to increase the limit temperature on the thermostat.
No Hot Water or Heating: This can be caused for different reasons:
Faulty motorized valves
Broken diaphragms and airlocks
For any of these causes, the fitting needs to be replaced.
Noisy Boiler: It’s very common, especially for old boilers, to make a banging or gurgling noise, and most of the times this is caused by the pumps due to the fact they can build up with air causing airlocks. These airlocks can be fixed by locating the pump behind the boiler casing. By letting the air coming out from the bleed screw until some little bits of water starts coming out as well, it will fix the hissing and airlock problem.
Water From The Taps is Too Hot: Usually, it’s caused by a thermostat problem, or also it could be the tap or shower cartridge. For any of the two options, the way to fix it is by replacing any of those fittings.
Radiators are Cold: It could be on the top, middle, or bottom part and for any of these the reason might be different. But a good way to start identifying the problem could be to bleed the radiators, and if the issue continues you can also try to balance them. Balancing radiators help the hot water to be evenly distributed between all the radiators.
Kettling: It’s called like this when the limescale or sludge has built up inside the boiler, this causes the boiler and pipes to make loud noises due to the flow of water is blocked inside, it’s a very common problem. For fixing it’s needed to remove all these substances from the inside of the boiler and pipes, which can be a quite expensive job.
Pilot Lights Switch-Off: The pilot light is a blue little flame that stays lit under the boiler, if it’s constantly switching off it means there’s a gas problem and this should be checked and fixed by a Gas Safe engineer. The problem might be a lack of gas, or also the thermocouple might be faulty. Even in some cases, the problem is very simple as a very windy day and so the wind might be turning the flame off.
For any of these problems, you can use Perfect Plumber’s service. Our engineers are experienced and own all the qualifications and registers to carry out any type of installation or repair related to the boiler for central heating systems in general.
Best Energy-Efficient Central Heating Systems
Having a Central Heating System that saves energy is a great way to save money as your gas and energy bills will be much cheaper. That’s why it’s so important to study the different options available on the market before deciding which one to install one in your house. Here are a few options.
Gas Central Heating: One of the best benefits is the price, and if your house is already connected to the gas network it the system will be very easy to install. Also, by choosing an efficient boiler, you’ll be saving more money in the long term.
Zone Heating System: By creating zones in your house, you’ll be able to control temperatures in different zones of your home which will help you to have cheaper energy bills and will give comfort to each member of your family.
Biomass Heating Systems: It’s also known as a wood heating system or more commonly recognised as a fireplace. It burns organic material to provide hot water and heat through the house. Buying a wood-burning stove is a very common practice of people in the UK, it helps make places warmer and cosier.
Renewable Heat: This is the most energy-efficient of all options is generating your energy, by using wood-burning stoves, solar water heating systems, and heat pumps. With this, you won’t be using any gas or electricity and you will depend less on other sources of energy.
Thermostatic Radiator Valves: It’s a very useful device as it will turn the radiator temperature up or down depending on the room temperature. Because you’re using the right amount of energy all the time, there won’t be any energy waste.
System Boiler with Unvented Cylinder: It comes with the benefits of a system boiler and other benefits like the capacity of unvented cylinders to use immersion heaters, which makes the boiler work less and spend less energy. Also, unvented cylinders don’t rely on forces like gravity as they’re directly connected to the main water supplies and will improve the system’s use of energy.
Make sure you study the benefits of all these heating systems and devices, as it’s an important decision for your good and your family’s as well. Whilst you’re saving money, you’ll also be contributing to living in a more energy-efficient environment.
Central Heating Systems Pros and Cons
There’s a long list of benefits of having Central Heating Systems at home, but there are also some negative situations to consider.
One of the advantages of using gas central heating systems is that it’s very common (especially in the UK), making it very easy to install, maintain and repair. Due to the high demand of use, there’s also a considerable amount of installers and engineers able to do gas-heating related jobs.
Another good thing is the gas comes into the properties through underground pipes that have been previously installed, so usually getting installed a gas central heating system will spend less than a day.
On the other hand, using an electric heating system is also convenient, especially for small apartments or flats that don’t have gas connections. These don’t require pipework and are cheap to repair.
Using LPG (liquid petroleum gas) for your heating system is also a good option for those households without a gas network connection. LPG is delivered in tanks and can be stored underground or above, it doesn’t require much maintenance and installation can be quite simple.
If you’re using or thinking about choosing an electric central heating system, you might be taking a good decision as they are small mechanisms, don’t require much maintenance, and installations are cheap and quick, as they don’t require any pipework or flue.
Using oil as fuel to heating systems can be quite expensive, as the price changes depending on global demand. So you might not know the exact costs you’d be spending every month. Maybe not the best option for finances.
If using LPG instead, you might have additional costs for having to buy rent the storage tank from the supplier. And the cost of this fuel might also be expensive.
When using gas as fuel for your central heating system you should know it’s not the best energy-efficient option, as it produces carbon dioxide when gas is burned.
Tips for Maintaining Your Central Heating System in Good Conditions
As per Government regulations, all gas-operated appliances must go under a safety check every year, additional to that, other maintenance or services should be done in between to make sure all equipment operates properly and is not causing any risk to their users.
Well, not only gas-operated devices should be checked, you should consider doing a service and proper maintenance to your central heating system at least twice a year. This will prevent your devices to suffer bigger damages that could be fixed just when they’re starting to appear.
So, let’s see a few other actions you could take to maintain your heating systems in good condition.
First, it’s recommended to do these type of checks during the warm seasons, when you’re not constantly using it. That way it won’t affect your activities and you’ll be able to prevent damages that can occur when you need to use it the most.
Second, check your thermostat. It’s usually one of the features that get damaged more often due to it being handled by various people in the home various times a day. Thermostats help you to control your heating system so that you can enjoy the perfect temperature in each room of your house. If you don’t have one, you should consider getting one installed as it’s a great tool to have.
Third, clean vents. Use that time when the heating system is not being operated to clean vents and prevent them to get clogged. This is one of the reasons warm air can’t flow freely throughout all your house, so by tackling this during the summer, you’ll free your vents up for the winter.
Forth, change filters as they can get dirty very quickly due to the frequent use of heaters. Filters reduce the amount of dust and other particles to circulate through your house, if you leave them dirty your heating system might get clogged and the heating system will have to work harder, which means it will require more energy to operate and this also means you’ll have to pay expensive bills.
Fifth, check and look after heating pumps, as they might assemble ice and it’ll end up damaging the unit. Keep clean all surroundings your heat pump so there’s less risk that dust can enter the pump and affect its functionality.
Sixth, bleed the radiators. Sometimes you might sense that radiators are cooler on the bottom part, this means there’s air trapped inside and the way to fix it is by bleeding it, which is a very simple action to take. You only need a bleeding key and once you’ve open the bleeding valve the air will start coming out of the radiator, then once bits of water starts coming out it’s the time to turn the key off and that’s all. It’s that simple!
A very simple action that can save you from having to spend a cold day without the warmth of your radiator. Make sure you check radiators in all levels of your house as the ones far away from the boiler might need to be bled as well.
Central heating systems are important for all families, especially during the cold seasons. Installing a new heating system at home can be a bit difficult and expensive at the beginning, but it will be worth it when enjoying the comfort of a warm room and a hot shower after a long day of work.
A big percentage of UK families own a gas central heating system, this is because it is one of the most complete systems and brings lots of benefits as well, like being able to provide hot water from the taps and also heat different rooms of the house.
Most heating systems operate with a boiler, additionally to some pipework and radiators. Boilers can be of different sizes and brands, the right boiler size will depend on the needs of each house, but this can be calculated by a qualified Gas Safe engineer.
Heating systems operate in different ways depending on their type, the most popular type is wet systems, where the boiler burns the fuel and heats the water that will go through the pipes to the radiator, creating the heat. Other types are warm air systems, they aren’t cheap but they operate well too. In this case, the boiler heats the air and enters the rooms through ducts. And electric storage heaters, which are wired to the house’s electrical network, collect and store heat during the night in bricks with a lot of energy storage capacity and release it during the day.
It’s also important to know the different types of the boiler before choosing the one that fits your house’s needs. There are Combi-Boilers, Conventional Boilers, and System Boilers.
Regarding the type of fuel to use for running the heating systems, it can be natural gas (the cheapest and most popular), Oil (good option for households with no gas network connections), LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas), and solid fuel, where biomass is one of the most used.
Before installing, repairing, or replacing any heating system or boiler you should be aware of the regulations that state the law for the use and handling of these systems.
The Boiler Plus is legislation that states all boilers should meet certain requirements to increase the energy efficiency of homes. Additionally, boilers should include one of the following: Flue Gas Heat Recovery, Weather compensation, Load compensation, Smart controls.
Some other more general regulations related to Heating Systems are the Building Regulations, which make sure buildings are safe to use and inhabit. One important regulation to be aware of when replacing heating appliances are: make sure to comply with the efficiency requirements for each type of fuel.
It’s also good to know that these heating systems can deal with operating problems sometimes, which is nothing that can’t be solved. A few common complications central heating systems deal with are boiler leaking, low boiler pressure, the thermostat not working properly, no hot water or heating, a noisy boiler, water from the taps is too hot, radiators are cold, kettling, pilot lights switch off and lots more. Remember to bear in mind you can contact one of our engineers at Perfect Plumbers. We’ll make sure get your appliances up and running as soon as we can for you.
Make sure before you decide on buying and installing a new central heating system, you choose the best option, the one that fits your house’s and family’s needs while at the same time cares for the environment. Some good options of energy-efficient central heating systems and devices are gas central heating, zone heating system, biomass heating systems, thermostatic radiator valves and system boiler with an unvented cylinder. By making the right choice you’ll be saving money and contributing to live in a more energy-efficient environment.
Having a central heating system at home is not a luxury but more a way to enjoy your home more comfortably, protecting yourself from external cold temperatures that might get you sick and giving your family and yourself the benefit of enjoying a hot water shower after long and exhausting days of work.