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A guide to heating and hot water controls

The right heating controls keep your home at a comfortable temperature without wasting fuel or heat - so you'll spend less on your heating bills and reduce your carbon dioxide emissions.

A full set of controls should ideally include a boiler thermostat, a timer or programmer, a room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs). You need to ensure your system meets the requirements of Part L of the building regulations.

Your boiler will usually have a dial on it, marked in numbers or from Min to Max. This is the boiler thermostat and it sets the temperature of the water that will be pumped from the boiler through the radiators to heat your home.

A timer controls one type of operation, either the when the heating comes on or the time hot water is available. A programmer integrates the control of heating and hot water into one unit giving you two channels so you set the timings for both heating and hot water independently. You can even programme it for the heating to come on at different times of the day at different temperatures. Some programmers can divide your home into different zones that can be set at different temperatures.

Room thermostats provide temperature control, by sensing the air temperature and adjusting the heating when the air temperature falls below the thermostat setting. Models vary from simple dial operated controls to touch screen controllers in wired and wireless formats. According to the Energy Saving Trust, fitting a room thermostat could save you £70 and 280kg carbon dioxide a year.

Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) are fitted to radiators and are used to control the temperature in the room. TRVs work by automatically opening and closing the flow of hot water into the radiator to keep each room at the desired temperature. They can significantly reduce the energy used by limiting the temperature in each room, therefore saving you money on your bills. So rooms that are not used frequently, or do not need to be as warm as the rest of the house, can be kept cooler than those you want to be warmer.

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Our series of FAQs, technical advice articles and 'How to...' videos are designed to help you understand your boiler, provide helpful tips and even save you money.

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