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Heating Controls Explained: The Ultimate Guide

Touch screen heating controls on the wall

​​​Fancy having a lovely warm home and saving money – both at the same time? Changing the way you control your heating and hot water can have a great impact on both your bills and your comfort.

Unfortunately, your gas bill will reflect an inefficient heating control system, and upgrading this could save you up to 30% off your annual running costs. You might even be able to get a grant that covers the cost of your new controls.

Of course, being in control of your heating is about more than saving some euros – it’s also about you and your family’s comfort. With an older and unpredictable heating system, you might find yourself running out of hot water, or coming home early to a freezing house.

We’ll take a closer look at heating controls, and how upgrading to a more efficient system can save you money (and keep your home toasty).

What Are Heating Controls?

Tablet showing touch screen heating controls screen

Broadly, there are three types of heating controls: mechanical, digital or app-based (and the last one works with a digital controller).

The mechanical switches are those little boxes on the wall, with a mechanical timer and a switch. If you had a sophisticated system installed back in the day, you may have separate switches for heating and hot water. However, with many old-style heating controls, the boiler is either on or off.

The main problem with an old-style mechanical heating control is that you’ve no flexibility. Your radiators (and probably your hot water, too) come on at the same time every single day, whether you’re at home or not. Unless you adjust all the radiators manually, all the rooms are heated to a similar temperature.

A digital heating controller is far more sophisticated. These wireless controllers let you programme separate heating zones, operate the heating and hot water individually, and can even be set to come on at different times on different days of the week. If you have a combi boiler, hot water is instant, so the controller will be for heating only.

Some set ups can be used in conjunction with an app-based control system. You can control your heating remotely through your smartphone, tablet or laptop, even when you’re not at home. It can be set up for multiple users, and even multiple houses.

What Are The Benefits Of New Digital Heating Controls?

There are two main benefits from switching to a new digital heating control system: comfort and effiency.

A More Comfortable Living Space

  • Because you can set up separate heating zones, you won’t have to heat the entire house
  • You can tailor the temperature of each zone. The sitting room can be warmer than the bedrooms (most of us prefer sleeping in slightly cooler temperatures), and the bathroom towel rail will be super-toasty
  • The room thermostats (more about these in a minute) will ensure that your rooms reach the desired temperature, and stay at this
  • If you have a seven-day programmer, you can set different heating times for the working week and the weekend

Digital Controls Save Your Gas Bill

  • You won’t be heating unnecessary spaces. For example, you can switch the upstairs heating off until bedtime approaches – that’s half a house worth of savings made already
  • Set little-used areas (such as guest bedrooms) to just keep ticking over, rather than be on at full-blast
  • Used with the thermostats, the hot water and radiators will stop heating up when the programmed temperature is reached – and indeed, they won’t come on at all if the room or tank is already at temperature
  • You won’t have to power up the whole system to heat the hot water, as this can be on a separate timer
  • What saves us money in gas bills also helps to protect our planet. You won’t be wasting any gas by having the boiler on when you don’t need it – and that’s less CO2 going into the environment
  • It’s even better used with a smartphone app, and we’ll look into these in more detail shortly

How Do The Thermostats Work?

Modern digital controllers and app-based systems work in conjunction with thermostats. The great thing about these is that they switch off the moment the radiators or water reach temperature, so there’s no unnecessary heating. Your rooms will be at your optimum comfort level; and as you can imagine, it’s also a safer way of heating.

A multi-zone heating system works alongside radiator thermostats and room thermostats. Each radiator has a thermostatic valve, which controls the amount of water that goes through the radiator. When the room thermostat signals that the room has reached the desired temperature, the radiator value will shut down. You won’t need to run around turning down each heater yourself, like you do with an older system.

The wall-mounted room thermostat is programmed through the digital controller. It’s the link between the heating control and the radiators, telling them to shut down when the room is warm enough. It will also prevent the heating from coming on in the first place, if the room is already at temperature.

How Do I Use A Smartphone Heating App?

EPH Ember Smart Heating Control Package

This really is the ultimate in energy-saving and efficient heating systems. It not only saves you money, but is a real lifestyle asset, as you can have heating and hot water whenever you need it simply by getting out your phone.

At Duffy Heating, we’ve teamed with fellow Irish company, Cork-based EPH Controls, to offer the Ember smart heating control, a sophisticated and simple-to-use app-based system.

The app works with a package of digital home energy controls. You get the programmable timer, the room thermostats, and the remote control gateway to get you connected. It works with your existing WiFi, and should that ever go down, you can simply switch to using it as a normal digital heating controller.

Once set up, simply install the app on your smartphone or tablet for on-the-go heating control. You’ll always come home to a warm house, as you can tweak the heating from your seat on the train. If you’ve been at the gym, make sure there’s plenty of hot water ready for that essential shower. You can even adjust your home temperature while you’re abroad on holiday – in case of a sudden cold snap back home, for example.

Anyone in the household with an account can use the app (although you can limit each user’s functionality, reducing the risk of sub-tropical teenage bedrooms). You can also use it with multiple households, so you can set the heating for holiday homes and rental properties, or make sure that elderly relatives are cosy.

Because you can respond to your immediate heating needs, there should never be any waste. For example, you decide to go out for dinner straight from work. With an older system, your heating and hot water will still come on at five, warming up an empty home. With an app-based heating system, you can set it to come on two hours later. You’ve saved energy, as simply as that.

If this sounds as good to you as it does to us, please get in touch with us at Duffy Heating for a quote. We’re authorised engineers for EPH in the Dublin area

Will New Heating Controls Work With My Current System?

We’ll have to come and have a look, and then we’ll discuss your options with you. With some existing systems, absolutely: we can upgrade you to a digital programmable heating controller, together with the right thermostats. However, in the case of really old boiler, you might need to rethink the whole system if you’re hoping for efficiency.

At Duffy Heating, we offer a complete boiler replacement service. You can make a real difference to your gas bills by controlling when your boiler is on and off; however, is that same boiler is old and inefficient, you won’t see as much benefit as you would from a modern combi model

Are There Grants To Upgrade Heating Controls?

Yes, there are heating control upgrade grants available. The Sustainable Energy Authority Of Ireland offers home energy grants, including for your heating controls.

We are SEAI registered, so can help you apply for the grant and will even complete the paperwork with you. You may be able to get an energy grant of up to €750 for your new, energy-efficient heating controls. Have a look at our heating grants page to find out how Duffy Heating can help you apply for a grant.

If you’d like to know more about how switching your switches can make your heating more efficient, please contact us at Duffy Heating. If you live in Dublin or the surrounding area, we can send an engineer out to look at your gas boiler, and discuss your heating control system options with you. We can also advise you about that heating upgrade grant.

Get in touch with us today, and we’ll help you find a convenient and efficient heating control system.

Published: 25 September 2019

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