Central Heating System Controls

There are usually quite a few different system controls fitted to the typical modern central heating system.  The purpose of these is to allow the system to run efficiently on automatic.

A programmer of some sort is at the heart of any such system.  This will ensure that the system comes on and off at various pre-set times.  It will also allow the system to provide hot water and heating, or hot water only, as required by the householder.  The more efficient and sophisticated types can provide differing programmes for each day of the week, and will be linked to several other flow and temperature controls.

Thermostats are commonly used to respond in various ways to changing temperatures, and in a boiler it is the thermostat that stops the water that leaves it from rising above a pre-set temperature.  A room thermostat is used to switch the boiler and pump on when the temperature in the room drops below a pre-set level, and to go off again when the correct temperature has been reached.  It may also be responsible for diverting water to the heating system rather than to the hot cylinder.

A cylinder thermostat does the same sort of job for the hot water cylinder, calling for more heat when the temperature of the stored water falls below a certain level.

A frost thermostat is occasionally fitted to the outer wall of a house to turn the heating on if the outside temperature falls below freezing.  These types of thermostats are useful in the case of houses being left unoccupied for long periods of time.

Thermostatic radiator valves are fitted to the individual radiators in a heating system.  They prevent water from flowing into the radiator when the room temperature has reached a certain level.


The Benefits of Water Underfloor Heating

Underfloor heating that uses water can be used in all types of properties and it is easy to link the system to any heat-source, including central heating systems, solar or geothermal.


If only part of the home is to be heated, such as the conservatory or kitchen, the building can be divided into zones.  This is achieved by using manifold valves, which direct the water to the required room.  Water underfloor heating kits are available and any competent DIY enthusiast should be capable of installing it.  However, if you are not experienced in DIY a plumber should be employed.

How Water Underfloor Heating Systems Work

The system works by circulating water through pipe loops that are laid under the floor.  The water is usually heated to around 50°C and the pipe loops for a room or zone run from the system manifold and back.  The manifold should sited in a location that is easily accessible.

Advantages of Underfloor Heating

Water underfloor systems are popular in Europe and they provide comfortable, cost effective and unobtrusive heating systems for millions of properties.

Underfloor heating warms the room from the floor up, rather than heating the ceiling space first.  The system is able to use a lower water temperature, because the larger heating surface means that less heat needs to be emitted per square metre than with radiators.  As a result, the boiler consumes less fuel, which means running costs are lower and it is a more environmentally friendly solution than many conventional heating systems.

Installing Water Underfloor Systems

Water underfloor heating systems can be used under almost all types of floors.  A plumber will be quite capable of carrying out the installation and a qualified electrician will be required to wire up the control system.


DIY Tips – Bleeding A Radiator

Do your radiators feel cool at the top?  Are some rooms cooler than others?  Perhaps your central heating system is not working as efficiently as it could.  To ensure your radiators are working as they should be, you could try bleeding them.

Bleeding a radiator
is the term used for releasing trapped air in a central heating system.  You will need a bleed key that fits the valve at the top of your radiator.  These can be purchased cheaply and are widely available at DIY outlets.  It is recommended to have a bowl and a cloth on hand to catch any drops of water that may result from this simple operation.

First of all, turn on your central heating system and run it for ten minutes.  Ensure any thermostatic radiator valves are fully open, not forgetting heated towel rails.  Once the system is turned off again, insert the bleed key into the radiator valve and turn it anti-clockwise.  Do this slowly and carefully, making sure the cloth and bowl are in easy reach in case any drops should fall.  If trapped air is present in the radiator, you will hear a hissing noise as it escapes.  When water starts dripping from the radiator, close the valve.

You should check all the other radiators in the system for trapped air, although it is common for it to only affect one or two radiators at a time.  Finally, switch the heating back on and make sure there are no drips from any of the radiators.  Remember to bleed your radiators annually to keep them operating efficiently.


Water Noises Explained

Noises coming from water taps or tanks can be indicative of a number of things.  It is important to know what the common water noises mean in order to fix problems before they cause damage.

Banging noises when a tap is closed is usually a sign of a water hammer.  A water hammer is caused by a lost jumper or a problem with a washer in a valve.  Call a professional to get this problem fixed.  A rapid series of banging noises is a similar problem, but water hammers are normally caused by a float valve that does not close properly or smoothly.  The float valve can also be replaced if you are able to isolate it.

A number of things can cause slushing noises as water moves through the pipes.  One possibility is that the burrs on the inside of a cut copper pipe were not removed after the cutting.  Alternatively, poorly insulated water pipes that run through the inside of a timber stud wall can cause this problem.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to fix this problem after the walls have been installed, so you may have to live with the noise.

Gurgling and splashing noises of filling tanks are indicative of new systems and are not necessarily problematic.  However, if the noises are especially loud, you may have a problem or you may just need a little sound insulation around the tank.


The history of underfloor heating: Korea

Underfloor heating systems are most often related historically to those used by the Romans, also a different system widely used in Korea over the last three millennia. The Roman method of heating floors is known as the hypocaust system, meaning literally ‘heat from below’, which funnelled furnace heat through open spaces, ducts and flues under floors and between outer walls of public and private buildings. In Korea, floor heating used the ondol system.

Ondol technology, the word meaning ‘warm stone’, relies on a furnace or domestic stove, typically used to cook with, which is underground, this heats the floor which has horizontal passages for the heat to pass through and a chimney at the end.  As with the Roman hypocaust system first developed in the Islamic world around the twelfth century, the potential for poisoning by fumes was eliminated by using closed pipes.

The ondol system could be spread throughout a building, spreading the furnace heat from the kitchen to the different floors. Underfloor heating passages were covered in flat, thin stones known as kudul, meaning ‘fired stone’. The method of using heated air to heat floors has been attributed as a reason for the Korean cultural custom of sitting on the floor to eat and relax.

The modern use of ondol in Korea and in other parts of Asia typically relies on heated water running through pipes rather than hot air through open passages; a gas or oil boiler heats the water.


History of Floor Heating

You may be installing DIY underfloor heating in your home, but do you know anything about the history of this luxury?  Believe it or not, underfloor heating systems have a pretty interesting history.

Developed more than 2,000 years ago by the ancient Romans, underfloor heating has been a luxury in many homes ever since.  They used the empty spaces under their floors, like cellars, to let the warm air circulate and heat the floors of the rooms above.  Typically, a furnace would be lit directly under the floor.  In ancient times, to heat the rooms on the first floor of a building, heat from the furnace would run through channels in the walls.

A millennia or two later, in the 1960s, electric underfloor heating made its debut.  Though it is the forerunner of how people view underfloor heating, there have been a lot of progressions in the last fifty years. The original method of electric underfloor heating was erratic – the floors not maintaining a constant temperature and often being too hot in the mornings.  Today, underfloor heating systems can help maintain a home’s temperature, save on energy, and reduce overall heating costs.

Since the ancient Romans invented underfloor heating systems, we have seen advances in technology that would blow them away.  However, the underlying principle remains the same. Today we have wet underfloor heating, electric floor heating, and everything in between.  Consumers simply need to choose which method they prefer and can afford.


Underfloor Heating for External Paths

External paths and driveways are ideal for underfloor heating systems, especially in areas that are susceptible to snow and frost as it makes them safer to use and saves having to clear them in bad weather. They are also invaluable where there are ramps for the disabled which need to be free from snow and ice at all times.

External heating systems consist of mat type structures that are heated by electricity and can either heat the whole path or driveway or just the parts that are used, such as the width that the car actually drives across. The mats are specially manufactured to use under solid masonry materials. An electric underfloor heating system that will keep driveways and paths clear of frost in any weather, not only keeping you and your family safe but also keeping guests and visitors safe during the worst winter weather.

Both water and electrical systems are available but although water operated types are cheaper to run, electric systems are cheaper to install. The running costs with electricity are high so it is recommended that research is done before deciding which type of underfloor heating system is appropriate for your situation.

Also, as with all types of underfloor heating, the cost of installing it in an existing driveway or path will nearly always be more than when fitting it into a new construction. There are many places where this system is essential, but many others where it could be considered more of a luxury.


Underfloor Heating Thermostats Explained

If you have decided to install an underfloor heating system, before you actually start work you need to decide how to best control it.  There are different types of underfloor heating thermostats to choose from and deciding which to choose involves more than merely the price.

Whole House or Zones?

Do you want to keep your entire house at the same temperature or should some parts be warmer than others at certain times?  It is more efficient to divide your house into zones.  For example, you might make your living areas one zone, kitchen area another and bedrooms/en-suites another.  Once you have reached a decision, your underfloor heating system can be installed accordingly.

One Thermostat per Zone?
Do you want to roam throughout your house setting multiple thermostats?  It is much simpler to have one central thermostat that can control all the zones from one location.

Programmable Thermostat?
A programmable underfloor heating thermostat will make the most efficient use of your underfloor heating energy, thus saving you the most money.  With this type of thermostat you will not only be able to set the temperature in each zone, but also set the time you want each zone to heat up and cool down.  You can choose to have the whole house stay cooler during the day, while you are at work and set it to begin warming up before you arrive home.  The same applies when you are away on holiday; why heat a house that will be empty for a week?

It is important to decide what kind of control you require for you new heating system so that it works as efficiently and economically as possible.


Benefits of Electric Underfloor Heating

Imagine stepping out of bed in the morning and putting feet on a nice, warm floor.  That is one of the most enjoyable benefits of underfloor heating.

Another benefit is you never have to look at an ugly radiator again.  You will have more attractive rooms and more available floor space per room.  Worry about children or the elderly being injured by falling against a hot radiator will be eliminated.  You will be able to place furniture pieces anywhere you like without blocking the heat.

Radiators also collect dust and create moisture, which leads to the perfect living conditions for dust mites to thrive.  Underfloor heating systems are sealed beneath your floor, so they collect no dust and create no moisture.  When used in bathrooms, under tile heating eliminates moisture, so there is less chance of slipping on wet floors.

Underfloor electric heating is completely silent.  There is no annoying gurgling or hissing to disturb your peace and it is also much more efficient than radiators.  Traditional heating systems force much of the heated air up toward the ceiling where it collects and does not add to your comfort level.  Electric underfloor heating is distributed across the entire floor and radiates upward maintaining a more even temperature level throughout the room.

As for maintenance, underfloor electric heating is much more economical.  Traditional systems and radiators, which make use of boilers and water pipes, need to be serviced annually.  Electric underfloor heating systems only have to be inspected once every ten years.

It is clear that there are many benefits to using electric underfloor heating than other heating systems.


Underfloor Heating for Conservatories

Conservatories are lovely to sit in during the summer months, but are rarely used in winter, because they often do not retain heat very efficiently.  One way of helping overcome this problem is by installing underfloor heating systems.  Although not designed to heat rooms in the same way as central heating, they are designed to warm the floors, which helps to make them feel warmer and is much more pleasant to walk on.  Flooring in conservatories is usually tile or laminate over concrete, which is often difficult to heat; underfloor heating offers the ideal solution.

There are various systems to choose from, but the most popular are electric underfloor heating and water underfloor heating.  Electric underfloor heating is powered from the mains supply, while water underfloor heating is powered using hot water from the boiler.  Both systems are extremely cost effective, although in centrally heated homes the water powered one is the most popular choice, as there is already a water supply to the radiators in each room, making installation easier.

Water underfloor heating is the preferred choice for anyone considering building a conservatory, as it is easy to install as the construction process proceeds.  Installation is also fairly straightforward in existing conservatories.  Underfloor heating is a space saver, because it produces a level of heat similar to that of a fan heater, but unlike such devices, takes up no floor-space, does not have electrical cables trailing across the floor and is easily controlled using a thermostat.