How Does Central Heating Work?

Complex pipe work

A majority of households in the UK now use a central heating system to keep their homes warm and cosy. But, in spite of the fact that so many of us have these all-important systems installed in our homes, most of us have a limited understanding of how our central heating systems work.

Central heating systems are ingenious systems that work efficiently and with very little maintenance. But, because several different types of central heating system are available, each works differently. For example, wet systems use hot water to heat your home, while electric systems use electricity to generate heat.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about how your system functions, you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve outlined all the essential components and functions below.

Types of central heating radiators

The function of a radiator in a central heating system is simple. In most heating systems, water is heated from the boiler and it then travels to the radiator via internal pipes.

When the hot water reaches the radiator, it goes through a system of internal pipes that twist backwards and forwards inside the radiator. As these pipes are heated, they then heat the air that surrounds them. This heated air then rises and is replaced by cold air, so warm air is circulated around the room.

If your house uses a hot water central heating system, then you’ll have a wide range of choice when it comes to picking radiators for your rooms. Options include:

All these types of central heating radiators will heat your home in the same way. As a result, all you need to worry about is choosing a radiator that fits with your home’s style. With such a wide range of radiators available, you won’t struggle to find one that fits in your space.

Alternatively, if you use an electric central heating system, then you’ll need to buy an electric radiator. Rather than filling with hot water that passes through a system, these radiators are filled with fluid that is heated by an electrical element. Although they can be wired directly to your mains electricity supply, many people simply plug them into their nearest socket. They’re a popular choice with people who are looking to heat rooms without existing pipework (like loft extensions) and they can be controlled using an in-built thermostat.

Types of central heating boilers

There are various types of central heating boilers and each heats a home slightly differently. When it comes to hot water central heating systems, you have three main options: combi boilers, system boilers and conventional boilers.

Combi boilers

These boilers are responsible for both the heating and hot water in your home. Thought of as a modern option, the boilers for both aspects are contained within a single unit, meaning you save a lot of space. Plus, the hot water in these systems is heated on demand, so it isn’t stored. This saves you additional space and makes the system more efficient because you’re only ever heating the water you need.

System boilers

The main difference between a combi boiler and a system boiler is that a system boiler also requires a hot water tank. Although this means that the system requires additional storage space, system boilers are useful in large homes with multiple bathrooms, or homes where a large volume of hot water is required.

Conventional boilers

Also sometimes referred to as a ‘regular boiler’, a conventional boiler is similar to a system boiler. However, as well as a hot water storage tank, this boiler also requires a cold water tank, which is known as a ‘header tank’. This tank is located in the loft and takes up a lot of space. However, although the systems are bulky and somewhat outdated, conventional boilers remain a good option in areas where the water pressure is low.

Central heating controls explained

In addition to boilers and radiators, your central heating system will also require a number of other elements, such as valves and thermostats. These can be used to control your system and heat output. The best central heating thermostat for your needs will depend on the system you use and the number of radiators you have installed. As a result, it’s best to seek professional advice about which is best for you.

Although a central heating system may initially seem like a complex installation, when you understand what each component in your system does, it’s much easier to understand. Plus, by arming yourself with knowledge about the different types of central heating radiators and the types of central heating boilers available, you’ll have a better idea about whether you’d like to update or upgrade your system. Take a look at our great range of radiators today to see which design might be best for your system, or contact us for support.


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