Central heating – the essential guide

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  • Keep warm this winter with our tips and advice

    The days of hiding an ugly radiator behind the sofa are over, with modern designs taking centre stage.

    Find the right type of central heating for your home with our tips and advice.

    How to choose the right radiator

    * Choose a radiator to suit your space

    The heat output will depend on the size and surface area of the radiator. For instance, ladder-style radiators will have a smaller surface area than conventional panel radiators.

    * Decide if you want a modern or traditional radiator

    Modern models are made out of steel or chrome, which heat efficiently and are easier to produce. Older cast-iron radiators (and some reproduction models) are heavy, quite bulky and take longer to heat up. But they do cool down slowly, which gives a more gentle radiating heat.

    Where to position the radiator

    * Remember that position affects the efficiency of the radiator

    The best place is in the coldest part of the room, usually under a window, as cold air creates better heat conduction (pushing the hot air from the radiator into the room). In double-glazed homes there may not be a cold area, so put them where they won’t affect the use of walls.

    * Use 2 small heaters rather than 1 large one

    A rule of thumb is to have one radiator for every 4m or so in the room.


    Assess your boiler

    If your boiler is more than 15 years old, it’s probably only about 60% efficient, which puts its energy rating at about G. In real terms, that means for every £1 you spend on heating your home, 40p is wasted.

    By replacing your old boiler with a new energy-efficient condensing one (A-rated and 90% or more efficient), you could dramatically reduce heating bills.

    There are 3 standard types to choose from:

    Combi boilers heat your home and provide instant hot water without a tank. They’re ideal for smaller homes, even those with more than one bathroom, provided showers and baths are not used at the same time.

    Regular boilers store water and require a separate hot-water tank, the size of which determines how many bathrooms can be supplied; often, an expansion tank in the loft is required.

    System boilers also use stored water and have larger storage tanks, which allows them to feed several hot water taps at a time. Usually, system boilers are more efficient than regular boilers and also take up less space.

    • There are other options, including solid fuel, biomass and electric boilers, but these are much more expensive than the standard ones. It is worth ensuring that any new boiler is compatible with solar panels; even if you don’t intend to fit these now, it gives you the option to do so later.


    How to save energy

    * Work out the heat output required for each room

    It is determined by a complex calculation involving the heat losses from the room (using wall construction properties, window size and type etc), rather than being simply determined by the room size.

    * Save energy with a room thermostat

    A room thermostat turns off the heating when a room reaches the required temperature. You can save energy by breaking your system into different heating zones with separate thermostats.

    Alternatively, thermostatic radiator control valves (TRVs) fitted onto individual radiators will switch them on or off depending on how warm the room gets – just don’t have them fitted in the same room as the main thermostat.

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