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What is a Boiler and How Does It Work?

In the good old days, before boilers were invented, people didn’t have the fancy technology that we use now. They used to rely on wood and coal to heat their homes up. Burning of wood and coal came in with a lot of hassle of lighting, tending, and cleaning, unlike the modern era in which everything happens with a button’s push.

Central Heating Boilers have gained tremendous popularity globally and especially in the UK due to the convenience, safety and efficiency these modern heating tools offer.

A vast majority of people in the UK have got central heating boilers installed in their homes. But most of them don’t know what they are, how they work, and the measures they can take to make them work more efficiently and effectively. If you are one of these people, then you have come to the right place!

Central Heating Explained

The concept of central heating is pretty easy to grasp. Modern central heating uses a boiler to produce a steady supply of hot water. This hot water supply is then pumped through the metal pipes (with the help of an electrically powered pump) into the radiator, which releases the heat gently into your home.

All You Need to Know About a Boiler

The boiler is a white metal unit commonly found in your kitchen; however, it could also be found anywhere in your house. Boilers are the most important part of your central heating system as they produce heat. It consists of a small furnace that uses oil, gas or LPG as a fuel source.

Natural gas serves as a fuel source for most boilers in the UK and is fed into them automatically from the national gas grid.

There are different types of boilers, depending upon how they operate. The details of which would be discussed later on in the article.

Working of A Gas Boiler

You might be wondering about the working of a gas boiler, right? A typical gas boiler consists of pipes that enter the boiler from underneath. It consists of three pipes; one supplies gas from the mains (usually outside your home) into the boiler. The second one allows the cold water to enter the boiler for heating and the third one enables the heated water to exit from the boiler so that it can be distributed around your home.

The inside of a boiler consists of fuel jets and heat exchangers. When the heating is turned on, a valve opens that allows gas from the mains supply to enter into the combustion chamber located inside the boiler. The gas makes its way into the combustion chamber via lots of small valves and gets ignited with an electric ignition switch. These jets heat the heat exchanger responsible for transferring the heat to the cold-water pipe, raising the temperature of water to around 60°C (140°F).

Once the water has attained the above-mentioned temperature, an electrically powered pump drives the water around a circuit of pipe system, which makes its way all-around your home. This pipe system passes through all your radiators, either installed upstairs or downstairs.

The hot water entering each radiator enters from one end and leaves from the other, radiating heat in the process. After travelling through all the radiators installed in your home, the water makes its way back to the boiler. Till that time, it cools down and needs to go through the whole heating process once again before it can be recirculated. The same water would be recirculated repeatedly around your home for heating purpose until the system gets drained by a certified Gas Safe engineer.

The combustion process produces waste gases that are released outside of your home with the help of a tube called a flue.

Point to Remember!

You need to make sure that the colour of the flame inside your boiler is blue. If that is not the case and it is something like yellow or orange, then this is an indicator that your boiler is not getting enough oxygen. This can be lethal for you as it may mean that your boiler is emitting Carbon monoxide, also known as the “Silent Killer”. You need to install a Carbon monoxide detector near your boiler to detect the leakage as soon as possible to prevent any unfortunate circumstance.

What are Oil and LPG Boilers and How Do They Work?

The working of oil and LPG boilers is pretty much the same as gas boilers. The main difference is the fuel supply. Gas boilers get their fuel from the mains supply, while oil and LPG boilers use a tank of fuel that is kept on the property.

Types of Boilers

There are different types of boilers depending upon the key differences. Most modern boilers can serve the dual function of central heating and be used as a water heater for household taps. In comparison, others may only be used for central heating. Depending upon the functionality, boilers can be divided into the following types:

Regular Boilers

Regular boilers or conventional boilers produce hot water for central heating and not for your taps and other household use. This type of boiler is fed with cold water that comes from a tank placed in the loft through the effect of gravity.

Regular boilers are used in conjunction with a storage cylinder if they are to provide hot water for your daily household use.

System Boilers

System boilers resemble regular boilers when it comes to requiring a storage cylinder for supplying hot water to meet household use. The only key difference between the two is that system boilers are fed with water from the mains eliminating the need for a feed tank.

Combi Boilers

Combi(combination) boilers are trending in the UK. They provide central heating and water heating solutions in the same place, which makes them a must-have!

Combi boilers have two heat exchangers and two hot water pipes to serve both the purposes of central heating and providing hot water for daily use. These boilers are fed with cold water from the mains supply eliminating the need for a feed tank. Combi boilers due to their ingenious space saving design produce hot water on demand and don’t require a hot water storage cylinder making them the boilers of today!

Functioning of Central Heating Thermostats

Talking about the types of central heating thermostats, there are several of them to choose from. The most basic ones are controlled manually; you need to turn them on and off physically by yourself when you feel too hot or too cold.

The wall-mounted thermostats on the other hand monitor the temperature in that room. You can set the thermostat to your desired temperature, and when the room temperature falls below that level, it will give a signal to the boiler and turn it on. After the room has reached the preferred temperature, the thermostat will turn the boiler off again.

As technology is advancing by the day, people are shifting towards programmable thermostats. These thermostats can be programmed to turn the boiler on and off at different times of the day, depending upon personal requirements.

Smart thermostat technology is also mustering a great deal of attention due to the ease of use it has to offer. These heating systems can be controlled with a smart device like a smartphone or a laptop from anywhere in the world.

What are Thermostatic Radiator Valves?

Thermostatic radiator valves, also known as TRVs, allow more control over the temperature in different parts of your household.

A Radiator consists of copper pipes bent at right angles in a recurring fashion to produce maximum heating surface area. The places marked with ridged lines on a radiator indicate the placement of heating pipes. Water enters and leaves the radiator with the help of valves located at the bottom on both sides. In simple heating systems, the valves’ opening and closing decide whether the radiator would be on or off.

Adding a TRV to your heating system would allow you to get greater control over the temperature in individual rooms of your household. This would reduce the amount of work done by your boiler that would directly cause a reduction in your heating bills and lower the carbon emissions.

All the rooms in your house would not necessarily need to be heated at the same temperature. Here TRVs would allow you the flexibility of choosing which rooms you want to be warm and which ones you prefer moderately warm or cool.

Point to Remember!

If you are thinking of installing a TRV in a room where your main wall thermostat is already installed, then you might need to reconsider your decision. The reason for this is that the TRV and your main wall thermostat would start working against one another if installed in the same room.

All About Condensing Boilers

Condensing and non-condensing boilers have been popular names in the world of boilers. In the past, non-condensing boilers were a hit. When these boilers burnt fuel for heat production, a significant portion of heat was wasted due to the release of exhaust gases. This wasted heat decreased these boilers’ efficiency, costing more money (in terms of heating bills) and increased carbon emissions.

To deal with this issue, boilers were re-designed. Today, all the boilers found in the market are condensing boilers. These boilers utilize the heat from the waste gases to warm the cold water that is returning from the radiators before these gases get released into the environment. This helps to preheat the cold water returning from the radiators, which reduces the amount of work done that the boiler has to perform.

When it comes to energy efficiency, condensing boilers are highly efficient and achieve an efficiency greater than 90%.

Is It Time to Get a New Boiler?

Has your boiler gotten more than eight years old? Is it becoming less reliable and more expensive to run by the day? Did it completely break down within the past couple of months? If so, then it is time to get a replacement.

If you have made up your mind to get a replacement, then you should consider the costs associated with it as well before going for it. Boiler installation can cost you around £500-£1000, excluding the boiler’s cost. If you are looking for the best rates, we recommend getting multiple quotes and comparing them to get the most competitive price.

We know that replacing your old and worn out boiler with a new one can be heavy on the pocket. The new boiler would be bringing increased energy efficiency along with it, which would make up for the heavy investment by significantly reducing the heating bills.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your new boiler installed right now and adopt the energy-efficient ways!