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Understanding your heating system

No one likes a cold house. That’s why getting the heating right in your home is so important.

It helps to understand how it works and why things happen or need to be done.

So, first, let’s explain the difference between various central heating systems. What type you have or go for depends on the kind of fuel available to you.

Central heating systems:

Mains gas – if you’re connected to the national gas grid, then this is an option for you and is probably the most common central heating system in the UK. It’s also said to be the most instantaneous source of heat and hot water.

Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) – if you’re not connected to the national gas grid, but would still like to use gas to heat your home, you can opt for LPG. The gas needs to be stored in a tank on your property, which can be bought or rented from your LPG supplier. You need to keep an eye on your levels though, so you’re not caught short while you wait on a fuel delivery and the tank isn’t the most attractive thing in the world.

Oil – like LPG, this fuel is delivered to your home and needs to be stored in a tank (again, this can be bought or rented from your supplier).

Electric – again, another option if you’re not connected to the grid, but it can be costly. Electric systems use storage heaters to store heat overnight (when electricity is cheaper) to then release it during the day and night. The more heat it stores, the more it’ll cost you and it can be tricky to use because you need to try and predict what the weather is going to be like the day before (because any changes kick in the next day).

Biomass or other renewables – things like wood (burning pellets or logs in a wood-burning stove) and the sun (using solar panels) can be used to provide heat and hot water to your home. The upfront costs of these can be high, but the long-term savings are meant to work out for the better.

Boilers

Bearing in mind that most people use gas, you’ll have a choice of three types of what are called ‘condensing’ boilers:

Combination (or ‘combi’) – with no need for a separate water tank, this boiler is compact and great for flats and smaller spaces. It provides heat and hot water instantly, on demand, but with no tank to pressurize the system, running a tap and having a shower at the same time will end up with one person getting cold water and it’s not the right system if you have more than one bathroom.

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Ideally you want 2 bars of pressure on your combi boiler at all times.

Heat-only (also known as a ‘conventional’ or ‘regular’ boiler) – with a separate storage tank for cold water, these boilers can cope with the demands of a larger home. You can also fit an electrical immersion heater to the water cylinder as a back-up, should your boiler break down. With a tank and hot water cylinder, these do take up more space but are usually located out of the way in the loft.

System – this works much like heat-only boilers, except there’s no need for a separate tank in the loft, and they can better deal with high-pressure systems. Also, with most of the mechanics built into the boiler, it can be easier (and quicker) to install.

Practical aspects of choosing a radiator

When it comes to the practicalities of choosing a radiator, two things matter: size and output.

Though you may have an idea of the size of radiator you want, you need to take a step back and first think about the output.

Our radiators will tell you the output in British Thermal Units (BTUs).

To know how many BTUs your room needs:

Multiply the length x width x height of the room (in feet)

Times this figure by four

You can also find free calculators to help you online.

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This figure may be affected by other factors of the room, like number of windows and insulation.

When it comes to deciding where to put the radiator in your room, try and avoid places where it may be blocked by furniture. And, if you’re replacing an old radiator, new radiators tend to be more compact in size, so bear this in mind. Finally, try and balance the room and remember a big room will require more than one radiator.

Also try and avoid hanging radiators on stud walls unless the fixings are on the wall batons as plasterboard is not strong enough to safely hold a radiator.