Category - Boilers
Guide author photo

Paul Holdsworth, Engineer

31 Jan : Updated 18 Apr ● 7 min read

How does a central heating thermostat work?

The power is in your hands. Your central heating thermostat is an essential component in the running of your heating system. Whatever your temperature needs are - this device is there for you to easily and quickly control heat levels. It’s designed to read and manage your rooms temperature and make you feel that much more comfortable. 

It’s easy to find the right heating thermostat for you and be confident that you’ll be saving energy in the long run. This useful guide will detail how the different types of central heating thermostat work and how you can increase your home’s efficiency.


What is a thermostat? How does a thermostat work?

The thermostat for your central heating system is used to control the heating in your home. Depending on your needs, you can set your thermostat to a preferred temperature and be confident that it will work to regulate this temperature. 

For example, if your home’s temperature drops below your chosen ideal temperature, your thermostat will switch the heating on to warm it up. When your temperature has reached the desired point, the thermostat will then turn the heating off to prevent overheating and wasted energy.

Types of thermostat

You may have come across many different types of thermostat, but you may not know the difference between each. Here are the main terms you should know:

Room thermostat

A room thermostat is basically a term used to describe the whole collection of thermostat types. They can be mechanical or digital, wired or wireless, and can be timed to ensure that you’re only using the energy you need when you need it.

Analogue thermostat

These types of thermostat are cheaper to buy and simple to operate. They consist of a dial of numbers indicating the temperature in degrees Celsius - this can be set to your desired temperature. These simple types of thermostat are ideal for homes with elderly residents or those who need a little more simplicity with their overall system.


Digital thermostat

Digital thermostats are a popular choice. They look better, they’re easier to control and usually come with more features.  Although they are a little more expensive going digital will enable you to get a more accurate reading.

Digital thermostats usually have a panel that can lift up to reveal more dials and features, including buttons to set times and different temperatures. When programmed correctly, you’ll save energy and increase your levels of comfort.


Smart thermostat

In some respects, smart thermostats can be seen as an upgrade to the digital. Even though quite similar in terms of features, the smart thermostat has its own unique way of working. As well as controlling the times and temperatures like a digital thermostat, smart thermostats allow you to control this remotely via an internet connection - wherever you are.

For those with busy lifestyles, it can make your life much easier. Thanks to the convenience of it being on your phone - you’ll have the peace of mind and control you need. 

The Google Nest Learning Thermostat takes things a step further. This type of smart thermostat has been around since 2011 and learns from you and your habits in order to personalise a number of factors:

  • Your temperature - the thermostat gets to know which temperature you like and amends your current temperature to reflect this.
  • Energy usage - it reviews your needs regularly and learns where it can save energy in the process. You’ll also be able to see where you have saved money.
  • Hot water control - you can boost your hot water whenever you like and your thermostat will know when you’re away, saving you the job of turning off the hot water.


Ready to upgrade your boiler?

Ready to upgrade your boiler?

Find the perfect A-rated boiler for you and add smart controls at checkout

Get a fixed-price quote

Boiler thermostat setting – How to set your temperatures.

The first thing you need to think about is - where’s the best place to put a wireless thermostat in your home? It’s essential that your thermostat is placed somewhere with a flow of air. If it’s hidden behind a curtain or in plain view of the sun for example, then your thermostat will have a false idea of the correct temperature in your home.

What temperature should the central heating thermostat be set at?

Different people have different tolerances to heat so it’s important to find a comfortable medium for everyone in your household. You should set your digital thermostat for central heating to the lowest temperature that is comfortable for you. In most cases, 18 degrees Celsius is a good starting point.

When you have your ideal lowest temperature, it’s important to resist the temptation to turn it up on the colder days. As mentioned previously, your thermostat will work by measuring the temperature and amending accordingly. If you’re finding your home isn’t reaching the desired temperature when turned on, it may simply be a case of setting your heating to turn on a little earlier in the day than it is currently.

When you’ve followed your thermostat guide and set it to your ideal room temperature, your programmable or digital thermostats can then be set to come on at different times of the day. For an average household, setting the heating to come on around 20 minutes before you get out of bed should be enough to keep your home warm during the morning.

You should ensure your heating is switched off during the day while you’re at work and programmed to come back on 20 minutes before you are due to arrive home. Depending on your work schedule, you can program your thermostat to suit you and the other members of your household.

Learn more on whether you can leave your boiler on continuously throughout the day. 

How do the different thermostats in your home work?

As explained earlier, the analogue and digital thermostat are also wall thermostats. They’re usually placed in a room where you spend a lot of time such as your living room - or even in your hallway for easy access. 

To reiterate, a wall thermostat will need to be out of direct sunlight or covered places in order for it to work effectively. Once set, they will heat up your rooms to your preferred temperature and time settings.

How does a radiator thermostat work?

A thermostatic radiator valve, or TRV, can be found on the side of your radiator. It’s the component that controls the flow of water to your radiators. This type of radiator thermostat enables you to personalise your temperatures in every room. They’re self-regulating, meaning that they can adjust the flow of water to your radiators. As the temperature of the room increases or decreases, a pin inside the valve expands or retracts to control the hot water flow.


How does a cylinder thermostat work?

These types of thermostats are more tailored towards your hot water, but it’s worth knowing about them. A cylinder thermostat is there to control the temperature of your hot water and will be fitted onto your hot water tank. They work by sensing the temperature of the water inside your cylinder and switching on the heating for your water or turning it off, depending on its temperature. The speed of heating water will entirely depend on the system you have, not how high you have your ideal temperature set at.


How does a central heating thermostat work? Trust BOXT.

Hopefully, our guide detailing the different types of central heating thermostat will give you a much clearer idea of how they work and how you can use them to make the best use of your home’s heat from your boiler.

If you’re looking for more boiler advice or have a question about your central heating thermostat, you can use our live chat feature to chat instantly with a professional engineer. If you’re looking for a new boiler, we can recommend the right one for you through our Find A Boiler tool. By filling in a few details, we can present you with the best options possible to suit your home and your budget.

Share this post