As Boiler Plus looms, BEAMA examines some common misconceptions with heating systems and controls that installers should aim to clear up with customers.
With the introduction of Boiler Plus, dealing with the new regulatory guidance on heating controls will be a significant focus for installers, but you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that it remains a legal requirement to provide advice to customers on how to use their new heating system efficiently.
Heating controls will always make a system more efficient, but they still depend on householders using them correctly to avoid unnecessary energy usage.
The starting point of good advice is to tackle some of the common and quite long-standing misunderstandings about heating systems and controls, and it’s always worth making sure that customers understand the basics. Here are some common misconceptions that you can clear up.
Heating and hot water are not a big user of energy in the home
A few years ago, we carried out a consumer survey asking people which of a number of home appliances they thought used the most energy.
Only 12% of people selected the central heating boiler, despite the fact that it tends to be responsible for around 80% of the average home’s energy use.
You need to turn the thermostat up in cold weather
This seems a common misconception; we’ve even seen a BBC weatherman announce that colder weather was on the way “so you’ll need to turn your thermostat up a couple of degrees”! If the thermostat is set correctly, it should be maintaining a temperature that is comfortable, irrespective of the outside temperature.
Turning the room thermostat to a high level makes the house warm up quicker
It seems to be common to think of a room thermostat as a direct control of the heat output of the boiler, rather like a volume control for a hi-fi system. In fact, the thermostat dial is just there to set the desired room temperature, with the boiler controlled to maintain this temperature.
Turning it high to ‘get warm quicker’, or using it as an on/off switch, is not giving the control the chance to perform its intended function. Similarly, TRVs are thought to be there to determine the output of the radiator, whereas they will open the valve to allow the room to get up to temperature and then close it when the temperature is reached.
Settings on the programmer can be left as they are
While the tendency with thermostats is often to tinker unnecessarily with them, the opposite seems to be true for programmers, with many people leaving them as they were initially set up.
Sometimes, this can be a practical choice, because the programmer has been located somewhere inaccessible, or the occupants lack confidence in using it, but it does make sense to adjust a programmer to fit your lifestyle.
A cylinder thermostat needs to be set to the maximum temperature
Heating water in the cylinder above the required temperature wastes energy. An ideal temperature setting is between 60°c and 65°c, which is hot enough to kill off any harmful bacteria in the water while keeping energy costs down.
However, people shouldn’t forget that these temperatures can cause scalding, so they still need to be careful with hot water straight out of the tap.
Installers have plenty of opportunities to talk to their customers to see whether they share these common misconceptions, and it should certainly form part of the explanation of how to use a newly installed boiler that is required under Building Regulations.
A bit of mythbusting will help householders to use their system in a way that delivers both comfort and efficiency, and it will also help reinforce their view of the installer as someone who is there to serve their best interests.