Many of us rely on central heating, even during the summer months, to stay cosy and comfortable in our homes. Christmas may be over, but it’s often during the first part of the new year that temperatures really plummet, so it’s vital to have a working central heating system in your property. Whether you need repairs or a whole new system installed, central heating installation needs to be carried out by a trained engineer with the necessary expertise. Read on for a brief guide to different types of central heating, and the different steps involved in installation.
Almost every central heating system is powered by a boiler which runs on either gas or electric, arguably making it the most important component in central heating. An electric boiler will use electricity to heat water running through the pipes, but electric heating is most commonly found in the form of a storage heater, which stores heat energy at night and then releases it steadily throughout the day. Electric heaters can be more expensive, but they’re easier to install than a gas system and ideal for adding warmth if your property isn’t able to connect to a mains gas line.
The most popular form of heating, gas boilers tend to be cheaper to run, although they do cost more to install. The boiler burns the gas to heat up copper pipes containing water, and an electric pump then pushes the water through the system to heat radiators throughout the house. Gas boilers also need to be serviced every year to ensure they’re functioning correctly and safely.
Whichever type of boiler you choose, it will need to be attached to a central heating system, of which there are three types: wet systems, dry (or warm air) systems and storage heaters, which we will explain briefly below.
This is likely to be the type of system most people are familiar with, and uses radiators and gas boilers, as mentioned above. The boiler burns gas fuel to heat water which is then pushed through pipes in the walls of the property, into the radiators.
Also called warm air systems, this type of central heating is more common in office or commercial buildings. It works by passing cool air through a heat exchanger which is then blown into rooms through vents in the walls. A boiler is still used, but it heats warm air rather than water to pass through pipes.
A type of electric central heating system, storage heaters do as their name suggests and store heat in clay or concrete bricks to be released gradually throughout the day. Storage heaters are wired to the home and mounted on the wall, a bit like a radiator.
As discussed above, there are several different types of central heating available, however the most common are gas boiler-powered wet systems, so we will use this model to explain the installation process. All systems will share some of the installation processes, but be aware the following may vary slightly if you choose an electric boiler or storage heater.
Before any installation can take place it’s important to research the type of boiler and central heating system that would be best suited to your home. A wet system is comprised of a boiler, radiators, pipes, pump controls, a hot water tank and cold water storage tank. Smaller homes may opt for a combi boiler, which acts as both a water heater and central heating unit, eliminating the need for separate water tanks.
Once you’ve chosen the right system you’ll need to decide where to place the boiler and radiators. The most popular placements for boilers include the kitchen, bathroom or utility room, but be aware that all new boilers must be installed on or next to an outside wall. The boiler must also be positioned a reasonable distance away from doors and windows, and have access to a waste pipe.
Some larger properties may choose to install their boiler in the loft is possible, this is often best for a standard (i.e not a combi) boiler, which will need space for the additional water tanks. Loft installation reduces the noise and unsightly look of a boiler, just make sure there is safe access and a wall strong enough to support the unit. You will also need some type of insulation or frost protection for the boiler during the winter months if it’s stored somewhere colder like a loft or garage; pipes can freeze over and prevent your boiler providing hot water in colder weather when you need it most!
Naturally, the number of radiators required will depend on the size of your property and the amount of rooms, but there are plenty of British Thermal Unit (BTU) calculators online to help you work it out. A BTU is a traditional unit of heat, and each radiator has a BTU rating indicating how much heat it will give out. Most calculators will help you calculate the BTU needed based on which room it is, the dimensions and whether you have double or single glazing.
In most cases, the radiators will be installed first, around four to six inches above ground level. Radiators are often placed underneath windows to better circulate warm air around the room, but there are no strict rules about this so feel free to place them wherever suitable.
An engineer will fit the radiator valves first so they can see where the pipes need to connect to; once this is done then the radiator can be fixed using brackets drilled into the wall.
As you might expect, laying down central heating pipes can be a disruptive job, and can involve taking up carpets or floorboards. The majority of pipes are made of copper, for their durability, although the use of plastic pipes has been on the rise in recent years. Pipes are laid from the radiators and valves to the boiler, and venting is added to prevent airlocks which can cause the central heating to fail.
The majority of pipes will be concealed for aesthetic reasons, but it’s important to be able to easily access parts of the pipe if you need to make any repairs or maintenance.
Some people attempt the above steps themselves (although we wouldn’t recommend it!), but the one stage you must hire a professional for is the boiler installation itself. Boilers can only be fitted by a trained expert who is gas safe registered, such as a heating engineer or plumber.
The water (and in some cases, gas) will need to be shut off while the boiler is installed, but in most cases, installation doesn’t take longer than a day. Any new gas appliance will need to be tested for safety; if all is well then your boiler will receive a gas safety certificate confirming that it is safe for use. It’s also a legal requirement to have your boiler serviced annually to make sure all is running as it should be.
Once the boiler is installed, your central heating should be up and running! Make sure the radiator vents are closed then fill the system with water. You can vent the radiators to get rid of excess air, and then switch on the boiler to heat up the water.
If you’re in need of central heating installation or repairs, give West London Gas a call. All our experienced engineers are Gas Safe registered and fully insured, so you can relax while we get on with the job