Heating Control Systems
There are a number of ways to control a heating system, with a variety of different levels of sophistication.
The object of heating controls is to ensure that heated areas are at suitable temperatures when in use without wasting energy by over-heating, or by keeping heating on when it is not needed.
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Types of Heating Control
Traditionally, central heating systems had only a single thermostat (if that) in the lounge or a hallway turning the entire central heating system on and off according to the temperature in the room with a thermostat - with other rooms controlled by switching radiators on or off. In some cases, whilst the central heating system was on, there was a “must run” radiator which could not be turned off even if for a while no heating was needed.
Gradually more sophisticated systems developed:
Thermostatic Radiator Valves TRVs
Adjusting the flow rate of water through each radiator to control a radiator's temperature. These allow for a level of control of how much heat is given off by each radiator, but with no input from the actual temperature in the room. This is an improvement, but falls far short of giving optimal control. TRVs are manually set and adjusted and have to be turned up and down by hand to keep a room's temperature somewhat steady.
These are often used in conjunction with TRVs, turning the central heating on and off possibly several times a day. Again an improvement, but relatively unsophisticated, and traditionally controlling the whole dwelling on a single zone – so that radiators in bedrooms unoccupied all day are left on for as long as heating is needed in the lounge / dining room / kitchen.
The next step up often applied to larger dwellings and institutional settings is to have heating systems run on 2 or more independent controllable zones. In an office block for example you might have 2 zones per floor covering the East and West of the building as the timing of heat requirements will differ due to when the sun shines through the window.
Rather than using a single thermostat per zone and standard TRVs, full control uses a suitably located electronic thermostatic control unit in each room able to set different temperatures at different times as well as times when the heating is off. Each control unit is linked to electronically controlled TRVs in the room. This way, the heating control of each room is fully independent.
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Further sophistication can be added such as microwave sensors so that for example, heating can be turned down a couple of degrees when a room is unoccupied, and sensors on windows so that heating automatically cuts out if a window is opened.
A fully featured heating control system can achieve substantial energy savings compared to basic controls such as zone thermostats and standard TRVs
Finally, such systems can be integrated into full building management systems able to do such things as control air conditioning units during both heating and cooling, adjust external blinds to prevent excess solar gains, control lighting, regulate heat recovery ventilation systems according to humidity and temperature (setting them to bypass as and when necessary), and turning off some circuits in empty rooms or buildings.
All of this can now also be set up as part of “The Internet of Things” and controlled remotely using an app.
One final thing, certain systems can participate in balancing the electricity grid – such as air conditioning systems in large buildings, or water heating which can be turned off or on for short periods without making much difference to the building. By doing that, they can time shift the load by maybe 30 minutes or so allowing the grid operator more time to adjust output of power generators, or to slightly lower peak demand.
We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong, then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human). For more information contact us on Free Phone 0800 298 5424.
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