How do boilers work?

Unless your boiler is broken, the chances are you’ve probably not given much thought to how it actually works. It can be useful to have some idea as to how your boiler works so that you’re prepared if it suddenly breaks down.


Your boiler works at the heart of your central heating system to send heat and hot water to the radiators and taps in your home. There are many parts to a boiler and each type of boiler works differently, so unless you’re a gas safe registered engineer, it can be confusing to know exactly how boilers work.


As a basic understanding your boiler will burn a mixture of gasses together in a pressure vessel to heat your water and radiators. The boiler is the most important part of a central heating system as it is the big fire that powers all other parts. Most boilers are powered by gas and connect through a pipe to the gas main in the street. This allows the boiler to have a continuous supply of natural gas streaming into it so it is ready to light up whenever you choose to turn it on. It is possible to have other fuel types powering your boiler such as oil, LPG, and electric. Keep in mind LPG and Electric boilers can be expensive to run. The LPG boiler has a high seasonal efficiency however the fuel (LPG) can be expensive. You typically have these type of systems when mains gas is not available. You can have a large tank to hold the fuel or have canisters delivered. Typically properties with a LPG boilers have a low rating on the EPC. You may want to consider installing an Air Source Heat Pump in stead.


Both gas and oil fired boilers use controlled combustion of the fuel to heat water. The most important parts of a boiler that affect how well it works in this process are the burner, heat-exchanger, combustion chamber and controls. The burner will mix together the gasses and oxygen so that they are able to burn more effectively and provide energy to heat your home. Hot water and heat that is produced by the boiler is then pumped through the pipes to supply the radiators and taps.


Some heating systems have a Hot Water Cylinder to store the hot water from the boiler. Be sure if you have a tank it is well insulated, this prevents your boiler from being on all the time to create hot water. This will reduce your gas bill. The hot water cylinder should additionally have a thermostat on it, this will shut the boiler off when the hot water reaches the correct temperature. To kill Legionella bacteria, you need to make sure that the water is too hot for them to live. You don't need to boil them, but you do need to get them above 60°C.


Then you need heating controls like a room thermostat, programmer and TRV valves on you heating system. You house temperatures should be as follows.

Keep your lounge and main living areas at 21c.

Bedroom should be kept at 18c. Please refer to my Blog on heating controls for more information.

Boiler heating system

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