How Does Central Heating Work? An Inside Look at the Heating Process

How Does Central Heating Work?

Installing or replacing an HVAC system? Let’s start with one basic question – how does central heating work? Learn how in this article.

If you’ve ever sat in a warm home during the middle of winter, you may have asked yourself “how does central heating work?

Though we don’t necessarily see the systems that are keeping us comfortable, they’re there — and working stealthily to regulate our temps to an enjoyable degree.

Today, we’re taking a look at what goes into central heating, so the next time you feel yours kick on, you’ll appreciate the behind-the-scenes peek.

Ready to get started? Grab that blanket and let’s get started!

General Operation: A Basic Overview

There are multiple types of central heating systems.

In some systems, a central boiler heats water through a burner (natural gas or oil-fired). Then, either hot water or steam is then delivered throughout your house to radiators or other devices via an in-home piping system.

As the water cools, its returned to the boiler, where it’s reheated to begin the cycle over again.

Alternatively, forced-air heating systems rely on a furnace, or heat pump, which takes in cold air from your house, warms it and then pumps the warm air through the home’s system of air ducts.

The warm air is then delivered via your home’s air registers.

While most homes in America are heated via a forced-air heating system, the majority in the UK are heated via a “wet system” that utilises boilers and radiators.

Let’s take a look at how this type of system works!

An Inside Look at the Heating Process

So just how does central heating work? How does the air become warm, and what makes it travel throughout your home?

First, the boiler heats the water. While it’s sometimes powered by oil or even Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), the most common way to fire up the boiler is with gas.

Here, it’s important to understand the two main types of boilers.

standard boiler includes a water-holding cylinder, which houses a supply of hot water ready for use.

combination boiler, or “combi boiler” heats the water on demand, as it’s required. This system helps avoid the need for a separate cylinder, which can take up valuable real estate. As such, it’s the most common type of boiler here in the UK.

The thermostat on the boiler allows you to adjust the temperature of the water, thus controlling how warm your rooms become.

Once it’s heated by the boiler, the hot water is circulated throughout your home via its radiator system.

Recommended reading: No Hot Water from Boiler: Our Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide

Your room thermostat, which is typically placed in your most commonly trafficked area such as your living room, will serve as the main system controller.

When this thermostat senses that the area is becoming too cold, it will signal to the system to turn on, and vice versa when the temperature regulates.

Other rooms besides the main room will be controlled via Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs), which can be set to a room-specific setting.

An Alternative: Heat Pump Systems

Put simply, a heat pump is an air conditioner that has a reverse function. This allows it to pull cold air from the outside, then warm it to dispense throughout your home.

Yet, as these systems simply move heat and don’t generate it, they tend to work best in mild or moderate climates, where the temperatures generally stay above freezing.

They also have a shorter life expectancy, lasting only about 16 years compared to gas boilers, which can last up to 20 years or more.

How Does Central Heating Work? Let a Pro Show You

Are you in the market to repair or replace your central heating system?

Either way, you’ve come to the right place.

We’re experts on plumbing, heating, and catering systems and we’ve got the tools to meet almost any need.

Contact us today and let us take care of the rest!