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There is nothing like coming home from work in the winter to a warm and inviting house, a relaxing evening making dinner and a cheeky glass of wine while watching a highly anticipated autumnal boxset. A nurtured heating system rewards you with a warm winter. Poor heating circulation can cause endless frustration so it is important to take steps to keep the heat moving around the family home.

Pipes are prone to freezing in the midst of winter, so invest in pipe lagging to avoid emergency plumbers for burst pipes. Check radiators for cold patches and bleed when you need to.

Have your boiler serviced annually from a Gas Safe heating engineer, and check the pilot light for a strong blue colour, and be carbon-monoxide aware and safe with a simple device in the home to check for any toxic fumes. 

In the UK the most common heating system is wet heating where hot water is used as the means to create heat generally via radiators, but it also be used for underfloor heating. Dry comprises storage heaters, which are easy to install in an existing house, electric underfloor, which is less disruptive than a wet system if it is being retro-fitted, and ducted warm air systems, which is more practical to put in while a house is being built.

The most popular wet system, due to its efficiency, reliability and cost, is the one with radiators using either an open-vented or sealed system.The open vented system is where there is a header tank in the loft that supplies water to the boiler and the radiators and keeps them topped up.The sealed system, also known as pressurised central heating, incorporates an expansion vessel that does away with the need for a header tank. If the water levels drop the system needs to be topped up manually. A pressure gauge alerts the householder if this needs to be done.

A combi boiler also is a sealed system, but with this instant heating device there is no need for a hot-water cylinder.

Central heating is usually more cost-effective and efficient than having individual types of heating in different rooms.

Central heating pipework designs

Flow and return otherwise referred to as a 2 pipe system - The most common system where the first pipe takes heating water to radiators etc and the second pipe returns the now cooler water from each radiator back to the boiler for reheating and recirculation. This pipework configuration generally gives reliable heating.

Single pipe system - This is a simple design using just 1 pipe in a ring with each radiator taking flow from and returning to the same pipe. Often the radiators have the in connection at the top and the out at the opposite bottom corner which helps flow through the radiator. Unlike the 2 pipe system there is no forced flow through the radiator even with a circulation pump so radiators can be slow to warm up and may be tempramental in functioning.

Microbore - a variation on the flow and return design but with small gauge (8/10/12mm) pipes. Sometimes these pipes are connected to the boiler pipework via manifolds which are empty boxes with pipe connections, Microbore is easy and cheap to fit but with much smaller pathways is much more likely to become blocked and have poor circulation. There are also plasic microbore systems with there own manifolds with the same speed and cost advantages but which may suffer circulation problems if systems become dirty.

Radiators:

There are lots of different types of radiators, enough for every taste and type of property and often the choice comes down to individual taste.

Panel - They come in a large range of sizes and their heat output is dictated by how big they are. Heat efficiency can be boosted by a double panel radiator.

Convector - A convector radiator has zig-zagging metal strips attached to the panels which increase the surface area of the radiator so it radiates more heat into a room. This means a smaller convector radiator will emit more warmth than a larger panel one.

Skirting board - These save space compared to other types of radiator and are fitted in place of a wooden skirting board. They are aesthetically-pleasing as pipework and valves are concealed from view. Electric versions of this type of radiator also are available.

Bleeding a radiator:

The efficiency of a radiator can be affected if air becomes trapped within it. To test if a radiator needs bleeding feel it to see if it is hotter at the bottom than at the top. For this task a radiator key and a cloth are required. The heating needs to be turned off and the radiator allowed to cool to prevent the risk of burns.

The bleed value can be found at one of a radiator’s top corners. Use the key to turn the valve until you hear the hissing of air coming out. Have your cloth ready to catch the water than will escape once the air is expelled from the radiator. Then turn the valve back to its closed position. Once finished check your boiler’s pressure levels.

Some modern radiators allow you to release the bleed valve with a screwdriver.

Do this before winter comes to make sure the heating system is at its best when the cold weather hits. You could also identify any serious problems that might need a heating engineer to resolve.

Room heaters:

Although most modern homes have central heating systems, some householders decide to have individual room heaters for cosmetic reasons or as an extra source of heat.

Fires:

With both electric and gas fires and fire surrounds, there is a wide variety of styles to choose from, whether a householder wants to achieve a traditional or more modern look. Also available are fires that stand on the hearth, which are inset in a fire place or are wall-mounted.

Some fires even come with a remote control to switch them on and off and regulate the heat, so they can be operated from the comfort of a chair.

Electric fires do not require a flue or a chimney. This means they can be located on a wall anywhere in a room as long as there is a power point nearby. This makes them cheap to install and maintain.

All gas fires must be installed by a Gas Safe-Registered gas engineer. For more information visit www.gassaferegister.co.uk.

As with all gas appliances there must be enough ventilation to for them to burn safely so flues and chimneys should be checked regularly to make sure there are no blockages.

Standing heaters:

They are portable and can be moved from room to room as necessary. While cheaper to buy than installing central heating or a fire, they can prove costly to run.

Powered by electricity, the types available comprise fan, oil-filled, convector and panel - which also can be fixed to a wall if desired - heaters.

Log burners:

Wood burning stoves are often chosen because they are extremely economical to run in comparison to gas and electric fires.

The model of stoves available means there is one to match all tastes from the vintage to the latest house style trends.

They can even be installed in a property without a chimney with the addition of a fully sealed twin wall flue system.

 

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