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How Does a Thermostat Work?

When it comes to thermostats, it’s likely that you’ve seen one daily and walked past it without giving it much thought. We all have a rough idea of what it does, but do we really understand them? How do thermostats work? Does a thermostat control radiators? What is a room thermostat? 

We’re answering the most critical questions to help you understand your thermostat's functionality. 

What Is A Room Thermostat? 

A thermostat is a piece of equipment that will trigger your boiler system to switch on or off, depending on the ideal ambient temperature that you would like your house to be. 

Thermostats sit on a wall and usually have a dial or a digital interface that gives you control over your home's heating.  

A thermostat keeps your house at your ideal, comfortable temperature. It helps you to reduce your energy bills by switching the heating on when it’s too cold and switching it off once your room is up to temperature. 

The Basics: How Do Thermostats Work? 

Thermostats work by detecting temperature changes within a room. Using two different methods, the thermostat can read the temperature of the room it is in.  

Method One – Metallic Components 

When understanding ‘how do thermostats work?’, knowing the components will help. 

Using metallic components in thermostats is a very common way of reading temperature. Consisting of two metals, these metals will expand to different lengths, which in turn deflects a pointer of a calibrated scale. This scale will then indicate the temperature. 

Method Two: Electric Sensors 

Another common way that a thermostat reads temperature is by using electronic sensors. 

The electronic sensors within the thermostat will read the interior temperature and are found to be highly accurate; electric sensor thermostats can control room temperature with a single degree of accuracy. 

Once your thermostat has detected your home's temperature, it can control your heating system to fire up or switch off according to your selected temperature. 

Does A Thermostat Control Radiators? 

In theory, your thermostat indirectly controls your radiators, but it doesn’t have individual control over every single radiator in your home; it controls the boiler system that runs your radiators. 

So, if you’ve set your thermostat at 20 degrees, your boiler system will fire up and switch on your radiators until the ambient room temperature reaches 20 degrees. Once that temperature is reached, the thermostat will trigger your boiler system to switch off your radiators. 

Ultimately, you have control over what radiator comes on and what radiator stays off when your boiler system fires up, and you do this by using the valve on the side of each radiator.  

If you want more control over each radiator in your home, upgrade your radiator valves to smart radiator thermostats for multi-zone, room-to-room heating control with pinpoint accuracy. 

Where Should A Thermostat Be Placed? 

The location is vital to get the best from your thermostat; it should be placed somewhere with free air flow and not in direct sunlight or shelter. 

Sunlight or shelter can change the ambient temperature around the thermostat, giving readings that aren’t accurate to the actual temperature of your home.  

How Do You Set A Room Thermostat? 

Some thermostats have buttons, some have dials, and some have a touchscreen; no matter what interface your thermostat has, it will still be easy to use. 

You should set your thermostat at a low but comfortable temperature; most people tend to put their thermostats between 18 –21°C

If the weather gets colder, you can adjust your thermostat to fire your boiler up and maintain a higher temperature within your home, and if the weather gets warmer, you can do the opposite. 

How About Smart Thermostats – What Are They? 

Smart thermostats are one of the most energy-efficient ways to manage your home's heating. They operate through your central boiler and allow you to create heating schedules and change room-to-room temperatures using an app downloaded to your phone. 

One of the best parts of a smart thermostat is that you can control them from anywhere – you don’t have to be at home to manage your heating system. 

Noticing a chill in the air? Hop onto your app and turn up your thermometer, so the house is toasty before you get home. Equally, think it’s too hot? Lower your thermostat for a cooler home. 

If you are interested in integrating a smart thermostat into your home, find out more about our wireless smart room thermostats here