Making sure that your heating comes on at the right times can help to keep you cosy and make it easier to control your energy costs. This means it pays to get to grips with your boiler controls, including the timer function.

To make sure you’re up to speed on this topic, here’s a brief guide to using the timer on your boiler and what to do if this function goes wrong.

How to Set a Timer on a Boiler

How a boiler timer works

Not all boiler timers are created equal; in fact, these functions can vary significantly depending on the type and model of appliance you have. In general, timers and programmers allow you to determine the times at which your heating and hot water switches on and off. This is useful because it means that you can set your heating to fit around the specific needs of your household, maximising comfort and cost effectiveness. For example, you might set your system to switch off or provide less heat during the night or while you are out of the house.

Most timers and programmers these days are digital and feature a small screen as an interface. In contrast, older system are mechanical and are controlled using a dial.

Simple mechanical timers tend to give you three basic options when it comes to controlling your heating. They let you switch your boiler off, put it on a continuous setting or programme it to turn on and off at set times each day. They usually have a round dial with the 24-hour clock printed in the middle. These systems are easy to use, but their limited functionality means that your appliance will switch on and off at the same times each day - unless you manually adjust the settings whenever you want to vary the pattern. This could be inconvenient if your routine differs throughout the week.

For greater control and flexibility, it’s now possible to get more complex programmers that allow you to set different heating patterns for different days of the week. You can also get programmers connected to thermostats that give you even more control over the temperature of your home.

Some programmers need to be wired to your boiler, but many modern designs are wireless. Bear in mind that if you have a programmer with a thermostat, it should be exposed to a free flow of air and shouldn’t be near to heating or cooling appliances as this will prevent it from taking accurate readings of the temperature of your home.

What do the different settings on my timer mean?

Depending on the type of timer or programmer you have, you might see a number of different settings displayed - and it’s not always obvious what they refer to. Here are a few common ones to be aware of:

  • 24hrs/On – Your heating will remain on constantly until you turn it off.
  • Off – Your heating will stay off until you switch it back on.
  • Auto/Twice – Your heating will turn on and off during each 24-hour period according to the times you have set.
  • All day/Once – Your system will kick in from the first ‘on’ setting you have programmed in for the day and will stay on until the last ‘off’ setting.
  • +1hr/Boost – Your heating will come on for a boost of warmth lasting one hour.
  • Advance – This moves the timer to the next ‘on’ or ‘off’ setting in the programmed daily cycle.

How to set boiler timer pins

Mechanical timers typically feature small pins around the edge of the dial that can be moved in or out. Each pin represents a 15-minute time period. To use this system, you must first make sure you set the correct current time by twisting the dial until the hands show the right time of day. Then simply slide the pins in at the times you want your heating to come on and leave them out when you want your boiler to be off.

How to set the digital timer on your boiler

As with a mechanical timer, you must first make sure that the clock is showing the correct current time when you’re setting a digital timer. Many modern control panels automatically set the time. If yours doesn’t have this feature, you will have to adjust it yourself according to the instructions provided.

These timers can vary significantly in terms of the information they display and how you programme them, so it’s best to refer to the manual if you’re unsure how to set yours.

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How to turn off a timer on a boiler

Turning a timer off is easy. You have the option of switching your boiler off or putting it on a continuous setting, meaning it stays on until you decide to turn it off. If you have a modern boiler with thermostatic controls, you can also set this appliance to heat your home to a particular temperature, rather than programming it to turn on and off at particular times of the day.

How to fix a timer on a boiler

Have you ever found yourself asking questions like why is my boiler on when the timer is off? A number of problems can arise with timers that could leave you scratching your head. The good news is, they are often straightforward to fix. For example, if the clock on your timer isn’t set to the right current time, this can mean your heating comes on earlier or turns off later than expected. This can be a particular issue when we switch to and from British Summer Time. Although some timer clocks change automatically, not all do. To address this particular issue, simply reset the current time.

Also, if there’s been a power outage to your boiler, this may have affected the clock. Many boilers automatically reset to midnight, which can lead to these appliances switching on at seemingly random times. Again, the fix for this is to reprogramme the current time.

If your timer seems to have stopped working altogether or only functions intermittently, you could try resetting it to see if this helps. If not, you can contact your heating engineer for advice on your next steps.

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Switching to smart controls

Boiler controls have come a long way over recent years, and there is now an impressive range of intelligent heating systems available that can give you much greater flexibility and control than traditional timer solutions. For example, Viessmann’s tado° thermostat and smartphone app adapts to your energy needs and enables you to control and monitor your heating from any location using your smartphone or tablet.

Technology like this can save you money, make your home greener and optimise your comfort levels, so it’s worth investigating your options.

If you have any questions about tado° or our other smart heating solutions, such as our ViCare app, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts. Why not also check out our blog outlining other ways to improve boiler efficiency?

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