When it comes to your central heating, you probably have numerous ways to turn it on and programme it. Unlike a TV, that typically has one remote, your central heating system can be controlled by the boiler, timers, thermostats and even mobile phone apps. The way in which you turn the system on likely differs depending on the kind of system you have, as well as how old your boiler is.

You can find the main ways to turn your heating on below, as well as some additional information around turning it on after the summer. 

How to turn on your central heating using...

...the boiler

You can turn your central heating on directly by using the controls on your boiler. It will likely have an on or off switch and a small screen that allows you to access other controls too, including the temperature that the boiler heats your hot water to. Your options when using the boiler controls will be slightly limited compared to other methods.

...a boiler timer

As well as using the controls on your boiler, you can also use the timer device that is likely located near the boiler. You’ll probably see a circular dial set against a larger square box or a timer which will be built in. The box itself will have an on and off switch and this should be set to ‘On’. Then, the dial on the front of the box will show the hours in the day, almost like a 24-hour clock, (pictured below).

You can turn the dials to show when you want the boiler to come on and off. For instance, if you want the heating to come on at 7am and go off at 11am, set one dial to the number seven and the other to the number 11. Then do the same when you want the heating to come on and off in the evening.

These timers will limit you as you can generally only set the boiler to two programmes, however, they are still used in many homes. You also cannot set the temperature using these devices, so this will either need to be done using the boiler controls or a room thermostat, as explained below.

...the room thermostat

Like the boiler timer, a room thermostat is usually a dial that’s located on a wall in your house somewhere. It should be out of direct sunlight and away from any radiators, as these factors can affect the accuracy of the thermostat.

How to use a central heating thermostat

A thermostat should be used alongside the boiler timer. Where the timer programmes the boiler, the thermostat communicates with the appliance to tell it a) the current temperature in the room and b) the temperature you want the room to be. The heating system will use this information to increase or decrease the temperature of your home. You can simply set the dial to the ideal room temperature and the boiler will do the rest.


Room thermostats now come in digital varieties too, these can incorporate both functions and are called programmable room thermostats. These could be devices that remain on your wall but have a small screen that can be controlled using buttons or a touchscreen interface.

  • ...a mobile phone app

If you have a smart thermostat, you should be able to download an app that allows you to control your heating from your phone. It should allow you to programme the heating and hot water to come on at certain times, as well as allow you to decide the temperature in your home.

Turning your heating on after summer

As the weather starts to turn around the beginning of autumn and a chill begins to creep into your home, you may consider putting the heating back on. This is usually the time that problems, if there are any, will arise, as your boiler may have been out of use for a number of months.

If possible, you should arrange for your annual boiler service to occur around this time. If there are any issues, the suitably qualified heating engineer will pick up on them immediately, plus this is generally a quieter time of year for engineers. If you wait until mid-winter to book your service, you may end up waiting for a few weeks.

Once the service is done, it may be a good idea to bleed your radiators. This will make sure that your system is working as efficiently as possible and gets rid of any cold spots you may need to top up your boiler system pressure once this has been done.

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Finally, once the system is up and running, be sure to occasionally listen out for signs of trouble. This could include kettling, a high pitched whistling noise that’s generally caused by limescale buildup, or whooshing, usually caused by blocked air filters. You may also want to check the pressure regularly to ensure that it isn’t dropping. If the pressure drops below one bar, you may have a leak in the system that is allowing water to escape.  

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