How Does a Boiler Work?

Boilers are a staple in most homes in the UK. For most people, all you have to do to get your boiler to work is to flick a switch. But, there’s more to the functions of a boiler than just the switch. Understanding how your boiler works can help you make better use of it and enjoy longer service. It will also make it easier for you to understand what’s wrong with your boiler when it breaks down and how you can approach the situation.

Construction of Central Heating Gas Boilers

The principle on which boilers work to keep the home warm is quite simple. The boiler transfers heat to the water. The water is then pumped around the house through a series of pipes. However, this is only the basic principle behind the functioning of a boiler. There are a variety of parts and engineering required to achieve it. That’s what it’s vital to start with the construction of the boiler.

Gas boiler design and function is very similar to other types of heating. In gas boilers, a highly flammable gas along with additional safety features are included to get the boiler to work safely.

The main components inside the central heating gas boiler include:

  • A gas burner – This component is tasked with generating the heat that is transferred to the water
  • Heat exchanger – It transfers the heat between a solid object like the gas burner and the fluid
  • Control technology – This unit controls the functions of the entire heating system
  • Diaphragm expansion vessel – These are pressurised water vessels. They allow the water to expand and absorb the pressure which increases as the water is heated
  • Exhaust pipe – The burning action results in poisonous gases like carbon monoxide. To prevent these gases from causing harm, an exhaust pipe is added to safely remove the gas from inside the house

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How a Gas Boiler Creates Heat

The central heating element in the gas boiler is the burner. You switch it on and off using the heating control unit. The switch is triggered manually or through a thermostat that reacts when the temperature drops below the set levels. Even with the thermostat, the heating control remains the most critical component of the heating assembly. It allows for smooth and easy operation of the system. The unit also facilitates communication between the outdoor and indoor temperatures sensors.

For safe ignition, a Piezo ignition ignites for about two seconds before the gas line opens to let out the gas. The delayed opening prevents a build-up of unburnt gases which can explode upon ignition. The burner is connected to the heat exchanger that heats the water. Once the water is hot enough, it is pumped to the heating circuit.

How Other Types of Boilers Work

Gas boilers are extremely popular. But there are other varieties like electric boilers and oil boilers. If you happen to have one of these, it’s also crucial to know how they function and what makes them unique or similar to the gas boiler.

Oil boilers

Oil and gas boilers are quite similar. For the oil boilers, instead of gas, oil is the preferred fuel which is converted into heat in the combustions chamber. The process of heat transfer is the same. The burner is attached to the heat exchanger which heats the water which is then pumped to the around the house and to the storage tank for a system that also needs to provide hot water.

While the two systems are largely similar, they also have a few differences. The most significant is how the fuel is managed. Oil boilers need to have a storage tank where the fuel is stored. The oil is often delivered by a tanker and stored until it’s depleted. Oil boilers are eco-friendlier than gas boilers, but they are not as common. In fact, they are more common in the countryside where there’s no gas pipeline present.

Electric boiler

Electric boilers are an alternative in areas where there is no gas line. Electric boilers function a little differently because they don’t use solid fuel. They transfer energy to a heating element that heats the water. They are extremely friendly to the environment and in most cases, require fewer parts to get the job done. The downside of electric boilers is that they are not as efficient as the former types of boilers and are more expensive to run.

Boilers are complex pieces of engineering.  Their functioning is not. They employ simple principles that allow them to provide you with a nice and toasty home. Most of the features added to the boiler are for safety and to guarantee that if the boiler fails, it doesn’t cause harm to you or other occupants in the house.

For more information on how a boiler works or information on new boilers, get in touch with our team today.

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