Are Your Boiler Controls Not Working? Here's Why

If your boiler isn’t working properly, there might be an issue with its controls, discover the common issues.

Boilers are operated by a series of controls, which typically includes:

  • A thermostat, installed in your home. 
  • A timer, which may be a standalone unit or incorporated into the thermostat unit (also called a programmer). 
  • A receiver connected to your boiler, that receives the wireless signal from the programmer. 
  • The controls on the boiler itself. 

If your boiler isn’t working properly, there might be an issue with any of these controls. If your boiler controls do stop working, then don’t panic! With any luck, it’ll be straightforward to get your boiler up and running again.

Here’s what to do if your boiler controls stop working. 

Boiler not responding to the thermostat?

The boiler and the thermostat communicate with each other wirelessly. 

The thermostat measures the air temperature in your home and relays the reading to the boiler. 

If the room temperature sits below the temperature set on the thermostat, your heating will switch on, so long as your central heating is switched on. If you’ve set the timer, the heating will only function between the times you’ve set. Once the correct temperature is obtained, your central heating will switch off. 

White thermostat with temperature dial, on cream wall
Above: Conventional thermostat

Check the timer

If your boiler fails to respond to the thermostat, check the timer first. The timer might’ve switched itself off and needs setting again. This is likely if you’ve recently experienced a power cut. 

Is there a heat source near your thermostat?

If your thermostat is placed near a heat source like a fan heater or oil heater, then the thermostat will think that your home is warmer than it actually is. In turn, it’ll switch your heating off prematurely. So make sure your thermostat isn’t exposed to heat sources. 

Check batteries

Many thermostats are battery-powered. Remove the cover, change the battery, replace it, and see if your heating starts working again. 

If you have a smart thermostat

Modern smart thermostats typically work over WiFi. Some, like Hive, connect directly to your router via a hub. 

If your smart thermostat isn’t working properly, check your WiFi connection and ensure the smart thermostat is connected to your smartphone app, whether that be Alexa, Google Home or Apple Home. Also, check your thermostat for error messages or blinking lights. 

Operating smart thermostat via white mobile phone alongside the circular thermostat
Above: Smart thermostat

Do the batteries need changing? 

If your boiler stops responding to your thermostat or heating controls, it’s worth checking the batteries. 

Not all thermostats use batteries - some are wired into the mains but have backup batteries in case your power fails. If you’ve experienced a power cut, your thermostat’s backup battery might’ve run out. If not, it’s probably worth replacing the batteries anyway. 

Is your thermostat boiler controller too old?

Like any mechanical or electrical component, thermostats wear over time. If your thermostat is very old, it might be worth replacing the whole thing. This is usually relatively straightforward and allows you to upgrade to a new modern thermostat and timer. 

Is the temperature too low?

It sounds simple, but your heating won't switch on if your thermostat is set too low. 

Crank up the thermostat and see if that fires your heating into action. It’s possible that the thermostat is poorly calibrated and has to be turned up higher than it ought to be. If so, consider replacing the thermostat. 

Is your thermostat too far away?

If you’ve fitted a new thermostat, it needs to be positioned suitably close to your boiler. In the case of a digital thermostat, it will need to be within range of both the boiler and the router. 

Ensure your wireless connections are strong enough to work reliably. For example, if you have a digital thermostat that works over WiFi, reestablish the connections between both your router and the boiler. 

Problems with your boiler timer or central heating programmer?

Modern central heating systems, including combi boilers, often have a combined programmer and timer. If you’re experiencing problems with the entire unit, try resetting it first. 

White boiler with multiple dials to control
Above: Typical combi boiler controls 

Adjust all the settings from scratch and see if that fires your central heating system up. If you have a digital or smart programmer/thermostat/timer, ensure the boiler and router connections are in range and stable. 

circular black nest smart thermostat on white wall
Above: Nest thermostat

How to fix your boiler controls 

Fixing your boiler controls could be as simple as pressing a few buttons. On the other hand, you might need to replace the thermostat, timer, programmer or receiver next to the boiler. 

If the following steps fail, consult a professional heating engineer. 

  • If you have a standard dial thermostat, it’s likely wired up to the mains power. However, it probably has a backup battery installed in case your mains power fails. Take the cover off carefully and change the battery. 
  • Check the controls on the boiler itself. Is the central heating switched on?
  • Ensure your thermostat isn’t placed near a heat source like a fan heater or oil heater. This will distort its heat measurement and communication with the boiler. 
  • Mechanical thermostats can become extremely dusty. Open the cover and eject any dust with an air duster. 
  • If you have a digital thermostat, ensure it’s connected to your boiler. Smart thermostats usually work over WiFi - check that they’re connected to your router and are sufficiently in range. Also, check your smart thermostat for flashing lights or error codes. 
  • It’s usually easy to reset a digital thermostat. Reset your device and start over from scratch. Consult the manufacturer’s guidance if you’re unsure of how to reset it. 
  • Rarely, the issue might be on the receiver side. The receiver is typically installed next to the boiler and communicates wirelessly with the thermostat. Check the receiver installed near your boiler; an indicator light should show that it’s working.

Summary: Why are my boiler controls not working?

Boiler controls aren’t supposed to be complicated, but they certainly can be when they’re not working properly! 

If your boiler isn’t working properly, check the controls. 

The thermostat/programmer/timer is the first port of call - make sure that the unit has power and the timer is set properly. 

Smart or digital thermostats usually need to be connected to the WiFi - check your router and wireless connections and reset if necessary. 

If all fails, get in-touch today to book a heating engineer.

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