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Buying guide

Programmers let you set when you'd like your boiler to switch on and off. Many programmers will also let you override the timer to turn the boiler on or off directly and control the timings for your heating and hot water separately.

There are two main types:

  • Mechanical programmers usually have a set of sliders (called 'tappets') which you move around a clock face. You can set the times of day you'd like the boiler to be on.
  • Digital programmers display information on a screen. You can often set different time patterns for different days of the week.

How much control?

Some mechanical programmers only let you set the boiler to turn on and off once during the day. Others have an array of tappets so you can set multiple times. You will usually need a digital programmer if you want different settings for different days of the week.

A programmer can't regulate the temperature of your house – you will need a thermostat for this.

Saving energy

Use a programmer to turn off the heating when it’s not needed. Think about when your household is at home and awake, and how long the house takes to heat up and cool down.

Think about…

  • The clock face on mechanical programmers. You set the time by lining the clock face up with a marker, which isn't always clearly labelled. The clock usually spans 24 hours, so it’s hard to judge the time by its position.
  • The tappets. These can be small and fiddly to move. They may also be easier to see if they are brightly coloured.

Product reviews

Siemens RWB 1007 (£36)

Siemens RWB 1007 programmerYou can set a weekly programme. A switch lets you choose between timed mode, on or off.

  • The digital screen is backlit, but some information is written in a small font.
  • The buttons and switch are easy to feel. Labels are quite small.
  • There is no sound feedback when you have completed an action.
  • Switching mode is easy, but you'd need to be able to read everything on the screen to pre-program it.

Who is this suitable for? People with some useful sight who want their heating to change on a schedule.

Score: 3 out of 5

Danfoss 4033 (£86)

Danfoss 4033 programmerHas a clock timer and tappets that let you set on and off times for heating and hot water. There is a tactile dot on each hour of the clock. Two switches (one for hot water and one for heating) let you choose between timed mode, on or off.

  • It's easy to feel and hear when you've used one of the switches.
  • The Braille labels are fairly easy to understand.
  • However, the labels on the clock face and switches have poor contrast.
  • You can't tell what the time is set to using touch alone. The hours go anti-clockwise, which is counter-intuitive.
  • The tappets can be hard to move.

Who is this suitable for? Braille readers who prefer to set their heating manually, and can get help with initial set-up.

Score: 2 out of 5

Also tested

Rica last tested programmers in 2004. Our previously tested section has the results for digital and mechanical programmers.

Last updated: February 2014

Main page: Product guides