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Water Heater Accessories: Timers vs. Programmers vs. Thermostats

9 July 2024

If you’re like most people, you expect hot water to flow out when you open the hot tap. That’s the entire point of a water heater, right? While that might be true, your unvented cylinder needs several different accessories to operate correctly and to help you customise your water heating to your schedule and usage needs.

The three most commonly needed accessories are timers, programmers, and thermostats. Many UK homeowners are unsure what the difference is between these devices or whether they need one, two, or all three. In this post, we’ll help you make sense of your options.


We’ll start with the thermostat. It’s a simple device that allows you to set the temperature on your water heater. We recommend at least 60 degrees to help kill off potentially harmful bacteria. Depending on the age of your water cylinder, you may have an analogue thermostat or a digital one (digital thermostats are often programmable, but they’re not the same as water heater programmers).

A programmable thermostat allows you to choose different water temperatures at different times of the day. However, the water heater will still cycle on and off as the temperature fluctuates throughout the day, even if you’re not using the water.


Timers work in tandem with your thermostat. They allow you to set the times you want the water heater to turn on or request heat from the combi boiler. This ensures that your water heater doesn’t cycle all day long when you’re not home or all night while you’re sleeping, saving you money, and reducing energy usage.

Timers are very convenient, but you must use the same timing schedule every day of the week. Most people don’t follow the same schedule all week long. You likely have a bit of a lie-in at the weekend, at the very least.


Programmers take the abilities of timers and amplify them. Rather than being able to set heating times daily, you can customise your heating for the entire week. That allows you to create a strategy that matches your family’s schedule during the week and at the weekend.

Programmers can help you enjoy the best combination of energy/cost savings and convenience. It’s the difference between allowing your water heater to cycle 24 hours a day and being forced to use hot water only during the same few hours each day.

Which Is Right for You?

Of the three devices we’ve talked about, the only one that everyone should have is the thermostat. The choice between a timer and a programmer will require a bit more thought and a deep analysis of your specific usage needs.

At EasyFlow, we can help you make an informed decision about whether a timer or a programmer is the better choice for your specific situation. And then we can install it, show you how to use it, and more. We can also replace your aging water heater if it’s time for a new one and then provide annual maintenance so that it lasts as long as possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.


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