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How to save energy with your heating controls

The three principles to save energy with heating controls:

The main ways that you can save energy with your heating controls are fairly straightforward. More sophisticated controls can be purchased that will run your boiler more efficiently, but here we focus on what you can do with the controls you have.

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1

Keep the temperature of your home as low as you can while staying healthy and comfortable.

For most homes the main control is a room thermostat. This provides a temperature setting for your home, and tells the boiler when heat is needed to maintain this temperature. The lower you set the temperature on your room thermostat, the less energy your heating system will use.

Government advice, based on a study by Public Health England, is that you should heat your home to at least 18 degrees C to avoid any risk to your health. This generally applies to healthy people wearing appropriate clothing and particularly if they are active. When you are sitting down watching TV you will probably prefer slightly higher temperatures (20 – 21 degrees C), and higher temperatures are also recommended for people over 65 years old or with pre-existing medical conditions.

To keep energy bills low, you should aim to keep the temperatures close to 18 degrees C for most of the time, allowing higher temperatures if people in your home need them or at particular times when you want to be warmer

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2

Reduce the temperature in rooms that don’t need to be so warm

The healthy temperatures mentioned above apply to the comfort and health of people in your home, so rooms that no-one is in can be at a lower temperature such as 16 degrees C. What individuals want may also differ; 18 degrees C may be perfectly fine for teenagers in their bedrooms while the rest of the family in the living room want 20 degrees C.

Keeping individual rooms at lower temperatures where possible will reduce the average temperature in your home. This will mean that your heating systems will need to use even less energy when it is on.

If you have thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) on your radiators it will be easy to set the temperature for the room, although you will need to check how the number scale on the TRV relates to a temperature.

If you only have manual valves on your radiators, it should still be possible to adjust these to get a suitable temperature. The only problem is that these fix the heat output of the radiator, so each time the outside temperature changes, the room will get either hotter or cooler than you want it and you will need to adjust the manual valve again.

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3

Only have the heating on when you need it

Many people leave the settings on their timeclock/programmer so that the heating turns on and off at the same time every day throughout the Winter. If you want to keep your fuel bills low, this is rarely the best approach and it’s worth spending some time getting familiar with how to adjust these settings.

Limiting the times your heating is on to the times you are home avoids wasting heat.

There are some other options you could consider to reduce the operating time further.  Set your heating to come on so that it is still warming the house when you get home, rather than being fully up to temperature. Set it to go off before you go to bed or go out – it will take some time to cool down before you notice. For example, setting the 'off' time 15 minutes earlier than it currently is will reduce energy consumption but is unlikely to have any impact on your comfort.

 

Make sure you change the heating settings if you’re not going to be home at your normal time. A smart control that allows you to set your heating with a mobile phone app can give you flexibility if your plans change, but if you don’t have this you will need to try to plan ahead with your heating settings.  

 

A note about hot water controls

If you have a hot water cylinder you will also need to consider how to use hot water controls to reduce running costs. Fortunately, this is very similar to heating - you need to focus on time and temperature settings.

Hot water time settings may be done from your heating programmer, or on a separate timer. When the hot water is on, it means that heated water from the boiler is sent through the hot water cylinder to heat up the water in the cylinder. You should also have a thermostat for the hot water attached to the cylinder. 

The following tips may help:

  • Don’t set the hot water cylinder thermostat to the maximum. An ideal temperature setting is 60-65 degrees C.

  • Work out the best time to heat up the cylinder. As long as it is insulated, the water in the cylinder should stay hot for a long time. Think about when you use most hot water during the day and see if you can get away with heating up the cylinder once, rather than twice, per day.

  • Set hot water to come on while the heating is running. It can be more economical to combine these functions rather than getting the boiler to fire up separately to heat the hot water. Avoid the first hour or two of heating though, as the boiler will be busy getting the house up to temperature and probably won’t be able to do both.

  • Turn hot water off if no-one is there to use it. Obvious really, but there’s no point using energy to fill up a hot water cylinder if no-one will use it and it will just cool down again.

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