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Take control of your heating at home

Do you know how to heat your home to a comfortable temperature and keep bills low?

Heating controls are there to make sure you stay in control of your heating and what you pay.

It’s very tempting to turn the dial to 27°C and hope for the best at this time of year, but this will also trigger a massive energy bill. In a home without any controls, installing and correctly using a programmer room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves could save you £75 a year*.

*Based on a typical 3-bedroom semi-detached gas-fuelled home in Great Britain.

Here are a few tips on how to use heating controls effectively:

1. Room thermostat 

This type of thermostat prevents your heating system from using more fuel than it needs to. It will turn the heating on until the room reaches the temperature you have set and then off until the temperature drops below your programmed temperature.

The thermostat should be set to the lowest comfortable temperature, typically between 18°C and 21°C. You don’t need to turn your room thermostat up when it is colder outside; the house will heat up to the set temperature whatever the weather, however it may take a little longer on colder days. Turning up your room thermostat won’t make your home heat any faster. Also, bear in mind that room thermostats need a free flow of air to sense the temperature so they should not be blocked by curtains or furniture or put near to a heat source.

2. Thermostatic radiator valves 

These allow you to control the temperature of your individual radiators, allowing you to turn down the heat in rooms you are not using.

3. Boiler thermostat

Your boiler should have a dial or a digital temperature setting. This sets the temperature of the water that is pumped from the boiler through the radiators to heat your home. Turn it up during cold winter spells to make sure you don’t get cold. However, if you have any young children or elderly people in your home, don’t turn the boiler thermostat too high, as it can make radiators very hot to the touch, which could cause injuries.

4. Programmer or time control

Once you have set it based on your regular daily routine it will automatically switch your heating off when you’re not at home, or when you can do without the heating being on. Programmers allow you to set ‘on’ and ‘off’ time periods. Most models will let you set the central heating and domestic hot water to go on and off at different times. There might also be manual overrides.

5. Setting your time control 

You should set the central heating programme to come on around half an hour before you get up, and go off around half an hour before you go to bed. And if the house is empty during the day, or you can manage without heating during the day, make sure you’ve set the programmer to go off for this period too. Check that the clock on the programmer is correct before you set your programmes. You may also need to adjust it when the clocks change. Find out more here.

6. Boiler service 

This is recommended every year and will help maintain the performance of the heating system. The cost will vary depending on where you live and the extent of the work needed, but those living in rented accommodation should always have this paid-for by the landlord. If the heating system isn’t performing effectively then it would be worth reminding the landlord about the boiler service as part of the annual safety check.

7. Electric storage heaters 

These usually have two controls, an output control and an input control. Set the output control according to how warm you want to be now.  Turn it to zero when you go out or go to bed, and turn it up when you are too cold.

Set the input control according to how much heat you think you will need tomorrow. You may want to turn it up if it’s forecast to be colder tomorrow, or if your house hasn’t been warm enough. Find out how you can get the most out of your system here.

8. Oil or LPG heating 

Mains gas is usually the cheapest option for heating a home – but if you’re currently using oil or LPG, it’s worth checking whether you could get a mains gas connection. Alternatively, you might save money by switching to a renewable heating system such as a biomass boiler or a heat pump – take a look at our advice to see if this could work for you. If you heat your home using oil, you may get a better deal by joining or forming a heating oil group. 

9. Smart heating controls

Smart thermostats are a new type of heating control that connect to the internet, allowing them to be accessed and adjusted remotely. They can give you much greater control over your heating, from wherever you are, at any time of day.  

Take back control of your energy bills

Making a few small changes at home can have a big impact on the amount of energy you save as well as how much you can shave off your energy bill each year. Try these tips to reap the rewards:

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Gary Hartley's picture
Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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