This one really polarises opinion – when it comes to your central heating, is it cheaper to have it on low all the time or just turn it on and off when needed?
Okay, it’s not exactly the kind of debate football fans have over whether Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo is better, but it might actually be more important to our daily lives. It’s Messi, by the way.
Those in the heating-all-the-time camp believe the additional energy needed to warm up their home from a lower temperature is so substantial it tops a stable, continuous flow of warmth. The thinking goes: why bother spending time and energy heating up your home only to let it cool down again?
On the flip side, if you leave your heating on 24/7, your heating system will be using energy on an ongoing basis to maintain temperature, so your fuel consumption will be high.
What’s the correct answer? As with so many questions of this type, it depends. Specifically, it depends ￼on the property and energy tariff in question. I know, it’s annoying there’s no conclusive answer, isn’t it? But you can carry out your own test – one week have the central heating on constant, then the following week set your timer so that it only comes on when it goes below a certain temperature.
But the key question here might be getting overlooked. Is it actually more important to ensure your home is well-insulated, so that whichever way you run your central heating you don’t waste a lot of energy?
More on that later. First let’s look into how central heating works.
How does central heating work
The basic principles of central heating are pretty straightforward – you’ve got a boiler (an easy to control ￼furnace which is fuelled by gas) in a strategic place like your kitchen or bathroom. This boiler uses water, moved by an electrically powered pump, to shift heat into radiators around your home.
Here’s a bit more detail. Think of your boiler like a big fire, with a continuous supply of natural gas thanks to a pipe that goes out to the mains in the street. When you want your central heating on, you turn on the boiler with an electric switch, which lets a valve open allowing the gas to enter a sealed combustion chamber inside.
The gas is set alight by an electric ignition system and the jets play onto a heat exchanger connected to a pipe carrying cold water. This pipe is part of a large, interconnected network around your home.
This system passes through each hot water radiator and returns to the boiler – giving off heat to warm rooms.
Most economical ways to use central heating
The most efficient and economical way to heat a home is to ensure you don’t lose any energy when the heating is on. So how can you do this?
- Walls – A third of your home’s heat loss is down to the walls, according to ￼Robin Hood Energy. Most houses built after 1930 have cavity walls, which means there are two walls with a gap between them. Filling this cavity with foam insulation is key to preventing any heat escaping.
- Roof – Insulation for your loft or roof is cheap and easy to install, but makes a big difference when tackling ￼how to reduce your energy bill. Roof insulation from 120-270mm can be really effective at trapping in all the heat that rises to the top of your house. The thicker the insulation, the more heat loss you will prevent. A really good idea if you plan on being in a property long-term.
- Windows – As you’d expect it goes triple > double > single when it comes to the effectiveness of your window glazing at retaining heat. Closing your curtains at night and opening them when it is sunny is a cheaper and more natural way to keep heat in that can be often overlooked. You could also buy insulating covers for the curtains.
- Doors – Gaps in and around doors that let in a draught will cause you to hemorrhage energy. Draught excluders or letterbox bristles are clever ways to prevent this.
- Floor – Again, filling any gaps between your floor and the skirting board with a simple filler works. Whacking down a rug or carpet on hard floor also keeps the ground toasty.
Other central heating energy saving tips
The government are running central heating grants for over 60s – a really great piece of legislation that will help pensioners struggling to meet the demands of escalating energy bills or paying for a new boiler.
￼If a boiler is old, inefficient or broken and belongs to someone in receipt of Pension Guarantee Credit or who is at least 60 years old and receives Working Tax Credit, then they should be able to apply for a free boiler grant.
Leaving central heating on at night is tempting in the winter months but has hit the news recently for being bad for your health. You might have a voice in the back of your head telling you it’s a bad idea, without knowing exactly why. But fear not, if your house is well-insulated the experts at Accident Advice Helpline say doing so should be safe.
Using an economy meter could help cut central heating costs. ￼Economy 7 meters track your usage separately depending on if it’s daytime or night-time – the night rate is usually much cheaper.
Switch energy provider
Whichever way you use your central heating and whatever steps you take to insulate your house effectively, make sure your energy tariff is working for you.
Here at Look After My Bills we do the research to find you the best possible deal and take care of all the hassle that comes with switching supplier. It could save you up to £350. Give it a go now.