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How to get the most from your heating

How to get the most from your gas/oil central heating

Using your central heating system efficiently means that you can get the best out of the system for the least cost. To do this you need to know how to work the heating controls. Your heating system will have some or all of the following controls:

  1. Boiler thermostat

Found on the boiler itself. Controls the temperature of the hot water flowing around the pipes to the radiators.

Thermostat should be ¾ to max. This may be on a number scale, or temperature of around 70°C. Boiler is most efficient at this setting.

  1. Room thermostat

Found in the hall way or living room. It controls the temperature of the whole of the home based on the room it is in.

Correct setting – 21°C – 23°C for pensioners and families with young children, between 18°C – 21°C for everyone else

Note – turning up the room thermostat will not heat the room up faster it will eventually make the room hotter.

Tip – If you have a room thermostat, you may have it set higher than you need, without even realizing it. Try turning your room thermostat down by one degree, leave it for a day and if you still feel warm enough, try turning it down another degree. Carry on until it feels a bit too cool and then turn it back up one degree. Every degree that you turn it down could save you around £95 a year on your heating bill.

  1. Cylinder thermostat

Found on the hot water tank, it controls the temperature of the hot water coming out of the taps.

Correct setting is 60°C or 140°F The tank needs to heat to at least 55°C once a day to kill any bacteria in the water (Legionella).

  1. Radiator thermostat

Found on the radiator itself, it allows you to have different temperatures in each room.

Correct setting – Start of at a middle setting and turn down a notch if too warm and up a notch if too cool. If the radiators go cool, and you are warm, this is normal and means the thermostat is doing its job.

  1. Programmer

Controls the times you want the heating and hot water to switch on and off. Make sure it is set to suit your lifestyle rather than it ruling your life!

Tip – set it to come on half an hour before you get up or come in and switch off half hour before you go out or go to bed.

Frequently asked questions

Is it best if I have my gas/oil central heating on low all over the home or high in the rooms I am using?

It is best to have the heating on low all over the house AND high in the rooms you are using but you will need to read your meters and check your consumption regularly, so you know how much fuel you are using each week and adapt accordingly.

What does the OVERRIDE/ADVANCE button do on my programmer?

If you come in at 2pm feeling chilly, pressing the override button will bring the heating on and it will go off at its normal time set in the evening. If the heating is on, pressing the override will switch it off and it will come back on at the next time set. The same applies for hot water.

What does the ‘ONCE’ button do on my programmer?

Your heating/hot water will come on for one period in the day – coming on at the first time set and switching off at the last time set.

Why does the boiler keep firing on and off?

The boiler will only fire up when your heating and/or hot water is on. The ‘flaring up’ will stop when your home is warm enough. The boiler will then switch off (very few have a pilot light anymore). When the temperature drops, the boiler will ‘fire up’ again, re-heating the water, to pump round the radiators.

Should I keep the heating on all the time?

Heating homes is the single biggest source of energy consumption with costs seemingly going up all the time, but amazingly we don’t know how to make the most out of our heating. Simple questions like ‘should I turn my heating on and off’ receive a whole range of response depending on who you speak to.

One key factor that gets people wondering whether or not to have their heating on all the time, is the idea that it will take additional energy to bring your home ‘up to temperature’ when the heating has been switched off.  It is clear to see the logic behind this. After all, if you spend a lot of time heating up your home what is the point of letting it cool down again, just to then heat it all up again.

However, if you leave your heating on 24/7, you will typically end up using more fuel in a like-for-like situation. This is because some heat loss will always occur due to the difference between the temperature outside your house and the temperature you are trying to maintain on the inside.

The greater the heat loss from your home, the more energy you will need to maintain the inside temperature, which means that the cost of leaving your heating on all the time will be especially expensive. This means that leaving your heating on all the time will drain a lot more energy from inefficient homes, as the heating works a lot harder to replace lost heat.

With many of the more modern room thermostats you also have the ability to set different temperatures at different times, and you may even be able to set up a separate programme for weekends.

When you use your boiler timer and room thermostat in combination with radiator temperature controls (TRVs), you really do have the most energy-efficient approach to heating your home.

How to test it – You can test whether putting on the heating 24/7 is cheaper than programming your system to come on at certain times of the day.

To get a good idea of the energy usage for each option, you can leave your heating on constantly for a week, followed by a week of programming your heating to come on twice a day. You will need to take a meter reading at the beginning and end of each week, and from the results you will be able to see – assuming the weather and temperature outdoors have been similar across the two weeks – which approach is the most energy-efficient for you.

Top tip – During the summer the boiler will generally be used for hot water only, the heating system sits there dormant, and some parts can seize through lack of use. To prevent the “breakdown” at the first cold weekend of the autumn, try running the heating for an hour every third week. This keeps everything lubricated and less prone to failure.

How to get the most from your air source (heat pump) central heating

Air Source heating works at a lower temperature than gas/oil systems. The fluid in the pipework and radiators is around 45˚C (as opposed to 70˚C). The systems are designed with larger output radiators to reflect this. Air Source heating is not as responsive as gas/oil heating and so keeping the home at a constant temperature suits these systems better. Aim for 15˚C room temperature when not in use, lifting to 18 to 21˚C for when the rooms are in use.

The rest of the information for gas/oil then applies.

How to get the most from your electric heating

Storage heaters have been around for some time. Modern heaters combine storage and radiant heat to provide warmth in your home, while older heaters rely on storage alone to provide warmth. These heaters might have just one control or separate input and output controls. It’s important you know what they do.

The Input/Charge control sets the amount of heat that can be stored in the heater.

The heater is charged overnight and stores heat in heat-retaining bricks, which is then released slowly over the day. The input dial controls the charging of the bricks. If the dial is marked 1-9 and you set it at 3, 30% of the bricks will be charged.

The higher the setting (normally 1-9), the greater the amount of heat stored, and the more energy you’ll use.

We recommend that you set the Input control at a level that gives you enough heat to keep you comfortable and helps keep control of your costs.

The Output/Boost control lets you manage the amount of heat that the heater gives out during the day.

If you spend a lot of time at home, set the control at a level that feels comfortable for the longest possible time between the periods that the system gets charged.

If the house is empty, you could set the control at low for as long as possible and increase it if the house becomes occupied.

Remember to reset the output control to low before you go to bed.

There are several good guides on YouTube on how to set the controls of storage heaters.

Electric panel heaters and similar products use a variety of gels, fluids and other materials to try and retain heat longer than conventional panel heaters.

Unlike storage heating, electric panel heaters don’t just charge during periods when electricity is cheaper. To keep costs as low as possible, always try to heat your home when it’s cheaper for you.

Be aware of the power rating of your heaters – the higher the rating the higher the cost to use.

Make sure you know the length of time and energy needed to keep the system operating at your chosen temperature.

Use any timer or thermostatic controls supplied with your system.

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