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Using heating controls properly can save energy, carbon emissions and money
Having the right heating controls and using them properly will let you keep your home at a comfortable temperature without wasting fuel or heat.
However, we often have the temperature settings higher than they need to be, or set to a “round figure” like 25 degrees. It’s usually possible to turn your thermostats down by a degree or two without feeling any discomfort – in fact your rooms will feel fresher and cleaner. Putting on a slightly thicker shirt or top might even mean you can turn them down by more.
If you have a gas, oil or LPG central heating system, your full set of controls should ideally include a timer or programmer, a room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs).
You can upgrade or install heating controls without replacing your boiler, and it’s a particularly good idea to think about this if your controls are more than 10 years old. Room thermostats are much more accurate now than they used to be.
Good controls will:
- reduce your carbon dioxide emissions
- save money on your heating bills
- conveniently schedule your heating and hot water to go on and off when needed
- select areas of your home to heat and the required temperature for each room
According to The Energy Saving Trust, in a typical 3-bedroomed home, you could save emissions of over 300kg of carbon dioxide a year simply by turning thermostats down by one degree.
Smart heating control
Several companies offer advanced control systems for domestic central heating, generally known as smart heating controls. They allow you to manage your heating controls remotely from a computer, tablet or smartphone, and many incorporate other advanced features to control your heating in a more sophisticated way. For example, you can change the time that your heating comes on if it turns out you will be home sooner or later than you thought.
Your room thermostats should be set to the lowest comfortable temperature, typically between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius.
Also, it’s a common error to turn a thermostat up when it is colder outside; in fact the house will heat up to the set temperature regardless. It may take a little longer on colder days, so you might want to set your heating to come on slightly earlier in the winter. A programmable room thermostat combines time and temperature controls and allows you to set different temperatures for different times of the day. You can also have different temperatures in individual rooms by installing thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) on individual radiators.
Hot water cylinder thermostats
If your hot water is stored in a cylinder, the thermostat will prevent it becoming hotter than it needs to.
Cylinder thermostats are usually fitted between one quarter and one third of the way up the cylinder. They have temperature scales marked; you should set them at between 60 and 65 degrees Celsius. This is hot enough to kill harmful bacteria in the water, but it’s also hot enough to scald.
If you have a combi boiler then you won’t have a cylinder, but there will be a hot water thermostat on the boiler itself.
Your boiler will usually have a dial on it, marked in numbers or from minimum to maximum. This sets the temperature of the water that will be pumped from the boiler through the radiators. The higher this is set, the quicker it will heat your home. If it’s not set high enough when it’s very cold outside, your home may not reach the desired temperature. However, condensing boilers work more efficiently when the water returning to the boiler is below 55 degrees Celsius, so it can be better not to set the temperature too high.
If you have a regular boiler with separate hot water cylinder, your boiler thermostat should always be set to a higher temperature than the cylinder thermostat, otherwise the hot water cylinder will never get up to temperature.
A programmer will automatically switch your heating off when you’re not at home, or when you don’t need it. It allows you to set ‘on’ and ‘off’ time periods for the central heating and domestic hot water.
These will vary in effectiveness depending on your household, but could save another 300kg of carbon dioxide emisions or more, as well as save you money on your electricity or gas bills.
Why is this important?
Reducing energy use is paramount if we are to get carbon emissions under control and have any chance of limiting global warming. Reducing demand for gas or oil limits the emissions of CO2, methane, and other pollutants. Reducing electricity demand, especially at peak times, reduces the need for our electricity companies to generate power using fossil fuels.
Reducing the use of fossil fuels will:
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- contribute to our efforts to control global warming and climate change
- reduce resource use
- reduce pollution
- reduce the costs to our economy
- reduce your own bills