Energy efficient heating

Should I keep the heating on all the time?

So which is the best option: having the heating on low all the time, or just turning it on when you need it?

We all know that heating our 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.

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If you’re looking for ways to save on your energy bills you may be wondering if it is more energy-efficient to leave your heating on all the time or to turn it on and off as required. Read on to find out the answer.

When should your heating be on?

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’s clear to see the logic behind this. After all, if you spend a lot of time heating up your home what’s 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.

So, if you have your heating on all the time, your heating system will be using energy on an ongoing basis to maintain the inside temperature.

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 all 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.

That’s why ensuring your home is well insulated and draught proofed is vital to minimise this heat loss. Taking steps to improve insulation is a good way to save on your energy bills - this can include insulated cavity walls, a well-insulated loft, double-glazing and draught proofed doors.

Typically the most energy-efficient approach to heating your home is to programme your heating system so that it comes on when you need it most.

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

If you have a well-insulated home, 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.

Heating on all the time

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.

Insulating your home

Insulation is the simplest thing you can do to improve the energy efficiency of your home, but where do you start?

If your property has a loft space that’s a great place to start. Loft insulation is cheap and easy to install, but also saves a huge amount of money on heating.

If you already have loft insulation in place but it was installed some time ago you may want to check your levels. Older loft insulation is typically of a lower level than today’s recommended levels, so you may need to top-up your insulation.

Even if you already have loft insulation in place though you can still save plenty of money by looking into wall insulation. Wall insulation is more expensive to install than loft insulation and you will probably need help, but it will still pay for itself in a few years time.

Wall insulation comes in two types. If your property was built after the 1930s there’s a good chance you have cavity walls. Cavity walls consist of an inner and outer wall, and cavity wall insulation simply fills the gap between those two walls. This is done by drilling small holes in your walls which are then filled with concrete.

Solid walls are more difficult and potentially expensive to insulate but are still possible. For more read our wall insulation guide.

Even if you don’t opt for insulation though there are still small changes you can make around the home to improve energy efficiency. Draught proofing is the most basic, and consists of filling any gaps around the edge of doors and windows, but also extends to chimneys and letterboxes for example.

The best thing about draught proofing is that it’s incredibly cheap to install and you can do it yourself. Expanding foam for example can be picked up in almost any DIY store and can quickly seal gaps around windows.

The other obvious source of heat-loss is your windows, but again the solution is easy. While double-glazing will save a lot of energy in the long run, it’s also expensive to install. However, you can also minimise heat loss by closing curtains when the temperature drops and opening them when the sun’s out. Likewise, insulating covers inside curtains can help reflect even more heat.

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