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How to keep your house warm

When winter approaches in the UK, the thoughts of homeowners and renters turn to switching on the heating.

But with energy prices rising and the government’s energy price guarantee now only lasting until April 2023, those thoughts are switching to saving money while also keeping warm.

In this guide, we answer your questions on the best way to heat your home and reveal some of the best ways you can keep warm while also saving energy and keeping your bills down.

What temperature should a house be in the UK?

UK homes should be heated to between 18°C and 21°C during winter, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

In winter, it’s recommended to set your thermostat to 18°C at night, which is the ideal temperature for sleeping according to the World Health Organisation.

Is it cheaper to leave the heating on all day?

Leaving the heating on low all day isn’t considered to be a cheaper way to heat your home.

Instead, it’s recommended that you only heat your property when you need to as this is cheaper in the long term.

Even if you have a well-insulated, energy efficient home, it will still leak a certain amount of heat.

So, if you’re heating your home on low all day, technically you’ll be losing heat all day – costing you more in the long run.

However, leaving your heating on low all day can help to reduce moisture and condensation in your home due to having a consistent rather than fluctuating temperature.

Should I leave the heating on all night in freezing weather?

The recommended temperature for a UK home at night is 18°C, so whether you need to keep your heating on at night will depend on how well your property retains heat.

A well-insulated, modern home should retain enough heat during the day to maintain a healthy temperature during the night – negating the need for heating.

But an older home, which is less well-insulated, may require night-time heating to maintain that ideal 18°C temperature.

Do you save money by not turning the heat on?

You’ll always save money through not turning your heating on – but living in an unheated home during colder weather could cause other problems, including:

An increased risk of health problems, including infections and viruses and mental health issues

Damp and mould, which can cause damage to your property and potential health issues

What happens if you don’t turn on heating in winter?

The biggest risk to your property from not turning on your heating during winter is frozen pipes.

Because water expands when it freezes, pipes can burst and flood your home – causing major damage.

By using your heating system, even on a lower temperature setting, you’ll help stop pipework located in cold spaces such as your loft from freezing.

The best way to heat a house

To heat your home in the best way, you should:

Set your boiler’s temperature to around 70°C for heating and 60°C for hot water

Use an electronic thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves, which give you more control over when you heat your home and which rooms you heat

Heat your living areas to between 18°C and 21°C, turning down the radiator valves in the rooms you don’t use as much and closing their doors

Good loft and wall insulation, and energy efficient doors and windows can also help to keep more heat in your home, meaning you’ll require less energy to warm it up.

The cheapest ways to heat a house

When heating your home, the key to saving more energy and money is keeping that heat inside.

Try these tips, which can help make your home feel warmer – meaning you’ll use less energy and enjoy lower bills:

1. Make the most of your thermostat

By setting your thermostat correctly, you can help to keep your home’s temperature comfortable and save money.

A common misconception is that setting your thermostat to a higher temperature will heat your home up faster – but this isn’t the case.

Your thermostat measures the temperature of the room against the temperature you’ve requested and will only tell your boiler to switch off once the temperature you’ve selected has been reached.

Your boiler, however, will heat up at the same rate regardless of the temperature you’ve set on your thermostat – meaning the higher the temperature, the longest the boiler will be running and the higher your bill will be.

To get the most from your thermostat, you should:

1. Install it in the right place

If your thermostat is installed in a particularly cold, or warm, part of your home, you may not get the benefit of your heating system.

To get the best accuracy from your thermostat, you should:

Install it around five feet from the floor, on an interior wall

Never install it close to a window or direct sunlight

Install it away from radiators, lamps, or other appliances that produce heat

2. Set the temperature you want

Only select the temperature you want for the room, ideally between 18°C and 21°C, rather than turning up your thermostat to a much higher temperature in a bid to heat the room faster

3. Use your thermostat’s timer

Set your thermostat to fire up the heating 30 minutes before you get up in the morning and 30 minutes before you arrive home, selecting the optimum temperature you want each time.

Then set it to switch off again 30 minutes before you leave the house and 30 minutes before you go to bed.

Well insulated homes will retain heat for longer than 30 minutes, so you can extend these times if you have a modern property.

4. Use a setback temperature on your thermostat

Decide on a setback temperature for when you’re not at home, rather than turning off your heating completely.

A good setback temperature might be around 15°C or 16°C, meaning if your home’s temperature drops below this, your heating system will start up but won’t need to heat your home too much while you’re not inside.

This can be useful if you’re out for longer than you expected, meaning you won’t come back to a particularly cold home.

2. Position your furniture correctly

Where you position large items of furniture can have a big impact on how warm your home feels.

Large items like chests and sofas placed in front of radiators can absorb the heat they produce.

By moving furniture away from your radiators, you’ll allow the warm air they generate to circulate better – making your room feel warmer.

3. Make use of the sun

Even in winter, when the temperature outside is low, a bright day means you can capitalise on free heat from the sun.

During the day, open your curtains or shutters and allow sunlight into your home.

Just before dark, close everything up again to keep that heat inside.

Curtains and shutters can act as another layer of insulation in your home and keep more heat in at night when they’re closed.

4. Keep the draughts out

One of the most cost-effective ways to help your home feel warmer during winter is by blocking out any draughts.

Common draught spots include underneath doors and around windows – but even your keyhole or letterbox could be letting cold air into your home.

Great, cheap solutions for draughts include:

Draught excluders for doors

Self-adhesive rubber seals for around windows, doors, and letterboxes

Sliding metal covers for keyholes

5. Bleed your radiators

If your heating is on but your radiators don’t feel as hot as you’d expect, they could need bleeding.

Bleeding is required when air becomes trapped in your radiators, leaving cold spots which mean your rooms will take longer to heat up and you’ll use more energy.

By bleeding your radiators regularly, you can ensure they perform at their optimum level.

6. Lay rugs over wooden floors

Original wooden flooring can look stunning – but you may be losing as much as 10% of your home’s heat through the floorboards.

To help keep more heat inside, lay thick rugs over your floor to stop warm air disappearing through the gaps.

7. Lag your pipes

Pipe lagging not only helps to protect your water pipes from the cold, but it also keeps the water inside warmer for longer – making your heating system more efficient.

Pipe lagging is available cheaply from all DIY stores and simply wraps around the pipework, so you won’t need any expertise or specialist tools to fit it yourself.

8. Use heat you’ve already paid for

When using your oven to cook, rather than closing the door after you’ve switched it off, leave it open to let the heat out into your home.

You’ll already have paid for this heat and putting it to additional use may mean keeping your heating off for longer.

9. Insulate your loft

Although wall insulation is one of the best ways to keep more heat in your home, it can be expensive and not suited to some older or period properties.

Loft insulation, on the other hand, is much cheaper and can stop as much as a quarter of your home’s heat escaping through your roof.

Rolls of loft insulation are available from DIY stores and if you have good access to your loft space, it may be a job you can take on yourself.

However, you’ll also need to ensure any pipework or water tanks in your loft are well-insulated, too, your loft space will become colder.

10. Look after your boiler

While an annual boiler service is an added expense, keeping your heating system in good condition and working efficiently can mean a service pays for itself.

Having your boiler serviced can also help you avoid the high cost of a breakdown, will keep your manufacturer’s warranty valid and ensure the appliance is functioning safely.

What type of heating is the most environmentally friendly?

Eco-heating not only reduces carbon emissions but can also help to reduce your energy bills.

The most environmentally friendly eco heating solutions include:

1. Heat pumps

Heat pumps are among the most efficient sources of heat available and could become the norm in homes across the UK over the next decade.

Air source heat pumps draw warm air from outside, even when it’s very cold, and push this inside your home through under-floor heating or radiators.

Ground source heat pumps, meanwhile, extract heat from the ground and are more efficient than air source pumps.

They are, however, more expensive to install and require a garden for pipework to be laid.

2. Biomass boilers

Biomass boilers operate through burning sustainably sourced wood pellets and can work well as a non-gas option for large homes.

Although the burning of the wood fuel produces carbon, studies suggest this is offset by the amount of carbon absorbed by the wood before it was cut down.

As with heat pumps, biomass boilers come with a substantial up-front installation cost, but offer lower operating costs compared with gas boilers.

3. Hydrogen boilers

Hydrogen gas is more environmentally friendly than natural gas, but the development of hydrogen boilers is ongoing.

Initially, the government’s plan is to introduce a blend of hydrogen and natural gas into the UK’s mains supply by 2028, and many modern gas boilers will be able to process this mix.

Boilers that use 100% hydrogen gas remain in development and testing phases, with the government likely to decide on their future use by 2026.

If hydrogen boilers are chosen as a sustainable energy source, the roll-out of boilers isn’t likely to start until the 2040s.

Further reading…

The best energy saving tips for your home

How to furnish your property on a budget

Gardening in winter – the jobs you can do

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