Heat your home
Go Back
Home Improvement

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, it can be tricky to save 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.

It’s useful to know how much it costs to have your heating on. This table calculates the approximate cost per hour or per day of running your boiler.

Approximate cost per hour or per day of running your boiler

"kW" stands for kilowatt, which is a unit used to measure how fast something uses or produces energy. One kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts, and it tells you how much energy is used or generated per second.

Daily kilowatt-hours (kWh) is a measure of the total amount of energy consumed or generated over the course of a day.

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.

Energy and heating expert, Peter Clayton, at Trade Plumbing, explains how prevention is vital in avoiding your pipes becoming frozen:

“It’s imperative to insulate your pipes to prevent them from freezing during the winter months, especially in cold areas of the home like garages and lofts.

“Luckily it is a simple and pain free task. Simply get some foam pipe sleeves, cut to the correct length and then make another slit down one side of the foam. Next, slip the foam onto the appropriate pipes and use an adjustable zip tie to keep the foam secured.“

"If it is particularly cold and you're worried about your pipes freezing, make sure to turn your taps on and off regularly. This will help to keep your pipes at a reasonable temperature and prevent them from freezing.”

However, if you do find that your pipes have frozen, Peter offers his advice on what to do:

“Start by locating which pipes are frozen, this will usually be in a cold area of the home. You will need to slowly heat up the area in order to thaw the pipe, this can be done by using an electric heater in the location of the frozen pipe.

“By slowly heating the space it should thaw the pipe. This can be time consuming so be patient. It is also possible to heat the pipe more directly using a heat source like a hair dryer, however, do not heat too close as this can result in damage.

“Never use boiling water or a direct flame to heat pipes. This can result in damage and can be extremely dangerous as your pipe may burst. If you are unable to safely thaw your pipe then make sure to enlist professional help.”

The best way to heat a house

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

  1. Set your boiler’s temperature to around 70°C for heating and 60°C for hot water.
  2. Use an electronic thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves, which give you more control over when you heat your home and which rooms you heat.
  3. 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.

To help us understand more about the importance of insulation, heating expert, Patrick Garner from Heatable offers his advice:

“Astonishingly, a quarter of heat is lost through the roof in an uninsulated home; therefore, the loft or attic may be a good place to start cold-proofing your home.

“Fiberglass insulation can be bought for a reasonable price and is easy to install yourself. As well as this, insulation around water pipes is another effective way to reduce heat loss and save money. Typically, water pipes are uninsulated, which leads to your water heater having to be used more, thus, increasing your energy costs. A simple solution to this issue is to utilise pre-slit, foam pipe insulation that simply snaps in place.”

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:

2. 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.

3. 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

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

Sebrina McCullough, head of external relations at Money Wellness, offers advice on blocking draughts from door frames:
“If less heat escapes, your rooms will stay warmer for longer and could save you around £60 a year in heating bills.

“Fit rubber, foam, brush, or wiper strips to door frames to keep heat in the room. Attach them to the frame of your doors with adhesive, screws, or nails. You can also buy fabric draft excluders to put in front of doors. Magnetic thermal insulated door panels can be bought for £29.99.”

9. Bleed your radiators

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

Speaking with energy and heating expert, Peter Clayton from Trade Plumbing, Peter advises on the tell-tale sign that your radiators need bleeding:

“Often, if your radiators are cold at the top and warm at the bottom it is a sign that they 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

13. Reflective radiator panels

Reflective radiator panels, also known as radiator reflectors or radiator insulation panels, are designed to improve energy efficiency by reducing heat loss. The panels are made of a reflective material, often aluminium foil or reflective plastic, and are installed behind radiators on the walls.
Sebrina McCullough, head of external relations at Money Wellness, advises fitting reflective radiator panels to reduce heat loss:

“Fit reflective panels behind radiators, especially those that are fixed to external walls. You can pick them up for as little as £9.

“Alternatively, tin foil works just as well. The purpose of these panels is to reflect heat back into the room that would otherwise be absorbed by the wall behind the radiator. By placing reflective material behind the radiator, more of the heat is redirected into the room, making it feel warmer and allowing the heating system to work more efficiently.”

14. 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.

Why you should look after your boiler

Having a functioning boiler is vital, especially in the winter. If your boiler breaks down during the colder months, you may find that you struggle to get a gas engineer out to help due to high demand - not to mention the high call out fee!

Additionally, a good boiler is a great selling point for your house if you ever come to sell and can add value to your property. A broken or faulty boiler could put off potential buyers.

Martin & Co spoke with Peter Clayton, from Trade Plumbing, about how much a new boiler could set you back if you needed to replace it:

“The cost of a new boiler varies hugely depending on multiple factors, like the type of model and installation costs.

“Biomass fueled boilers tend to be the most expensive costing upwards of £5,000, while the price of combi boilers can be as low as £500. On average, homeowners tend to pay between £500 and £3,000.

“Be aware that some companies do not include installation costs within this figure. The price of installation varies depending on the type of boiler. On average, an installer may charge anywhere from £500 to £2,500 which can drastically raise the cost of a new boiler”.

Peter also offered his advice on how much a boiler service can cost:

“On average, a one-off boiler service costs around £120. For those with insurance, an annual boiler service is usually included in your cover. The cost of a service also varies depending on the type of boiler your property has, usually gas boilers are the cheapest and servicing can start as low as £80.”

How to know if your boiler needs replacing

If your heating system is consistently unreliable, requiring frequent repairs, or making strange noises it might be a signal that it's time for a new boiler. Unusual noises, such as banging or whistling, and visible leaks are also indicators of potential issues. If your boiler is more than 15 years old, it's considered outdated, and upgrading to a newer, more efficient model could save you money in the long run.

A recent survey conducted by Martin & Co surveyed 500 homeowners to see if they were aware when their boiler needed replacing, and whether a faulty boiler would impact their decision to buy a house. The study found that:

  • Over half (51%) of homeowners were not aware of the signs that their boiler needs replacing.

  • 42% were not aware that there are government schemes available to help homeowners replace boilers if eligible.

  • 55% said that a problematic boiler could significantly impact their purchase decision if they were viewing or buying a new property.

If you do need to replace your boiler, there is help available from the government for those who are eligible.

If you live in England or Wales, the government has a Boiler Upgrade Scheme which provides you with a grant to cover a portion of the cost for specific types of boilers:

  • £7,500 towards an air source heat pump

  • £7,500 towards a ground source heat pump (including water source heat pumps and those on shared ground loops)

  • £5,000 towards a biomass boiler

Sebrina McCullough, head of external relations at Money Wellness, explains how you can get help from your local council:

“Your local council might be able to help you with money towards your energy bills or with the cost of making your home more energy efficient through the Household Support Fund.

“Each council chooses how they’ll distribute their fund – they may offer vouchers or cash. To find out what support is available to you, speak to your local council or visit www.gov.uk.”

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

Other posts you may find useful