How much will I save?
The more controllable your heating system is, the more energy efficient it will be, as you will be able to set the temperature to ensure that you are warm enough, but that no heat is wasted through the system being on unnecessarily or at too high a temperature. Installing good controls for your central heating and hot-water tank can save around £100 from your heating bills every year, and will cost in the region of £300. It will also save around 400 kg carbon dioxide emissions every year. The Energy Saving Trust gives more details on costs, savings and paybacks.
Get 'smart' control
How you use your heating controls also has a great effect on how much energy you can save. Many of the latest systems, such as Hive from British Gas or Nest from npower, can be controlled via the internet from your PC, tablet or mobile phone, and learn to adapt your heating system to your lifestyle. They typically cost in the region of £150 to £250. Zoning is another option to maximize heating efficiency, especially in a larger house. This means that the temperature of different rooms can be controlled independently, and adjusted to suit your habits. See 'Smart' heating control puts you in charge.
There are simple tips to help you get the most from your heating system. An efficient heating system should have the following controls:
All central heating systems should have a programmer, or timer, to allow you to set “on” and “off” time periods. The best ones allow the space heating and water heating to be set separately. Set the programmer to come on around half an hour before you get up in the morning, and to go off just before you leave the house, if you go out to work, coming on again half and hour before you get in, and going off just before you go to bed. You can experiment with these times. The more efficient your boiler and the better your insulation, the quicker the house will heat up, and the longer it will retain its temperature.
This works by sensing the air temperature, switching on the boiler and pump when the air temperature falls below the thermostat setting and switching it off once this set temperature has been reached. Try turning it down by 1 degree to save energy – you probably won’t notice the difference, and this alone could save 10% on your heating bills. Thermostats should be in a room which does not have big changes in temperature – for example in a draughty location the thermostat may keep switching the heating on, although the rest of the house is warm, and in a sunny location the heating may go off before the rest of the house is warm enough. Near a radiator or in rooms with additional heating or radiators with thermostatic radiator valves will also disrupt the efficient working of the thermostat.
Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs)
These reduce the flow of water to the radiator as the thermostat reaches its set temperature. They help save energy in your home by allowing you to set different temperatures in different rooms, and set lower temperatures or turn the radiator off in rooms which aren’t being used.
Timer-controlled TRVs are also now available. These enable you to turn individual radiators on and off at specified times each day, and are useful if, for example, you want your bedrooms heated only overnight, but living rooms only during the daytime. Alternatively, some smart systems enable zoning of the house into individual rooms or combinations of rooms, so that each zone has its own time and temperature schedule.
An old central heating system can also be improved by converting it from gravity fed to a fully pumped system, and providing motorised valves to allow the water to be heated independently of the radiators.