How to control your bills and keep warm this winter

The news on increasing energy costs this winter has been widely reported, with the change in the energy cap meaning that the average bill is likely to see an annual increase of between £139 and £153. With rising inflation rates and the government’s furlough scheme coming to an end, this has come at a tough time for many people at all points on the income scale. 

There are financial schemes and advice available to help to combat these hikes in energy costs, but there are also things you can do at home such as ensuring your central heating temperature is set at the most cost effective level, and protecting your home from unnecessary heat loss. If you’ve been asking yourself ‘What temperature should my boiler be set at in winter?’ then read on, because we’ve got the answer.

What temperature should my boiler be set at in winter?

Your central heating system is likely to have myriad controls – room thermostat(s), radiator controls, a boiler thermostat and perhaps a water thermostat – so if you’re confused, it’s no wonder. If your home has a combi boiler, the recommended setting for the boiler itself is 75°C for the radiator output and 55-60°C for the hot water – any higher than this and it can cause scaling within your system which can lead to damage and inefficiencies. If your priority is to heat your home quickly, then you can set your central heating boiler temperature higher than this, but the upshot of that decision is that the boiler’s efficiency is likely to drop by 10-20% and your energy bill will increase. For more traditional boiler setups, the water cylinder on the side of the tank should be set to just above 60°C – don’t go any lower than this because you run the risk of Legionnaires disease. 

What is the best central heating temperature?

When looking at your room thermostat, this should be set to between 18°C and 21°C. We recommend that you start off with the thermostat set to 18°C and increase it just one degree in temperature at a time if it’s not warm enough. It may sound obvious, but you should be comfortable in a sweater or an extra layer rather than in summer gear like shorts and t-shirt; an increase of a single digit on your thermostat will have an impact on your energy bill of something like £60-80 per year.

If you have just a single room thermostat, then keep it in the room in which you spend the majority of your daytime, and set the night time central heating temperature at a lower level.  

If you have individual room thermostats then bedrooms should be set at lower temperatures than other parts of the home, usually at least 2°C lower; this will not only save on energy costs but will provide you with a much better sleeping temperature, as our bodies are conditioned to sleep in lower temperatures. 

Modern central heating systems also usually come with TRVs (thermostatic radiator valves) on each radiator. These valves allow you to control the flow of hot water into each radiator, and whilst most of your TRVs should be set to around number 3, which will allow them to heat the room to around 20°C, in rooms such as spare bedrooms that are used irregularly you can set these TRVs lower so that they are not using as much energy to heat whilst unused. If you do this, however, be sure to keep the door shut, otherwise the hot air will move to this room and the thermostat will register a drop in temperature, causing the boiler to work harder to heat the house. 

Reducing energy bills through central heating efficiency

Whilst it is important to have your central heating temperature set at the most effective level, and to know what temperature your boiler should be set at in winter, there are other actions you can take to get the most out of your central heating.

Check your boiler’s efficiency

Old boilers can not only become expensive in terms of repairs and maintenance, but they can be significantly more expensive to run than modern equivalents. If you are regularly forking out on repairs or have a boiler that is 15 years old or more, it is worth making some comparisons on likely running cost savings; although the outlay for a new boiler installation may be a little pricey, it can save you money over time. 

Update your heating controls

If you are happy with your current boiler or can’t afford an upgrade right now but have an outdated system, updating your controls can make a difference to your energy bills. According to the Energy Savings Trust (May 2020), replacing your controls can provide a cost saving of up to £75 per year through the proper use of a thermostat, programmer and TRVs because modern central heating controls are so much more accurate. 

Check for cold spots

Cold spots on your radiators can be the result of sludge building up in the system; a clean by a heating engineer will resolve this and get your heating back up to full working order. If you find that just one or two radiators in your home are not coming up to temperature, it may be that you have air stuck in the system and therefore it needs bleeding, which you can do yourself. 

Check your radiators are balanced

An unbalanced house is likely to see upstairs and downstairs central heating temperatures differing by a few degrees, which may not sound like much but means that your boiler is working harder to get the house up to temperature in some places, whilst overheating in others. When you have a new boiler installed, the heating engineer will balance your home – and any changes in the system may mean that this process needs to be repeated. 

Your central heating temperature can be the difference between feeling comfortable or uncomfortable, and whilst you should think carefully about the thermostat temperature that you use, as demonstrated here there are lots of other ways that you can ensure that your boiler isn’t working harder than it needs to, and that you are getting the most from your central heating system. If you think your boiler or heating isn’t working properly or as efficiently as it should, book a boiler service to ensure that your energy bills are kept to a minimum this winter.