It’s time for an energy myth busting session! We understand that you might be worried about your bills increasing due to the cold weather which is set to arrive – below we have answered some common questions so you can rest assure you are being as economic as possible…
Q: Should I leave the heating on low all day even when I’m out, or turn it up only when I need it?
A: According to leading energy experts at the Energy Saving Trust the idea that it’s cheaper to leave the heating on low all day is a myth. They’re clear that you’ll save energy, and therefore money, by only having the heating on when it’s required. (Using a timer’s best, because your thermostat is designed to turn your heating on and off to keep your home at the temperature you set it.)
The key thing to understand here is that it’s all about the total amount of energy required to heat your home.
It’s a given that a certain amount of energy is constantly leaking out of your home (though exactly how much will depend on how good your insulation is). So the Energy Saving Trust says if you’re keeping the heating on all day you’re losing energy all day – and therefore it’s better to heat your home only when you need it.
Q: Should I keep the hot water boiler on all the time, or turn it on and off as needed?
A: If you have a gas, oil or LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) central heating system, it will always be cheaper to time the system so the hot water comes on only when required.
However, if you use an electrical immersion heater and have an Economy 7 or 10 tariff (where energy is cheaper at night), it’s cheaper to heat your water during the night. Make sure your tank is well insulated to prevent it cooling during the day, though.
Q: Is it cheaper to use radiators or electric heaters?
A: Electric heaters are one of the most expensive forms of heating. Generally, the cheapest way is using an efficient gas central heating system, with a full set of thermostatic radiator valves, a room thermostat and a timer.
Q: Do phone or laptop chargers still use electricity when they’re plugged in, but not connected to the device?
A: Try to unplug chargers when not in use. A lot of devices, such as games consoles, laptops and TVs, draw power when plugged in and not in use. This is sometimes known as ‘vampire power’. Using this standby power can be easily avoided by switching devices off at the wall.
A lot of chargers use energy when left in a socket (if the charger is warm, it’s using energy). Generally branded chargers are more efficient than non-branded ones.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical household wastes around £30 a year by leaving devices plugged in or on standby.
Q: Should I run appliances at night?
A: If you’re on an Economy 7 or 10 tariff, you’ll pay less during the night, but a higher rate than average during the day. But if you’re on another tariff, it doesn’t make any difference.
Q: Should I set thermostats on individual radiators, rather than using the main thermostat to control all of them?
A: It’s best to have as many controls as possible, so you’re in charge of the way you want your home to be heated. Installing thermostatic radiator valves and using them with your thermostat could save between £20 to £50 per year.
The Energy Saving Trust recommends using the thermostat to control the heat in your main living space and using thermostatic radiator valves to lower the heating in rooms you don’t use as often.
Q: What’s the difference between controlling the heating using the thermostat or radiator valves?
A: Thermostats control your boiler, whilst radiator valves control the water flow through each individual radiator.
Your thermostat controls your home’s temperature, so once it hits the temperature you set on the thermostat, the boiler will go off, until the room temperature drops again.
Radiator valves are an extra control which you can use to set the temperature of each individual room (other than where your main thermostat is). This means you can set some rooms to be cooler than others if you don’t use them very often (saving energy and money). When the temperature in that room rises above what’s set on the radiator valve, it will stop water flowing through that particular radiator- the boiler will still be on to heat other rooms, but it will use less energy.
Q: Should I have the Gas fire on in the living room, or all the radiators in the house?
A: There is no one answer for this. It’s highly dependent on the heating system you use, and the usage in other areas of the house.
Q: If my heating is on, should I keep doors open or closed for each room?
A: It’s better to keep doors closed for the area you want heated.
Radiators, electric panel heaters and convection heaters all work by creating a convection current in a room. As hot air rises, it circles around to the other side of the room, cools and sinks and travels back along the floor to the heater to be reheated again.
Closing doors makes sure this current remains within the designated space.
Q: Should I leave lights and appliances on, or turn them on and off each time?
A: Turn them off when you don’t need them. Also avoid leaving TVs and other devices on standby.
Q: Should I use a tumble dryer, or place washing on an airer with heating on?
A: An airer is better because tumble dryers use a lot of energy.
Try timing it so you put your washing out on a clothes horse during the hours your heating comes on. Drying your clothes indoors on an airer can cause problems with condensation and damp, especially in old and poorly insulated homes, so it is best to dry your clothes outdoors whenever the weather allows.
Q: Are halogen heaters cheaper than other portable heaters and central heating?
A: This depends what you’re after. Halogen heaters are directional. Once on, you instantly feel the heat. As soon as you turn them off, the heat quickly dissipates. Convection heaters, electric panel heaters or free-standing electric radiators work by heating the air around them to create a convection current. They take some time to heat a room, but once turned off the heat lingers.
Usually, it’s best to use your central heating to heat your home rather than relying on electric heaters, especially if you have gas central heating. If you’re only using a couple of rooms, you can use thermostatic radiator valves so that your central heating isn’t heating empty rooms. Electricity is much more expensive than gas, so using electric heaters can ramp up your energy bills.
Q: Should I use an immersion heater to heat water, or oil-fired central heating?
A: Generally, using oil for hot water is cheaper, due to the higher average cost of electricity. However, if you’re able to use a lower rate electricity tariff (such as Economy 7, where power is cheaper at night) at the right time, it can work out more cost-effective. This is also dependent on the efficiency of your central heating system.
Q: Is a combi boiler cheaper to run?
A: The Energy Saving Trust says whether a combi or a standard boiler is cheaper to run will depend on your lifestyle and how much hot water you use.
With a standard boiler, water is heated by your boiler and stored in a hot water tank for when you need it. With a combi boiler, you don’t have a hot water tank and instead water is heated up instantly when you turn on the hot tap.
If your household doesn’t use too much water, combi boilers can be more efficient, as they don’t leave water sitting in a tank where it can lose heat. However, combi boilers tend to be less efficient at heating water in the first place, so if you’re a large household using lots of water it might be cheaper to have a standard boiler with a well- insulated tank.
For both combis and standard boilers, the main thing which will affect how expensive your boiler is to run is its efficiency. Having an A-rated condensing boiler (standard or combi) will be cheaper to run than an older non- condensing boiler.
Q: Should you leave your heating on if you’re going away?
A: To prevent frozen pipes, which can cause hundreds of pounds of damage, the Energy Saving Trust recommends you leave some heating on during winter even if you’re not there.
If you can set your thermostat so the heating comes on when it drops below 5 degrees that should do it. It adds that if your thermostat doesn’t go down that far, setting it to come on for a couple of hours a night at about 15/16 degrees should also be enough as it can take a long time for pipes to freeze.