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How to heat a home efficiently

A typical UK household spends more than half its total energy costs on heating and hot water, according to the Energy Saving Trust. We take a look at the best way to heat your home, in terms of energy efficiency. 

A typical UK household spends more than half its total energy costs on heating and hot water, according to the Energy Saving Trust. We take a look at the best way to heat your home, in terms of energy efficiency. 

Peter Earl
From the Energy team
minute read
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Posted 7 FEBRUARY 2020

What’s the best way to heat a house?

From conventional central heating to underfloor heating and storage heaters – there’s plenty of choice when it comes to keeping your home warm.

A gas-fired central heating system is often the cheaper option in terms of running costs, with electrical heating costing considerably more per unit of energy. Gas is also relatively clean in its CO2 emissions, compared with oil or coal-fired heating systems.

But if your home isn’t connected to the mains gas network, it’s costly to join it up. So electrical, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), oil or biomass heating might be better options.

Are electric fires energy-efficient?

Electric heating converts all the electricity it uses into heat. A new electric fire should be somewhere close to 100% efficient. A new gas boiler will be about 90% efficient. But electricity is three to four times more expensive than gas, which means that, for many, it’s less economical.

Electricity can also have a big carbon footprint, where it’s generated from non-renewable sources. Although there are now more green energy options available.

Is underfloor heating energy-efficient? 

There are two types of underfloor heating: electric underfloor heating and water underfloor heating. Both work at a lower temperature than conventional central heating and distribute heat more evenly than radiators.

Around 20% of underfloor heating owners, surveyed by Which?, said it had decreased their energy costs. But, 40% of those surveyed reported that their energy bills stayed the same. And underfloor heating isn’t cheap to install.

What about storage heaters? 

Storage heaters can be cost-effective, if you use them properly. They work by storing electricity at night, then gradually releasing it as heat during the day. They operate individually too, meaning you can heat each room separately and take better control of your heat-efficiency.

The most economical way to use storage heaters is with an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff, which give you cheaper electricity during the night – but more expensive rates during the day.

If you need the heating on overnight, storage heaters won’t be for you. It’s also worth bearing in mind that, if you use a much bigger proportion of your electricity during the day, Economy 7 or 10 tariffs will probably end up costing you more.

What’s the best way to use central heating?

There are several ways you can improve the efficiency of your central heating:

  • put thermostatic valves on your radiators – that way you can set the temperature appropriate to the different rooms (those you use more, or less, often)
  • adjust your thermostat – turning it down by one degree could save around £75 per year, according to the Energy Saving Trust
  • have your heating and hot water on a timer – leaving the heating and hot water on constantly isn’t energy-efficient. Firing the boiler up, as and when it’s needed, is far better in terms of energy usage
  • check out smart heating controls that allow you to control your heating and hot water from your phone or computer, so you never waste any

What temperature should the thermostat be set at?

Between 18 and 21 degrees is ideal, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Once your thermostat’s set and your boiler’s on, your home will stay at this temperature, no matter how cold it is outside.

How else can I heat my home more efficiently?

Whatever heating system you use, reducing your home’s heat leakage will boost its efficiency. You could think about:

  • installing loft and cavity-wall insulation – or upgrading yours, if it’s not doing the job
  • fitting double or secondary glazing
  • insulating your pipes
  • fitting draught excluders and thick curtains, to keep the heat in on chilly nights.

You should also make sure your hot water tank has good insulation, to help the water stay warm.

Should I turn off radiators in rooms I don’t use?

Try turning radiators to the frost protection setting, rather than off completely. This will save money and energy.

It’s a good idea to turn the radiators on low in unused rooms, from time to time, to prevent damp.

If you’re not heating a room, keep the door shut. That way it won’t leach cold into the rest of the house. And it’s a good idea to keep the doors closed if you’re mostly in one, heated, room anyway. That way you can be tactical with which radiators/heat sources you need to switch on.

How else can I save money on my heating bills?

One of the easiest things you can do is to compare quotes from a range of UK energy providers, to see if switching suppliers could save you money on your energy bills.

Compare the Market’s comparison service takes the hassle out of doing this. So just tell us a little about you and your home, and we’ll do the rest.

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