With ever soaring energy bills, it’s more important than ever to get the most out of your heating and use your energy as efficiently as possible.

But what’s the best way to warm up your home? Is it having the heating on constantly at a low temperature? Or do you to pump up the temperature in bursts, as and when you need it?

This topic is a source of heated debate. But what do the experts say?

Heat your home in bursts…

The Energy Saving Trust, an independent organisation that provides advice on energy use, is unequivocal on this point. It says that keeping your heating on all day uses more fuel and so is more costly[1].

Typically, the most energy-efficient approach is to use a timer to make sure your home is heated when you need it.

Ideally, if you have room thermostats, or install a smart heating system, then you can begin to really take control of your usage. Using a smart heating system means you can set rooms or areas to heat up at certain times, and to specific temperatures.

…or keep your heating on low

On the other hand, some specialists argue that you should keep your boiler on a constant low setting, with your radiator valves on maximum[2]. This is to prevent condensation forming in the fabric of your walls, which happens if your radiator frequently flips from hot to cold.

Having condensation in the walls is inefficient in terms of heating. The reason is twofold. Firstly, when the heating is switched on, it uses energy to evaporate the moisture. Secondly, having moisture in the walls makes them less effective as insulation. This is because heat can pass through more easily (known as thermal conductivity), rather than being trapped.

So, what’s the verdict?

The most accurate way to find out which approach works best for your home is to test it. If you have a smart meter, this will make the job easier.

Why not spend one week having the heating on a constant low temperature, and the next heating the house in bursts? Obviously, the test will be fairer if the weather and outside temperature is more-or-less the same for both weeks. Take a meter reading at the beginning and end of each week, and compare results. Then you’ll have a good idea which is the most energy-efficient approach for your home.

Insulate to accumulate

Whether to have your heating on all day is one question. How to stop heat from escaping is another. One of the major factors affecting your heating costs is insulation, so it’s a good place to make any improvements you can. And if you’re thinking about selling your home, this is also among the most commonly recommended areas for improving your EPC rating.

If your home has a loft, about 25% of the heat will be lost through the roof. In a detached house, loft insulation should cost you about £395 on average according to the Energy Saving Trust[3]. This could lead to an annual saving of as much as £250 on your energy bills. In other words, it should pay for itself in two years. Not bad, especially considering the insulation itself should last about 40 years.

It’s also worth insulating the walls, if they’re not already. Getting cavity wall insulation could reduce your bills by up to £255 a year. If you have an older house with solid walls, getting them insulated could generate an even bigger annual saving of up to £360.

Beware frozen pipes

Another thing to keep an eye on is the outside temperature. If it goes to 0°C or below, water in your pipes can freeze, which runs the risk of damaging them. If it’s likely to drop to freezing overnight, or while you’re away from the property, it’s best to set the thermostat to a constant temperature of at least 12-15°C[4].

Find out more about how to protect your home from frozen pipes.

For more useful household tips and advice, go to Solved.


[1] https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/energy-at-home/heating-your-home/

[2] http://www.askjeff.co.uk/jeffs-handy-tips-central-heating-effeciency/

[3] https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/roof-and-loft-insulation/

[4] https://sse.co.uk/help/water/plumbing/stopping-pipes-freezing