Answers To Questions Asked When Discussing Reducing Fuel Bills

Energy Efficiency

This follow up article takes you through the most frequently asked questions with answers.

Is it cheaper to run my central heating all day or use the timer?
The more control you have over the time your central heating and hot water are on or off, the more you should save on fuel costs. Normally, it is better to only use the heating when and where you need it.
Heating systems that run all day will raise the average internal temperature of the property. This generally must cost more than operating a selective heating programme. Most modern systems are designed to be operated this way but if your heating system is aging, it is best to check will your local plumber or plumbing consultant. They will advise you if you need to upgrade your controls or system.

You can test out whether it is better to be selective in your approach to using the heating by reading your meter and then operating the system as a 'full on' system for a selected period - say a week, and then read the meter again. Then, for the next week, operate a 'selective' approach and read the meter again. The difference in readings will indicate the most efficient method.

Remember - this will only be a guide as there will be many variables - not least the weather!
You can try the same test for the domestic hot water

Can I set the controls to reduce my running costs?
The easiest and most obvious way to do this is to reduce the temperature settings. Just by turning your room thermostat down 1 degree C can make a significant saving on your fuel bill - up to 10%.

Temperatures at which people choose to set their controls will vary according to their particular needs. However, the normal recommendation is that your hot water cylinder thermostat should be set at 60 C (140 F).
The room thermostat should be set between 18 C - 21 C (65 - 70 F). However, with young children or elderly in bed, the temperature should not be allowed to fall below 12 C (55 F).
Again, for disabled people or babies, a room temperature of 23 C (73 F) would be more appropriate.

Consider having thermostatic radiator valves if they are not already fitted. These will allow you to set individual radiators to lower settings where you may prefer a lower temperature, such as in bedrooms.
Start by setting these on the on middle numbers and, if too hot - turn down one notch - if too cool, turn up one notch.
It is easy to turn them off completely when a room is not in use or in the months when you may want some heating, but not everywhere e.g. the bathroom.
Remember to close the doors, otherwise warm air will escape into there from the adjoining hallway or landing and reduce any savings.

You can also reduce the time the heating is on. By setting the system to "come on" about half to three quarters of an hour before you get up, and to "go off" half an hour before everyone goes out.
Set it to "come on" again half and hour before you get home and to "go off" again half an hour before going to bed. You will probably find that you can save energy without loss of comfort.

Is it economical to shut off my radiators?
As we have said, you can make savings by turning off radiators during periods when some rooms are not in use. However, you must remember to close the doors otherwise warm air will escape into these rooms from the adjoining rooms which will reduce any potential savings.
Remember - keep an eye on unheated rooms to guard against dampness or condensation. If there are signs of either or both of these, it is probably sensible just to turn the Thermostatic Radiator Valves down rather than off.
Do not turn off the radiator in the same room as the room thermostat. This will give your control system the wrong information about the temperature of your home. This will affect the heating in the rest of the house. If they are not fitted, consider fitting TRVs in rooms such as bedrooms. This will enable you to maintain individual temperatures which are lower than the rest of the house and so make savings in this way.
Your plumbing consultant will be able to advise on the cost of replacing your existing valves.

What settings should my boiler thermostat be at?
If your system has a room thermostat and a thermostat on the hot water cylinder, set the boiler thermostat around maximum and use these other thermostats to set comfortable room and hot water temperatures.
If there are no other temperature controls, it is suggested that you use the following boiler thermostat settings:
Winter - 80 F
Summer - 70 F

Is it cheaper to run the boiler or the fire if I have a boiler back unit?
If you don't want to heat the whole house then it is worthwhile using the fire for heating on its own e.g. between seasons such as early spring and autumn.
The boiler will produces more heat and therefore will use more gas. However, this will heat the whole house including the hot water.

In summer is it cheaper to heat hot water all day or heat the water for short periods as required?
It is generally considered cheaper to heat hot water only when you require it. Properly insulated cylinders will keep water hot for up to 12 hours. Set the boiler to operate at times when you need to draw off large amounts of hot water say for early morning baths or showers.
Ask your local plumbing consultant to fit a cylinder thermostat if you do not have one. This will be a cost effective method of reducing your fuel bill and you should recover the cost though savings in a relatively time.

What savings can be made if I insulate the loft?
Insulating your loft is one of the most cost effective ways to spend money to prevent heat from escaping. Around 25% of the heat lost in homes escapes through the roof and up to 35% of the heat in a home is lost through walls. Modern homes will build to high insulation standards which will prevent heat loss. If you own an older property, check out the roof insulation. It is considered that that the equivalent of 8" (200mm.) of insulation should be fitted.

What savings can be made if I have cavity walls filled?
Filling cavity walls reduces heat loss from 35% to 10%. Again this is seen as a cost effective method of reducing heat loss through the walls and consequently reducing fuel bills.

What savings can be made if I fit double glazing?
This is probably the least cost effective method of reducing heat loss.
However, draught proofing windows even if they are single glazed, is considered to be the most cost effective method of reducing heat loss. Even so, if windows are properly draught-proofed still around 20% of heat is lost through a closed single glazed window.
Installing double-glazing will halve heat loss through windows.
There are various ways to 'double glaze' windows from The cost of double-glazing varies greatly from fitting cling film- a cheap and fairly temporary method of 'secondary glazing' to having complete windows and frames replaced.
These days the most popular type of replacement windows is UPVC.

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