Home heating controls

Tips to help improve your energy efficiency

Keen to stay on top of your bills and reduce the amount of energy you use?

We asked the experts at Energy Saving Trust for their guidance on how to take better control of your heating.

With a few small steps, you could improve the way you heat your home. By installing and using your heating controls effectively, you could save money on your heating bills and lower your carbon emissions.

Back to basics with better boiler controls

The dials (or buttons and screens on most newer models) on the front of most boilers let you switch your heating and hot water on or off, choose your desired water temperature and set a schedule to suit your daily routine.

Here are three ways to help make your boiler work more efficiently:

1. Reduce your boiler’s ‘flow temperature’

Boilers are at their most energy-efficient when they run in what’s called ‘condensing mode’ – a point at which they recover lost heat, which could help make them much more efficient. Some boiler thermostats are programmed too high, so the return temperature of the water back to your boiler never gets low enough to reach this mode. Try turning down your boiler's thermostat to help improve your boiler's efficiency.

On your boiler control panel, look for a dial marked in numbers or on a scale from minimum to maximum. It might also be controlled by a couple of buttons next to the temperature shown on a digital display.

Experiment with yours to see how close to the minimum you’re happy to go while staying comfortable. You might need to adjust it a few times until the temperature is right for you, especially on colder days. Don’t go below 65C if you’ve got a conventional boiler with a hot water cylinder, or you could risk harmful bacteria growing in the cylinder. For more information, see the Energy Saving Trust’s guide on how to change your boiler settings.

What to look for on your boiler control panel

2. Keep your tank and pipes cosy

If you’ve got an older hot water cylinder, it could benefit from extra insulation. Less heat could be lost, so you might not need to use as much energy to heat your water and keep it warm.

Energy Saving Trust did some research into typical costs and savings and found that a hot water cylinder jacket could cost around £201.

Assuming your pipes and cylinders are easy to reach, you could put in the insulation yourself. According to Energy Saving Trust, adding a 80mm thick British Standard jacket to a hot water tank with 25mm foam insulation could save you around £50 a year2.

3. Check your radiators are working hard

When was the last time you bled your radiators? With your central heating on for an hour, test each radiator to see if any part of it feels cold to touch. If so, it’s likely it needs to be ‘bled’, which removes air bubbles that could be causing the cold spots.

You’ll need a radiator key, an old towel and a bowl or jug. Let the radiators cool for a few hours, then lay the towel under the pipes and place the bowl or jug under the valve. Use the key to slowly open the valve by doing a quarter or half turn. You’ll hear a hissing sound as the trapped air escapes. When it stops, or water comes out, close the valve. Once complete, make sure to check your boiler pressure as it might need to be topped up. Then you can switch your heating back on.

Take control of your heating

Taking control of your heating means you decide when and at what temperature you heat your home. Take a look at the different heating options available and see which ones could work for your home.

1. Room thermostat

The way they work is simple – a thermostat measures how warm or cool the room is, then switches your central heating on or off to keep your home at the temperature you’ve set.

2. Timer or programmer

This lets you create a heating schedule that suits your daily routine. For example, with the average house taking 30 minutes to heat up, you could set the heating to come on half an hour before you get up and 30 minutes before you’re back from a day out.

3. Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs)

These are connected to your radiator, sense the room temperature, and – if it’s too warm – adjust the flow of hot water into the radiator accordingly. Keep in mind that a radiator cover might prevent the TRV from getting an accurate temperature reading, so Energy Saving Trust recommend avoiding these if possible.

TRVs can help stop you overheating individual rooms, so you only use the energy you need. You could also set them to suit each room. For example, if you’re working from home in your kitchen, you might want more heat in there and less heat in your other rooms. It’s a good idea to start off with the lowest setting that you’re comfortable with, as it could help you use less energy and save money.

4. Smart heating controls

These let you set your heating, change room temperatures or turn off hot water with a swipe of your phone or tablet – no matter where you are.

There are more advanced features too. These include being able to track your heating from your smartphone and switch on the heating when you’re on your way home from work, detecting open windows and turning the thermostat down or heating off, or getting hot water ready for the time you’re most likely to take a shower.

Use your smartphone to open your heating app. A signal is sent to a wireless router which tells the boiler to fire up and turn on the central heating.

What’s the cost of upgrading – and could you save money?

It’s a good idea to consider new heating controls if you don’t already have a programmer, a room thermostat or TRVs. Energy Saving Trust have looked into this and, based on a typical semi-detached home with no controls, installing these together could cost you around £580, but you could save £180 a year on your energy bills3.

Smart heating controls will typically cost more on top of this as you’ll usually need to pay for the unit, installation and there may also be an ongoing subscription fee.

Although the upfront costs of smart controls could be expensive, you could save money in the long run4. However, how much you could save will depend on your lifestyle and how you currently control your heating.

If you think any of these upgrades could be right for you, make sure you discuss any potential benefits, savings or improvements with the provider. If you’ve got a residential mortgage with us, and you’re interested in smart heating controls, you could get 50% off the cost of a Hive Thermostat Mini, Hub and installation.

Terms and conditions apply.

Facts and myths about heating

What’s the ideal temperature for you?

Everyone’s different – some people say they don’t feel the cold, while others might need a much warmer home. Energy Saving Trust says most of us should be comfortable in a home with the thermostat set to 18-21C (64-69F) but the elderly and people with illnesses or disabilities may need more heat. It’s not just about your health – your home also needs to be taken care of. If it’s too cold, you could risk condensation and mould.

What’s the right temperature?

Get 50% off a Hive Thermostat Mini

If you’ve got a residential mortgage with us, you could get 50% off the cost of a Hive Thermostat Mini, Hub and installation. Wherever you are, it could help you take control of how much energy you use, set schedules and switch your home heating on and off from your phone – now that’s smart. Offer valid from 18 April 2023. By applying for this offer, you’re agreeing to the Hive Thermostat Mini offer terms and conditions.

All information and estimates provided by Energy Saving Trust are correct as of February 2024. Changes in the price of gas and electricity since the date of their estimates might affect the estimated savings. Cost and savings estimates vary depending on factors like where you live, the type of home you have, how it’s heated and the amount of work needed. This article isn’t advice and is for general guidance only - always do your own research before taking any action. We’re not responsible for the content of the websites mentioned in this article.

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