Finding the most efficient ways to use central heating will help to keep your energy bills to a minimum. Fortunately, there are several ways to increase central heating efficiency and we reveal them in this article.
What is central heating efficiency?
Before looking at the most efficient ways to use central heating, it’s worth understanding efficiency.
When the central heating is turned on, the boiler will be called into action. If you have a gas boiler, as most homes in the UK do, then the boiler will burn natural gas. This process converts the fuel into usable energy that heats up the central heating system.
How much of the fuel the boiler is able to convert into usable energy is known as the efficiency. Effectively, a boiler with a high efficiency rating will use less fuel to meet the same demand for central heating as an inefficient boiler. And if your gas supplier is sending less gas to your property, your bills will go down as a result.
Gas boilers are never 100% efficient as when natural gas is burned, waste gases are produced that are expelled out of the flue pipe. However, modern boilers are significantly more efficient than older models. While some older gas boilers could have efficiencies as low as 60-70%, modern boilers achieve efficiencies of over 90%.
You can think of the efficiency rating as a guide to the value for money you’ll be getting. So for a boiler that’s 93% efficient, for every £1 spent on heating your home, only 7p will be lost to the energy that escapes in the waste gases. This means that replacing an old inefficient boiler could save you a considerable amount on your energy bills.
Installing a new highly efficient boiler would be the best way to improve the efficiency of your central heating system. However, there are many other steps you can take that don’t require such a big investment.
Most efficient ways to use central heating
Using your central heating system efficiently will help to lower your energy bills, increase its reliability and extend the life of your boiler.
Don’t turn the heating up too high
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to set the central heating too high. A recommended temperature is between 18°C and 21°C. If you know that your thermostat is higher than this then you could be making considerable savings on your energy bills. In fact, turning your thermostat down by a single degree can lower your energy bills by as much as £80 a year.
Avoid heating empty rooms
Heating up the whole house when you’ll only be using one room isn’t efficient use of your central heating system. Not heating up empty rooms will save lots of energy and not put your boiler under unnecessary strain.
Avoid leaving the heating on at all times
The thinking behind leaving the central heating on all the time is that it will cost less than firing it up as and when needed. However, leaving the heating on all the time is much less efficient than scheduling the heating to come on as and when needed. After all, heating an empty home would be the least efficient use of central heating.
How to make your central heating more efficient
Heating technology has developed to a point where you can have more control over the central heating than ever before. If you haven’t already, we recommend updating your heating controls. Popular heating controls that will increase the efficiency of your central heating include radiator valves and smart thermostats.
Radiator valves are attached to each radiator in your home and allow you to set a different temperature for each. There are two different types of radiator valve: manual, thermostatic and smart thermostatic.
Manual radiator valves are the most common radiator valve and give you the ability to make each radiator warmer or cooler. Each valve has a scale ranging from off to varying levels of warmth. Turning the valve lowers or increases the amount of hot water able to circulate around the radiator.
Rather than allowing you to set specific temperatures, manual radiator valves typically have a numbered scale of one to six. As a guide, three is a room temperature of around 20°C and the temperature goes up or down by 2°C as the valve is turned.
Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) are slightly more advanced. They have a digital display and allow you to set a specific temperature. Within the TRV is a small amount of wax or liquid which senses the temperature of the radiator and prevents it from going any higher.
Finally, smart thermostatic radiator valves give you the greatest control. While other radiator valves must be controlled physically, smart TRVs can be controlled using a smartphone or tablet.
Smart thermostats are the latest development in thermostat technology. While traditional thermostats give you the ability to set a certain temperature they have their limitations. Especially when compared to smart thermostats.
An increasing number of smart thermostats are hitting the market, each with their own set of features that can make your heating system more efficient. When looking for a smart thermostat, features to look out for include:
- Learning: Smart thermostats will adapt to how the central heating is used and set a programme to match your schedule.
- Geolocation: Pair the smart thermostat with your smartphone and it will be able to track the GPS to know when the house is empty or you’re about to get home.
- Motion Detecting: A monitor is used to detect when you leave and enter your home so that heating can be automatically adjusted.
- Weather Responsive: By monitoring the weather forecast a smart thermostat will adjust to a suitable temperature based on the conditions outside.
- Smartphone Control: Adjust the heating wherever you are using your smartphone.
- Multi-zone: Set up several zones around your home so that the central heating only comes on in the rooms it’s needed in.
The best smart thermostats include Hive, Honeywell Evohome, Neo by Heatmiser, Nest and Tado.
More ways to increase central heating efficiency
There are a number of improvements you can make your central heating system and around the home to increase efficiency. These range from inexpensive DIY jobs to improvements that will need the expertise of a fully-qualified heating engineer.
Replace your boiler
As boilers age their efficiency begins to drop. This means that they need to use more fuel to meet the same level of demand for heating and hot water. And, as a result, your energy bills will begin to increase. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: replace your boiler with a more efficient model.
A new boiler will not only help to lower your energy bills but also give you greater and more user-friendly control over your heating.
If you’re not sure if your energy bills have been increasing then you should also consider a new boiler:
- If it was installed more than 8 years ago
- Faults have become frequent problems
- Heating engineers struggle to find spare parts
- It’s no longer covered by a warranty
- Your home simply isn’t as comfortable as it once was
Insulate your property
Even the most efficient boiler will struggle to heat your home if it isn’t well insulated. Without insulation, much of the heat emitted by your central heating system will leave your property. Not only that, but cold air and breezes will be making their way into your property too.
There are many ways to insulate your property, each of which will help to prevent heat from escaping:
- Loft insulation: As heat rises, the loft is one of the most effective places to insulate. And it can be done yourself at relatively little expense.
- Cavity wall insulation: This involves a professional filling the gap between walls with insulation material.
- Double glazing: An often forgotten way to keep the heat in your home is by adding an additional pane of glass to your windows. Going from single glazed windows to double glazing will keep more heat in the property and triple glazing is available too.
- Floor insulation: Draughts can make their way up through the floor or in between the floor and skirting board which will lower the temperature.
- Pipe insulation: By insulating the pipes that circulate the hot water, less heat will be able to escape. If you have a hot water cylinder, you can have that insulated too which will keep the water warmer for longer.
You can find out more in Everything You Need to Know About Home Insulation.
Have your boiler serviced annually
A boiler service involves a heating engineer looking over the boiler to ensure it’s running reliably, safely and efficiently. It’s recommended to have your boiler serviced annually and essential to keep your warranty valid.
Bleed your radiators
For a radiator to effectively heat up a room, the hot water needs to be able to circulate around it. When water enters the heating system so does air and over time this air can build up and cause blockages. The process of bleeding the radiators releases this air from the radiator so that the radiators can heat up properly again. You can tell if it’s time to bleed a radiator if the upper part of the radiator is cooler than the bottom.
Bleeding a radiator is something you can do yourself by following the steps in our guide to bleeding a radiator. However, don’t hesitate to contact a professional if you’re unsure.
Switch gas supplier
The natural gas burned by a gas boiler is delivered to the property by your gas supplier. Switching gas suppliers won’t necessarily improve efficiency but could save you money. Suppliers set their own rates and taking the time to compare tariffs could earn you a cheaper supply of gas.
If your property isn’t connected to the gas network then alternative fuels include oil and LPG. These are delivered to the property where they’re stored onsite in a tank.
Is it time for a new boiler?
If your boiler was installed more than 8 years ago then it’s time to start thinking about a boiler replacement. There’s no doubt that a new boiler is one of the best ways to increase the efficiency of your heating system.
A new gas boiler must be installed by a Gas Safe registered engineer. And taking time to compare boiler installation quotes from up to 3 heating companies will give you the peace of mind that you’re getting the most competitive price.
Plus, once your new boiler is up and running, your heating system will be running as efficiently as ever.