Where to save energy: heating

We’ve looked at appliances and cooking recently, as two areas where we might be able to save money during a time of high energy costs – and reduce our carbon footprints at the same time. In this article, we’ll take a look at heating.

In many ways this is the most important place to look for savings, because heating is the biggest energy user in the house.

From a climate change point of view, it’s also most likely to be high carbon. Electricity can be from renewable energy, but heating is gas for most of us. So heating is a big one.

Any energy saving measures that target heat will make a difference. The simplest of those are the ones that don’t require any expensive interventions – that’s why people are always advising us to turn down the thermostat. But did you know that most combi boilers run at the wrong temperature? Turning down the ‘flow temperature’ of the boiler (which is different from the thermostat) could save 6-8% on your bills. Here’s how you do that.

Here’s a good principle to remember when reducing heating bills: warm the person, not the space. It’s how we used to do things in the old days, which is why we designed high-backed chairs and four-posters beds. Both keep the heat around the person, rather than attempting to heat the entire room. Central heating has made us forget a bunch of things we used to know. The first time you think of putting the heating on this autumn, ask instead how you could warm yourself – a jumper, a hot water bottle, one of those microwave wheat bags?

The same goes for spaces. If you’re working from home during the day this winter, try heating the space that you’re in, rather than putting the heating on and warming the whole house. Fit thermostatic radiator valves and turn the heat down in spare rooms.

Look again at the graph, and you’ll see that hot water is the second biggest user. Taking shorter showers, or running the dishwasher less often, will both put a dent in that. The Energy Saving Trust reckons shorters showers can save £70 a year, which seems well worth it.

Homes lose heat all the time, so it’s important to keep as much of it as we can. That’s why insulation is so important.

Here’s an image of how homes lose heat, so you know where to focus. Hopefully you’ve done the loft already, but you can put down another layer of insulation. The recommended depth has gone up, so if you insulated your loft years ago you might want to top it up.

You could keep your home warmer with some thermal curtain lining if you haven’t done that yet. Blinds or shutters might be an alternative, and you’ll get the benefit of those during heatwaves too. You might want to hang curtains across doors as well.

There are of course bigger jobs, such as wall or underfloor insulation. They will pay for themselves over the long term as you save energy every year.

There’s more we could look at, but to summarise – if you’re looking to reduce energy costs, focus on heat first. Insulate. And heat the people.

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Published by Jeremy Williams

Jeremy is an author and activist based in Luton. He writes serious books for adults, less serious books for children. His blog, The Earthbound Report, has been recognised as the best green blog in the UK by Vuelio and the UK Blog Awards.

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