The cheapest way to heat a room / house? …With Science

August 20th, 2020
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The age old battleground across in many homes throughout the country is the thermostat. Most people subscribe to one of two general schools of thought: the leavers and the on-offers.

Leavers will set their thermostat to a comfortable 21 or so degrees and leave it there, assuming that their homes will be comfortable throughout the day and that it is cheaper to keep the home at the target temperature rather than allowing it to cool down, in order to use more energy to heat it back up again.

On-offers tend to program the thermostat to give the home a temperature boost in the morning, before shutting the central heating off in the middle of the day, when the home is likely to be less busy. The central heating is then switched on again in the evening as the family return from their daily jobs. On-offers believe that the home should not be heated if nobody is there, and that to keep it at the correct temperature throughout the day is a waste of energy, and ultimately money.

As these are two almost opposite viewpoints, it’s clear that both cannot be correct. One of the viewpoints will provide an energy saving, but it’s probably not sufficient a saving to merit any major celebrations. Bragging rights are likely all you will win!

Research has shown that allowing the temperature to drift in the home could save up to 5% in energy costs. The US Department of Energy has calculated that around 1% of energy could be saved for each degree cooler a property gets over an 8 hour period. These energy savings won’t necessarily be realised if the thermostat is cranked down for a day, but over time, consumption and therefore costs will be noticeably lower.

There is of course a trade off here, namely that of discomfort. If your home is occupied during the day, is it worth the savings if you have family members who are shivering throughout the day? The amount of savings could also be affected by the size of your home, with larger homes containing lots of rooms taking longer to cool down and more energy to heat back up again.

If we get all sciency for a moment, the key factor as to how well your home retains heat is down to it’s U value, which is defined as how quickly your home loses heat. In order to determine the U value, you need to think carefully about how well your home is insulated. Double or even triple glazed windows, UPVC external doors, cavity wall insulation if possible and loft insulation are all elements that will have a major impact on the speed at which your cool down, as will the floor area of your home.

Put simply, the better insulated your home, the more benefit you will gain from being more frugal with your thermostat.

Other factors are involved here, but in almost all cases, a saving will be made if a thermostat is set to provide a heat boost when needed rather than attempting to keep a property at a constant comfortable temperature throughout the day.

Even if the central heating is switched off entirely during the summer months, it is important to ensure that your radiators are switched on to heat your home every so often, to ensure that the boiler remains in good working condition. Leaving the central heating off for a prolonged period of time can cause your diverter valve to become stuck, and your boiler in need of a service before the heating can be switched on again.

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