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9 Common heating mistakes… and how to avoid them!

Unfortunately, we see lots of people making the same mistakes with their heating. These mistakes mean that their heating system isn’t running as efficiently as it could, which ends up costing them on their fuel bills. That’s why we’ve put together this blog to help you to get the best out of your heating system, so that you and your family are comfortable, without your fuel bills skyrocketing.

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9 common heating mistakes…

With winter in full swing, everyone wants their central heating to be reliable, and to run as efficiently as possible.

But unfortunately, we see lots of people making the same mistakes with their heating. These mistakes mean that their heating system isn’t running as efficiently as it could, which ends up costing them on their fuel bills.

That’s why we’ve put together this blog to help you to get the best out of your heating system, so that you and your family are comfortable, without your fuel bills skyrocketing.

1.   Common heating mistakes: Oversizing your boiler

Worcester Bosch Greenstar 8000 next to a ruler and a question mark.Investing in the right size boiler will keep you and your family comfortable, without wasting energy and money.

Unfortunately, far too many people are seduced by the idea that ‘bigger is better’ and choose a boiler that’s too big for their needs, ‘just in case.’

We can see why people fall into this trap – running out of hot water is a situation that everyone dreads!

And it doesn’t help that some manufacturers are bringing out bigger and bigger boilers, such as the Worcester Bosch Greenstar 8000 Lifestyle range, which come in sizes of up to 50kw.

But the truth is, this is far too much power for most homes.

The problem with oversizing boilers

If you choose a larger boiler that has a much higher capacity than you need; you’ll be wasting money not only on the initial purchase; but also on escalating energy bills.

Too much power isn’t a good thing when it comes to central heating.

It’s inefficient, costly, and can generate more power than your central heating system can handle. This leads to ‘boiler cycling’ which will take its toll on your boiler.

So don’t make the mistake of just opting for the same size boiler you’ve had previously.

Your lifestyle has probably changed since you got your last one; not to mention the fact that your previous one might have been the wrong size too!

What you need to do is find a reputable Gas Registered engineer who will carry out a heat loss calculation to determine the correct size of boiler for you.

And don’t accept an engineer who wants to determine your boiler size by counting your radiators! This is completely inaccurate and is not industry best practice under building regulations.

2.   Common heating mistakes: Turning up the thermostat for faster heat

This is a really common mistake.

According to a survey by the Energy Saving Trust, 52% of people mistakenly believe that if they want a room to heat up quicker, then they should crank their thermostat up.

But this is a costly mistake to make because this won’t heat your home any faster.

This is because thermostats don’t have any control over the speed at which your home heats up, that’s not how they work.

A thermostat simply sets the maximum temperature that you want your room to be. It won’t get to that temperature any quicker if you turn it up higher than this.

Increasing the temperature on your thermostat by several degrees doesn’t increase the heating rate, it just means that your heating will be on longer; warming your home past your comfort level.

So set the temperature you want and let your heating system do the rest.

If you’ve let your home get freezing cold before putting your heating on, resist the urge to turn your thermostat up, and put an extra jumper on until your room gets to your desired temperature.

In fact, if you can, you should really turn your thermostat down by 1 degree. Whilst you’re unlikely to notice if your home is just 1 degree cooler; according to Government research, you can save up to 10% on your heating bills by doing this!

 3.   Common heating mistakes: Letting your home get too cold at night

I know we’ve just told you to try turning your thermostat down by one degree to save money – and now we’re telling you not to let your home get too cold – but stay with us!

Whilst it’s a good idea to turn your thermostat down by one degree for a consistently slightly lower temperature, jumping back and forth between temperature extremes is not!

We often see people trying to save money by turning their thermostat right down at night whilst everyone’s in bed. And this seems to make sense, because you’ve got your big heavy duvet to keep you warm at night.

The problem with letting your home get too cold

But the problem with this, is that when you get out of bed, the house will be freezing and you’ll want to crank the thermostat up to get your house warm again.

In this situation, your boiler will have to work much harder to get your home back to your preferred temperature.

And you might even fall into the trap of mistake number 1, and turn your thermostat to a temperature much higher than you actually want, mistakenly thinking that this will get your home warm faster.

Instead of doing this, you should turn your thermostat down by just 1 or 2 degrees at night.

This way you’ll still be saving on your energy bills, but it will avoid the inevitable wear-and-tear that jumping between temperature extremes will have on your boiler. 

Another tip is to program your thermostat to start heating to your desired day-time temperature about half an hour before you have to get up, so you’re nice and toasty when you roll out of bed.

4.   Common heating mistakes: Not using heating controls

Vaillant sensoCOMFORTIt’s surprising how many people are either using no heating controls at all, or have really old ones –  because heating controls are a fairly cheap way of making huge savings on your energy bills.

You can upgrade or install heating controls without replacing your boiler, and it’s a particularly good idea to think about this if your controls are more than 14 years old.

Room thermostats, for example, are much more accurate now than they used to be.

According to The Energy Saving Trust, a typical three-bed semi-detached house would save about £75 a year by installing a thermostat; programmer; and thermostatic radiator valves.

Not only that but installing the heating controls we’ve just mentioned would reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by a staggering 320kg every year!

Types of heating controls

Hands operating a Nest smart thermostat via a smartphone.The type of heating control you need depends on the type of heating system you have. But these are the general types available:

  • Timer – these are the simplest type of control because they simply turn your boiler on and off at preset times.
  • Programmer – programmers allow you to set your heating and sometimes hot water to switch on and off at different times on different days of the week (rather than only over a 24 hour period).
  • Room thermostat – these are load compensating thermostats. They turn the heating on until the room reaches the temperature you have manually set and then off until the temperature drops below your desired temperature.
  • Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) – TRVs attach directly to the top or bottom of your radiators, letting you control the temperature of individual rooms. This means that you can turn down the heat in rooms you are not using, which will save energy.
  • Smart heating controls – allow you to control your heating remotely via an app. They make your home heating fully personalisable, whilst also being simple to use and accessible from anywhere.

Savings with smart controls

A statistic about Tado smart heating.Smart controls offer the biggest energy efficiency savings, with some manufacturers promising energy savings of between 20-30%.

Tado says that its smart thermostat ‘will pay for itself within a year’ by reducing your heating bills by up to 31%.

Netatmo claims that its smart thermostat will reduce the energy you use by 37%.

According to Ofgem, a smart thermostat can bring savings of around £150 per year.  Ofgem (2014) estimates that a multi zoned heating system could save up to £400 on the annual dual fuel bill of £1385.

But all of these estimates assume that you previously left your heating on all the time, to maintain a constant temperature. So if you already turn off the heating when you leave your home, you’re unlikely to save as much as the manufacturers claim.

As well as investing in heating controls (smart or otherwise) you should think about how you’re actually using them.

If you just turn your heating up to full blast in the winter, hoping for the best, this will waste energy because you don’t need the heating to be on full blast 24/7 to be comfortable, and you probably don’t need all your rooms to be at the same temperature at all times.

You might like our related blog: Does smart heating save money?

5.   Common heating mistakes: Not booking your annual boiler service.

Unfortunately, people often underestimate the importance of their annual boiler service, until they run into a problem.

But you shouldn’t wait until misfortune strikes in the form of a breakdown, to call in an engineer.

Although most people wouldn’t dream of driving their car without a valid MOT, a survey conducted by The Gas Safe Register found that a worrying 24% of homeowners have either never had their boiler serviced, or haven’t had it serviced once a year as recommended.

This is alarming because if a gas appliance has been improperly fitted, repaired or maintained, its vents, flues, or chimneys may have become blocked – making it unsafe.

Unsafe gas appliances can result in gas leaks; fires and explosions; and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Thankfully all these dangers can be easily avoided by making sure that you have a gas safety check once a year by a Gas Safe registered engineer. 

Not only will your service ensure that your boiler is running safely, it will also help you to avoid a breakdown; maximise the lifespan of your boiler; maintain your boiler’s efficiency; and maintain your boiler’s guarantee.

6.   Common heating mistakes: Not bleeding your radiators

Radiators before and after being bled.Despite being crucial in warming up your rooms, radiators are often overlooked and neglected.

But there’s not much point investing in an all-singing-all-dancing energy efficient boiler if your radiators can’t do their job because they’re full of air.

During normal use, it’s very common for air to build up in your heating system and collect at the top of your radiators.

When this happens, the hot water provided by your boiler can’t circulate around the radiator like it should, and that’s when you’ll notice your radiators aren’t getting warm quick enough or have some large and annoying cold patches.

There’s a simple fix for this. All you need to do is use your radiator bleed key to open a valve (usually at the top of the radiator) to release the air and allow the hot water to flow properly.

7.   Common heating mistakes: Not cleaning your heating system

Statistics from BEISIt might surprise you to learn that your heating system needs the occasional clean too!

Lots of people aren’t getting the best out of their heating system because it’s full of sludge.

This can make a big difference to how efficiently your system will run. A report by BEIS in 2021 found that the build-up of sludge can reduce the efficiency of central heating systems by 15%.

So, sludge in your heating system could result in you paying 15% more than you need to be on your fuel bills!

But where does this ‘sludge’ come from?

Unfortunately, over time, the water in your heating system will pick up rust, dirt and other debris. This collects and turns into a muddy substance that we know as ‘sludge’.

Left untreated, this sludge will cause corrosion and blockages. A power flush is the answer here – it’s a complete clearing of the system getting rid of any build up of sludge and limescale.

8.   Common heating mistakes: Not insulating your home

Although spending money on insulation isn’t particularly appealing, because you can’t even see this particular home improvement – failing to insulate your home is a big mistake.

Without proper insulation, heating or cooling your house will require a lot more energy.

Think of it this way – do you really want all that lovely warm air that you’ve paid good money for, just rising up, and being lost straight out of your roof?

Because that’s precisely what’s happening if you don’t have good insulation. And not just through your roof either…

According to the Energy Saving Trust, the following estimates indicate the proportionate heat loss from a badly insulated house: 25% of your heat can be lost through the roof; 35% through outside walls; 25% through doors and windows; and 5% can be lost through ground floors.

So from these figures it’s easy to see how Insulation is one of the best investments in your home you can make. Your reduced fuel bills will cover the initial outlay time and time again. 

For more on reducing heat loss, read our related blog: How to reduce heat loss at home.

9.   Common heating mistakes: Not draught proofing your home

Not draught proofing is another big mistake that people make, because it’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to cut your fuel bills.

Perhaps it’s overlooked because it’s such a simple concept – stop cold air coming in, and prevent warm air from going out.

At its simplest, you just find any holes or gaps where air can be coming in or out, and plug them with something.

This could be as simple as getting draught excluders for your doors; using heavy curtains; and using a chimney balloon when your chimney isn’t in use.

But don’t knock it because it’s simple – The Energy Saving Trust says that if every home were to use draught proofing, the total energy savings could be worth as much as £190 million, and the energy saved would heat nearly 400,000 homes!

Think about your windows

When you’re thinking about drought proofing, it’s also worth looking at your windows. You can stop heat escaping through your windows by using double or triple glazing.

If you’re looking to install double glazing in your home, but are confused by all the choices available, look for the British Federation Rating Council (BFRC) rating.

Similarly to how boilers are rated for their efficiency, windows are too. Window manufacturers can show the energy efficiency of their products using an energy-rating scale from A++ to E.

Whilst there will be a cost to fitting double glazing, the annual savings on your energy bills for an average semi-detached house, is between £75-80, according to the EST.

Final thoughts…

We hope that you’ve found this blog helpful.

If you’re thinking about improving the efficiency of your home with a new boiler, call us today for tailored advice.

Useful Links:

Energy Saving Trust article on thermostats and heating controls

BEIS Household Energy Efficiency headlines Feb 2021

Energy Saving Trust article on draught proofing

The Greenage article on draught-proofing

Which? Tips to reduce your heating bills

Tado savings