Heating Controls

The builders of Cheltenham may have assumed that there would be plenty of coal available to heat their new homes (and plenty of domestic staff to shovel it) but they also recognised the preciousness of the heat that the coal delivered. As heating an entire house to a comfortable temperature was out of the question, they ensured that individual rooms could be heated adequately as and when they were needed. The modular plan of Georgian and Victorian houses, a plan which is still taken for granted in the design of many new homes, allowed inhabitants to close the doors on cold halls and unused rooms and keep the heat where it was needed. Typically there were always at least two doors between the front door and the main fire place to ensure that the cold air was buffered when people entered and left the homes.

Despite the triumph of central heating in the twentieth century, many households in traditional buildings continue to exploit the modular form to keep their heating bills down. This may involve turning the central heating off or down and heating individual rooms with room heaters such as gas fires. Alternatively radiators may be turned off or down in certain rooms for certain parts of the day. However, such practice may evolve through trial and error and may still be inefficient. If you want to make the best use of your heating system, consider all of the following:

Do you need to heat your entire house to the same temperature? Different rooms within a house have different functions. If you have central heating and you don’t want to be running around turning fires and radiators on and off, install thermostatic radiator valves on all your radiators except the ones in the room where your central heating thermostat/controller is located. You can set these to room-specific temperatures and they will maintain the rooms they are in at the given temperature. They are especially useful for setting relatively low temperatures in bedrooms and hallways, where it doesn’t need to be as warm as your main living rooms.

Do you know how to use your central heating controller to vary your heating through the day?  Many households want to vary the temperature in the home across the day: warmer first thing and in the evening and cooler at night or during the day if the house is not occupied.

This is the purpose of a programmable thermostat or central heating controller, however these little boxes on the wall are notoriously badly designed. As a result, households often have the heating on for longer than they need simply because they find programming the timer so difficult. If you can’t work out how to set this, get help. You ought to feel confident to make small changes to the programmer at any time, depending on the season and the times you are home.

The majority of modern central heating programmes now allow you to vary when your heating is on over the course of a day and week (for instance coming on later on the weekend when you might get up later), heating your home to different temperatures at different times to suit your habits.

With smartphones and tablets, it is now also possible to control your heating system with a software application or ‘app’. These new apps allow you to turn your heating and hot water on and off or adjust the temperature from wherever you are, as long as you can connect to the internet.

Do you understand your thermostat? We are all familiar with thermostats but they are often misunderstood. The thermostat sets the temperature that the room should be at, so it ought to be set at the desired temperature and left alone to do the work of turning the boiler on and off as needed. It is tempting to turn a thermostat up if a room feels cold but if the temperature of the room where the thermostat is located is below the point set on the thermostat this will make no difference – the heating system should already be on and putting heat into the room. Turning your thermostat up by only one degree can increase your heating bills by 8%.

Do you always close your doors? If you are trying to maintain different temperatures across the rooms of your home, you will obviously fail if the doors are left open. This is especially important if you use supplementary heating in one room, such as a fire in your lounge, or install thermostatic radiator valves on all your radiators.

Do you make the most of the sun? If you have east or south facing rooms the sun can provide substantial morning and daytime heating. In the winter, when the sun is low, the sun can penetrate deep into rooms with well placed windows. Make sure your shutters, curtains and blinds are open when the sun is pouring in and close them (or some of them) again to keep the heat in when the direct sunlight has gone.