I'm a heating expert – when keeping it on this winter can cut your energy bill and the times it'll cost you | The Sun

MOST households are worried about the cost of heating their homes this winter.

And there are theories about whether leaving your radiators on low all the time might actually be cheaper than turning them on for a couple of hours in the morning and evening.

But is this actually the case?

John Lawless, who works for BestHeating.com, acknowledges that it is a tricky question to answer.

"It’s a hotly debated topic and, unfortunately, one without a straightforward answer," he told The Sun.

"The truth is it might be cheaper to keep your central heating on low all the time, it all depends on a number of factors."

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Insulation

The amount it costs to heat your home is linked to how energy efficient your home is to begin with.

For example, if your home is well insulated, it will retain heat for much of the day even if you only had the heating on for a couple of hours in the morning.

On the other hand, if your home is full of holes and gaps, you will lose heat faster.

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"The key thing to understand is the total amount of energy needed to heat your home," John explained.

"A lot of that will depend on how good your insulation is, such as whether you've got cavity wall insulation, or the recommended 250-300mm of insulation in your loft space.

"Ultimately if you have your heating on all day, you're losing energy all day."

While leaving your heating on all the time will mean your boiler is constantly using energy to keep the temperature at a set level, with poor insulation it will have to work even harder to maintain this temperature.

Having an inefficient boiler, which already uses a lot of energy to run, is only going to add to the problem.

But some engineers still say that keeping your boiler on low all the time can save you money – in the short term at least.

This is because turning your boiler on and off regularly will mean your boiler will need to use more energy to heat your home from cold to the desired temperature.

The one time it might be really important to leave your heating on low is if your house is damp, or you are going away on holiday.

This can protect your house against mould caused by damp and frozen pipes, which can cause hundreds of pounds worth of damage.

"In most cases, a timer that makes the heating come on and off, plus a thermostat to keep your home at a set temperature, is probably the best way to go," John said.

Do you have a thermostat?

The World Health Organisation recommends keeping your home between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius in order to be healthy.

If you have a thermostat, it is easy to set it so the heating only comes on if the temperature has dropped below a certain level, preventing you from heating your home when it's not needed.

Turning your room temperature down by just one degree can help cut bills by up to 10%.

Condensation

Some plumbers and heating engineers recommend keeping your boiler on low all the time because it prevents build-up of condensation in your walls.

This can make your home colder, because the condensation conducts the heat away from your home, meaning it loses heat more quickly.

"Keeping your home at a steady temperature prevents this," John explains.

There are other schools of thought that suggest just heating the room you use the most, but John isn't convinced this is the best option.

"Not heating the rooms that you're not spending time will cost you money as well, because of condensation build-up, or even damp and mould," he said.

"I'd recommend heating every room in your house for at least 40 minutes to an hour each day, then turning the radiators down or off in the rooms you aren't using, and heating the rooms you are using for longer."

What might it cost?

John estimates that an average three or four-bedroom home would spend around £810 a year heating around 10 radiators, at October's prices.

That works out at around 22p per day, per radiator.

"If you ran the radiators for the entire day, I'd expect that to be nearer 30p," he said.

"Just having it on for a couple of hours, plus turning down your thermostat, could halve that amount, potentially saving you £400 a year."

How to test your system

Energy comparison site Uswitch has an at-home test you can try to help you see which method might use more energy in your home.

It's unlikely to be 100% accurate, but it could help you get an idea of what either scenario might cost you.

Provided your home is reasonably well insulated, you should take meter readings at the beginning of a week and then leave your boiler on continuously.

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Then at the end of the week, take another reading.

You can then repeat the test the following week turning your boiler on and off, and see which uses more energy.

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