Using the right heating controls can help keep your home at a comfortable temperature. We have advice on how to use your controls efficiently, helping you save money on your heating bills.
Whether you have electric storage heaters, a boiler or even a heat pump, installing and using your heating controls effectively could save you money on your energy bills and lower your carbon emissions.
You can control your heating with a range of tools, from thermostats and programmers to radiator valves and more. Here’s a summary of the most common controls:
Electric heating controls
Electric storage heaters, or night storage heaters, are the most common type of electric heating. If you have older storage heaters, they have input and output dials. The input dial controls the electricity the heater uses, and the output dial controls the release of stored heat.
The higher your input dial is set, the more electricity it will use, and the more heat will be stored.
If you think it’s going to be cold the next day, set your input dial high so that the heater stores enough heat overnight to last you the next day.
If it’s going to be milder, turn it down so you don’t store more heat than you need. It’s important to remember that any changes you make to your input setting won’t happen until the next day.
The output dial works in a similar way. The higher you set the output dial, the quicker your storage heater releases its heat.
If the output dial is set on minimum, the heater will still release all the heat that’s been stored overnight but it will do so more slowly.
To make the heat last all day, leave the output dial on the minimum setting when you go to bed and if you’re out during the day. Try to set your output dial to match your daily routine.
Some electric storage heaters have a boost function, but you should only use this if you’ve run out of stored heat to avoid paying for more expensive electricity during the day (if you’re on an Economy 7 tariff). Try to be sparing with the boost option and only use it in the coldest weather if you’ve run out of stored heat.
Modern storage heaters generally have better controls, including an automatic charge control, thermostat and programmer. Once you’ve set the programme, the heater can control itself without you needing to adjust it.
Watch the video below to find out how to get the best out of your electric storage heaters.
Central heating system controls
If you have a boiler or a heat pump that powers a central heating system, your heating controls should include a programmer or timer, at least one room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) if you have radiators.
Installing and using a full set of heating controls could save you around £130 a year on your energy bills.
Programmer or timer
Use a programmer or timer to control when your heating and hot water turn on and off.
Plan ahead so you’re not heating your home or hot water when you don’t need it. For example, if everyone who lives in your home is out at work or school during the day, the heating doesn’t need to be on.
Include warm-up and cool-down times in your programme. The average house takes around 30 minutes to heat up or cool down, but every home is different. Set your programmer to cover the warm-up and cool-down period, so it’s warm when you wake up and starts to cool down before you go to bed.
Set your water to heat up only when you need it. If you have a well-insulated hot water tank, you may find that the hot water supply in the morning lasts all day, so you can enjoy a hot shower in the evening without having to heat up more water. Test out how long your full tank will last you.
Use your thermostat to set your heating at a required temperature, which can help prevent your home from getting warmer – or colder – than necessary. A thermostat turns the heating on until the room it’s in reaches the temperature you’ve set it at, and then off until it drops below the set temperature.
Try to set your room thermostat to the lowest comfortable temperature – ideally between 18 and 21 degrees. Turning your thermostat down by just one degree could save you up to £105 a year on your heating bill.
Many modern systems come with portable / remote thermostats that can be moved around the house; if you’ve got one of these, keep it in or near the rooms your household uses most.
Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs)
If your home is heated by radiators, thermostatic radiator valves, or TRVs, can help to control the heat they release. TRVs do this by controlling the flow of hot water through the radiator they’re fitted to.
They work by sensing the air temperature around them. If the room is warmer than the setting on the TRV, the valve will close a little, which reduces the volume of hot water flowing into the radiator. If the temperature drops below the TRV setting, the valve opens, increasing the flow of hot water in the radiator.
Set your TRVs by choosing the setting on a scale of 0-6, where zero is off and six is fully open. Try to opt for the lowest setting that keeps the room at a comfortable temperature. Remember, the lower the setting, the less hot water flows through your radiators, saving you energy and money on your bills.
Your boiler will be fitted with its own controls, which could include a thermostat, weather compensation and a boiler interlock.
Your boiler’s thermostat is a dial or a digital temperature setting, usually marked in numbers or from minimum (min) to maximum (max). It sets the temperature of the water that’s pumped from the boiler through the radiators to heat your home. If it’s not set high enough when it’s very cold outside, your home may not reach the temperature you need to be comfortable.
A weather compensator automatically measures the outside temperature and adjusts the boiler thermostat temperature as required. For example, if the weather is mild, a weather compensator will turn the boiler thermostat down. When it gets colder, it will turn the thermostat back up to ensure your home is warm enough.
If you have a regular boiler with a hot water cylinder (rather than a combi boiler), you can connect your programmer, room thermostat and cylinder thermostat to create a boiler interlock. An interlock will switch off your boiler when the heating and hot water thermostats reach their set temperatures.
Heat pump controls
As with any heating system, it’s important to use your controls effectively to make sure you’re getting the most out of your heat pump.
Depending on the controls you have, and the level of heating and hot water you need, there are different ways to do this.
Setting the system controls can sometimes be confusing, but Energy Saving Trust has a handy guide on how to use your heat pump controls efficiently.