A typical UK household spends more than half of its fuel bills on heating and hot water. As fuel costs rise, having a cost effective heating system is vital. It’s one of the main steps you can take to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions.
The first step to saving energy from heating is to understand your current system. Nearly all homes in the UK have either a central heating system – a boiler and radiators – or they use electric storage heaters.
The most common form of heating in the UK is a single boiler that heats up water, pumps it through pipes to the radiators throughout the house as well as providing hot water to the kitchen and bathroom taps.
Most boilers run on mains gas, but in areas where mains gas is not available, the boiler can run on oil, LPG (tank gas), coal or wood. Mains gas is usually the cheapest of these fuels, and it also has the lowest carbon dioxide emissions apart from wood. Some boilers also have an electric immersion heater as a back-up.
Gas, oil and LPG boilers may be combination (combi) boilers, in which case they heat the hot water as it is needed and don’t need to store it. Otherwise, the boiler heats up water and it is stored in a hot water cylinder that then feeds the taps.
If you have a system like this, you have plenty of options for energy-saving improvements:
- Replace your boiler with a newer, more efficient model.
- Fit better controls for your space and water heating – and use them to make sure your boiler only provides heat where and when you want it.
- Switch to a cheaper or lower carbon fuel or technology. Find out about renewable technologies for generating electricity and heat.
- Make any insulation and draught-proofing improvements that you can.
How much can you save?
Whatever the age of your boiler, the right controls will let you set your heating and hot water to come on and off when you need them, heat just the areas of your home you want, and decide how warm you want each area to be.
Average savings you can make in a typical three-bedroom semi-detached home, heated by gas:
- Installing and correctly using a room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves could save £80 – £165* and 330kg – 680kg carbon dioxide a year.
- Fit a hot water tank insulation jacket to save £25 – £35* and 110kg – 140kg carbon dioxide a year.
You can also make savings by using your controls more effectively:
- Turn down your room thermostat by one degree to save about £85 – £90* and 310kg – 360kg carbon dioxide a year.
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 over 12 years old. Room thermostats, for example, are much more accurate than they used to be.
*Provided by Energy Saving Trust: Based on a gas-heated semi-detached house.