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4 Feb 2022

Six ways to keep your heating costs down

Our top tips to make sure your heating system is in top form, and your energy bills are as low as possible.

Managing energy costs is tricky right now - to say the least - and it's just not possible to make big bill savings. But taking care of how you use your heating, and keeping your boiler and heating system in good working order, may help reduce the sting of higher energy costs.

With the energy price cap rising by 54%, 22 million people will be waking up to a higher energy bill come 1 April.

In normal times, we'd recommend switching to a cheaper energy deal. But these aren't normal times, and decent energy deals are in short supply. So we're all looking for ways to reduce our energy use and get our bills as low as possible.

Heating makes up a big proportion of most homes' energy bills. So we've got six tips to help ensure your heating system is working as efficiently as possible to keep energy use and costs to a minimum.


Being better with your boiler is just one way to keep costs down; read our fuller round-up of money-saving tips on anything from food shopping to broadband.


1. Adjust your thermostat down - especially on milder days

The NHS recommends you heat your home to at least 18 degrees, and not below 16 degrees for elderly people and those with impaired mobility.

But with the average UK thermostat set to 20°C, there is head room to reduce your thermostat's set temperature, and reduce your energy use, especially if you've had it set a bit higher over the last couple of months.

Some February days can still be pretty nippy, but on milder days nudging your thermostat down will reduce your energy use.

The Energy Saving Trust says that every degree you increase your temperature by could up your heating bill by 10%. So turning it down just by one degree could make for some significant savings.

Try turning your boiler down a degree at a time and reassessing, rather than dropping the temperature dramatically all at once, to avoid making your home uncomfortably cold.

2. Check your system's pressure

Low boiler pressure can cause your radiators to not warm up efficiently, leading to inefficient heating and higher bills.

This check is quick to carry out. Just locate the gauge on the front of your boiler. The indicator should normally be between 1.0 and 2.0 bar (often highlighted green) but check the recommended pressure in the manufacturer's instructions.

If the gauge is below 1.0 bar (often coloured red) then the pressure needs increasing. If your boiler instructions say so, you can do this yourself by using the boiler's filling loop, follow the manuals instructions.

If you're unsure, contact your boiler manufacturer's technical department or a qualified heating engineer. After this, you should find your radiators start heating up quicker.

If you find, however, that the pressure drops again soon after you've increased it, it most likely means there's a leak. In this case you should contact a qualified heating engineer, such as those vetted by Which? Trusted Traders, to diagnose and fix the issue.

3. Make sure your radiators are heating up

The whole body of a radiator should get hot. If it doesn't, then you won't be heating your home efficiently. What that results in is needing to have your heating on for longer, more energy use, and higher heating bills.

Where a radiator is cold, it is often a sign of an underlying issue:

  • Radiator is cold at the top - the radiator likely needs bleeding
  • Radiator is cold at the bottom - there is likely a build up of sludge and the heating system needs cleaning out by an engineer. When they do this they should add a central heating inhibitor - a chemical liquid that protects against sludge build up in the future.
  • A specific radiator is colder, or heating up slower, than others - it is likely that your radiators need to be balanced.

You can bleed radiators yourself, so this is a quick fix that won't cost you anything upfront.

If your system needs cleaning or balancing it is best to call out an engineer to carry this out. While this will cost some money upfront, in most cases, the boiler can then be run at a lower temperature, increasing efficiency and saving you money in the long run.


Read our guide on how to balance and bleed your radiators


4. Make sure the space around radiators is clear

Despite their name, radiators actually work by convection. Cold air surrounding and between gaps in the radiator is heated. This warm air rises up and spreads around the room, and cool air then moves into take its place. This cycle of moving air is called a convection current.

If the radiators are blocked it means air cannot easily be circulated around the room, causing you to have to have the heating on for longer than needed.

You can reduce your heating costs by ensuring each radiator in your home is able to circulate heat properly. For example, moving furniture away, not using radiator cabinets to disguise them, and making sure they're not covered by curtains.

It's a simple tip that may be obvious to some, but can also be a quick-win that's easily overlooked.

5. Get better boiler controls

Woman in orange top adjusting temperature of touch

While many people may already have a thermostat, timer or programmer (or some combination of the three), if they're a bit outdated, then upgrading your technology could give you more control over when heating is on and off, and can dramatically reduce your energy use if you often forget to turn it off!

Room thermostats

A room thermostat measures the temperature of the room that it is placed in, and turns the boiler on and off to maintain its set temperature. It is very useful to make sure you don't overheat your home, and waste energy.

If used with a timer or programmer, a thermostat can also prevent your heating coming on unnecessarily. For example, let's say you've set your thermostat to 19 degrees Celsius, and your timer is set for the heating to come on between 8am and 10am. But it's an unseasonably balmy morning, and the temperature in your home is already 20 degrees.

Without a thermostat the heating would come on for two hours and heat your home when it was already warm enough.

But the thermostat metaphorically tells the boiler 'it is already above 19 degrees, so don't heat the home', leaving your home at a comfortable temperature and avoiding having your heating on for no reason.

Timers

A timer turns your boiler or hot water on or off at set times. For example, you can set it to turn your heating off when you're out at work, and back on for when you get home.

Programmer

Lets you set different times and temperatures for your heating and hot water for different days of the week.

For example, you might want your heating to be hotter and on for longer at the weekend than during the week. A programmer lets you do this. They are typically more complex to set up than a simple thermostat or timer, but give you more versatility in how you control your heating.

Smart heating devices

While a traditional thermostat or timer may be perfectly adequate, if you have a busy and irregular lifestyle you may want to consider a smart thermostat.

These work like their traditional counterparts, but you can control and set them on the go from your smartphone, and offer smart energy-saving features to reduce you energy use even further.

Meanwhile smart radiator valves give you nuanced control over specific radiators - so you can set the radiator in your living room to turn on for when you come home, but the one in your bedroom for later in the evening, for example.

Smart heating devices cost more upfront though, so make sure you'll use the benefits a smart device offers before investing.

Read our smart thermostat reviews and smart radiator valve reviews to get the best.


You can find out more information about using heating controls in our expert guide on boiler controls and thermostats


6. Get your boiler serviced

If you want to keep a new pair of shoes looking their best, you clean them. If the house is too cluttered to move around it efficiently, you tidy it up.

The same principle goes for heating your home, if you want it to perform it's best, the boiler needs to be kept in top working order.

An annual service will ensure your boiler remains within warranty, and your heating system performs efficiently as possible.

A one-off boiler service should cost around £86 on average, according to our Trusted Traders, but having one also helps reduce the odds of a part breaking unexpectedly and lumping you with a large repair cost and potentially no heating.

Our 2021 boiler survey of 8,001 boiler owners found the odds of your boiler breaking in its first six years double when it isn't serviced annually.


Read our advice on getting the best boiler service to find out how much you should be paying


When to call out an engineer

Boilers involve complex parts, gas, hot water and electricity.

While we've outlined some steps you can take yourself to reduce energy use, you should always call out a Gas Safe registered heating engineer for:

  • Any repair inside the boiler - you shouldn't be taking the casing off
  • Anything to do with the gas supply or gas meter itself
  • Changing the valves on a radiator - you can replace the plastic part of a TRV yourself, but anything else should be looked at by a professional
  • Recharging the heating cylinder
  • Anything that involves electricals.

In the event your boiler needs a repair, read our guide on common boiler problems and repair costs to make sure you're not paying over the odds.


If your boiler is old and problem-prone, buying a new one with lower running costs and that's less likely to break could save you money in the long run. Head over to our roundup of Best Buy boilers.


Whose responsibility is it to fix a boiler in a rental property?

When it comes to boilers, it isn't always clear what tenants are responsible for.

It is always best to check your own tenancy agreement, but, in general, tenants are expected to use their boiler and heating in the right way, and report any issues or faults to their landlord.

So make sure the heating is set to an appropriate temperature, check the system pressure and bleed the radiators if needed.

However, your landlord is responsible for:

  • Making sure the boiler is serviced annually
  • Repairs to the boiler and gas pipes

So, if you discover an issue with your boiler that would require calling out an engineer, contact your landlord straight away.

Check out our guide to tenants' rights. Shelter also has more information on landlord and tenant responsibilities for repairs.