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Is it too early to put the heating on?

The boiler standoff has begun - but how much is it going to cost you?

Is it too early to put the heating on?

It's happened. 

You woke up, bleary-eyed and exhausted, extended an unsocked foot out from under the protective cocoon of your covers and realised it's happened.

It got properly cold.

You probably swore, retrieving your exposed limb with weary haste. After spending four to six minutes convincing yourself everything was going to be okay, you eventually summoned the courage to emerge from your sheets and shuffle toward the bathroom. The next part took an inconceivable amount of human courage - an act of valour that Z-list celebs usually hand over awards for on Pride of Britain. You got naked - fully naked - and showered in water barely warmer than your internal body temperature. 

By the time you got downstairs for breakfast, you were ready to commit an act of murder. Your housemates were already munching their way through bowls of tepid cereal, both wearing equally venomous expressions. You glanced in the direction of the boiler, then back to the housemates.

"Bit cold this morning, isn't it?"


But the bastards didn't take the bait. They didn't even meet your gaze. You went up to the boiler, tapped the thermostat and made that most British of "Hmph" noises - the vocal equivalent of an eye-roll. 

"It's fucking cold guys, can we put the heating on," is what you wanted to say. "It's October. October is known for Halloween, spiced pumpkin lattes and being fucking cold. Let's put the heating on and embrace the civilised world in which we live. Heck, we'll buy cheap bog roll and own-brand soap if we're worried about the bills."

There's an icy silence as this challenge is thrown into the domestic arena. Battle lines are drawn. Arguments are armed. Here's how it'll play out, and how you should respond.

Won't it save us money if we leave the heating off a few more weeks?

Yep. It will. In October 2015 regulator Ofgem announced that the average UK household bill will be £1,345 a year on gas and electricity bills. That's loads of money, yeah? Like £112 per month.

The most blunt response is inevitably uttered by one of your household: "Just leave the heating off and stick another jumper on - it'll save us more than £112 because we only turn the heating on in the winter, so we're quids in."

There's no response to this. It's (quite literally) cold, hard logic. But whoever is issuing that argument can be appeased with some half-way measures (is it you? Stop being a dick and listen).

  • Turn the thermostat down by just one degree. You'll hardly notice the difference, but the Energy Saving Trust suggests a shift from 22 degrees to 21 degrees can save you between £85 and £90 on heating your house a year. That's like a month's food shopping, right? Or two rounds in central London.
  • Learn how your thermostat works. Obvious, really, but loads of people don't engage their brain when setting it up. There's no point heating the house if no one is there to bask in its warmth; set your thermostat to only come on in the hours you're waking up and moving about, and then shutting off until you get home. By adjusting your heating and hot water systems to a more efficient time table - rather than "on all the time", the Energy Saving Trust recons you could save up to £150 a year
  • Leaving your heating off during cold months might actually do more damage than you're aware of: a cold house is more likely to accumulate damp air, resulting in mould crawling up your walls and into your cupboard. It's better to use your mains heating to keep your home dry and free from damp.

Shouldn't we put the boiler on a high temperature, but only for an hour?

Not going to do anyone any good with that attitude buddy. 

The vast majority of boilers only work at one constant speed: setting it to 30 degrees for an hour isn't going to heat the house to 30 degrees within that hour, your boiler is just going to maintain it's constant working pace until the thermostat registers that the house has reached that temperature.

"In fact, you’re likely to find that later in the evening you’ll be sweltering – and wasting a lot of money – as your boiler doesn't stop when the room is comfortable," explains the Centre for Sustainable Energy. "Set the thermostat to a sensible room temperature, between 18-21C, and then leave it alone."

Just use a portable heater

Don't. Just don't.

Just ask the Centre for Sustainable Energy. They'll tell you that using a portable heater over and above your heating system is likely to cost you more money than using your central heating. 

"Ideally, room heaters should only be used as a secondary or supplementary source of heat," they explain. "Even then, you should use the right heater for the space you want to heat, and carefully control the temperature and the time you have the heater on."

If you're using the heating and still need some more heat, consider using a convector heater to heat a whole room for a few hours, or a radiant or fanheater for a quick blast maybe first thing in the morning. 

Just wear more layers to bed

So you're the "cold one" in the house, the one who's moans about being "built for warmer climbs". 

If you're never going to bend the will of the house to your way of thinking, these quick fixes could help you get through some of the bleaker nights ahead.

  • Buy some thicker curtains, or curtain backers, to help keep the heat in your room. While proper wall and loft insulation is the best way to go, you may struggle to get your landlord's approval, at which point this sort of thing is the next best thing. 
  • Never underestimate the value of a hot water bottle. Boiling one kettle uses less energy than keeping a portable heater or electric blanket on all night, and when you've actually fallen asleep your body does a pretty great job of regulating its own temperature, so it won't matter if it gradually cools down. 

It's just your room. Buy some draft excluders and seal up the window

Well yeah, those aren't bad ideas - but if you really want to stop heat leaking out and save some money, it's actually more cost effective to insulate your walls than it is getting to work on your windows.

Again, those heads at the Centre for Sustainable Energy will back you up, stating that of all the heat you lose from your house, 35 per cent of it bleeds out through your walls, with a further 25 per cent lost through your ceiling. Only about 10 per cent seeps through the windows

If the argument comes round to getting your landlord involved, get them to consider insulating the walls and loft, then getting double glazing.

Fingers crossed the "It'll save you more money in the long run" works out, eh? 

[Via: CSE,]

(Image: iStock)