There are a few energy saving tips that aren’t really useful or true. In this section are the key questions we get asked, with their answers below.
Should I leave the heating on low all day even when I’m out, or turn it up only when I need it?
According to leading energy experts at the UK Energy Saving Trust, as well as British Gas, the idea that it’s cheaper to leave the heating on low all day is a myth. They’re clear that you’ll save energy, and therefore money, by only having the heating on when it’s required. (Using a timer’s best, because your thermostat is designed to turn your heating on and off to keep your home at the temperature you set it).
The key thing to understand here is that it’s all about the total amount of energy required to heat your home.
It’s a given that a certain amount of energy is constantly leaking out of your home (though exactly how much will depend on how good your insulation is). So if you’re keeping the heating on all day you’re losing energy all day, it’s better to heat your home only when you need it, even if that means whacking the temperature up high.
However it is worth being aware that while the most commonly cited argument for leaving the heating on (that it’s cheaper than heating the home up from cold) is a myth, there are a few specialists who argue you should keep the heating on constantly for a different reason.
They advocate keeping the heating on low all day, turning all radiator valves up to the max and the boiler down to the minimum, and say that the problem with turning the heating on and off is that every time it’s turned off, condensation collects within the walls. This condensation can help conduct heat outside the home, they say meaning you leak heat more quickly and so will use more energy as a result.
Should I keep the hot water boiler on all the time, or turn it on and off as needed?
If you have a gas, oil or LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) central heating system, it will always be cheaper to time the system so the hot water comes on only when required.
Is it cheaper to use radiators or electric heaters?
Electric heaters are one of the most expensive forms of heating. Generally, the cheapest way is using an efficient gas central heating system, with a full set of thermostatic radiator valves, a room thermostat and a timer.
Do phone or laptop chargers still use electricity when they’re plugged in, but not connected to the device?
Try to unplug chargers when not in use. A lot of devices draw power when plugged in and not in use. This is sometimes known as “vampire power”. Using this standby power can be easily avoided by switching devices off at the wall.
British Gas says on its website that leaving chargers in a socket uses energy (if the charger is warm, it’s using energy). It says that some chargers (including those from Apple) turn themselves off when not connected to a device. It adds that, generally, branded chargers are more efficient than non-branded ones.
Should I run appliances at night?
If you’re on an a special tariff from your energy provider you’ll probably pay less during the night, if you don’t have a time specific tariff that’s cheaper it doesn’t make a difference.
Should I set thermostats on individual radiators, rather than using the main thermostat to control all of them?
It’s best to have as many controls as possible, so you’re in charge of the way you want your home to be heated. A room thermostat saves, on average, about 10% a year.
Would painting my radiators black or putting reflective panels behind them help?
Where painting your radiators black is concerned, the answer’s no. It’s best to keep them the standard white, although the difference is not huge. It’s more important to insulate your walls to prevent the heat leaking out of your home altogether.
What’s the difference between controlling the heating using the thermostat or radiator valves?
There’s little difference in terms of energy efficiency, but what can change is how quickly the room is heated up.
The thermostat controls the room temperature, so once it hits the temperature you set on the thermostat, the radiators will go off, until the room temperature drops again.
Turning your radiators up and down using thermostatic radiator valves on the side of them affects how quickly the room heats up. If you have them on high, your radiators will emit lots of heat quickly until the set temperature is met and vice versa.
Should I have the gas fire on in the living room, or all the radiators in the house?
Here is no one answer for this. It’s highly dependent on the heating system you use, and the usage in other areas of the house.
If my heating is on, should I keep doors open or closed for each room?
It’s better to keep doors closed for the area you want heated. Radiators, electric panel heaters and convection heaters all work by creating a convection current in a room. As hot air rises, it circles around to the other side of the room, cools and sinks and travels back along the floor to the heater to be reheated again.
Should I leave lights and appliances on, or turn them on and off each time?
Turn them off when you don’t need them. Also avoid leaving TVs and other devices on standby.
MSE forum feedback: While turning devices off completely saves energy, the difference can be negligible. So don’t bank on this solving all your energy woes.
Should I use a tumble dryer or place washing on an airer with heating on?
An airer is better because tumble dryers use a lot of energy.
Try timing it so you put your washing out on a clothes horse during the hours your heating comes on. Normally, that way you wouldn’t use any more energy.
Are halogen heaters cheaper than other portable heaters and central heating?
This depends what you’re after. Halogen heaters are directional. Once on, you instantly feel the heat. As soon as you turn them off, the heat quickly dissipates. Convection heaters, electric panel heaters or free-standing electric radiators work by heating the air around them to create a convection current. They take some time to heat a room, but once turned off the heat lingers.
Should I use an immersion heater to heat water, or oil-fired central heating?
Generally, using oil for hot water is cheaper, due to the higher average cost of electricity. However, if you’re able to use a lower rate electricity tariff at the right time, it can work out more cost-effective. This is also dependent on the efficiency of your central heating system.
Is a combi boiler cheaper to run?
The cost is largely dependent on its efficiency. An A-rated combi condensing boiler will cost less to heat the same amount of water as an older, less efficient non-condensing boiler. But combi boilers can be less efficient at heating hot water than other boilers.