/ Home & Energy

Come on, own up – have you still got your heating on?

Radiator and thermostat against blue sky

The last week or so has been scorching. But while many people are removing clothes and turning up air conditioning in offices, why do some still have their central heating turned on at home?

Research released by British Gas this week shows that a stunning 8 million people haven’t changed their heating settings since January this year.

With talk of a hosepipe ban and invites to barbecues flying into my email inbox, I can’t believe that these people aren’t overheating as they sit next to the radiators in April, with the thermostat turned up high.

How hot is your house?

When we discussed heating back in January I thought I was seeing things. E.ON research told us that some people were cranking their thermostat up as high as 27 degrees!

Most commenters were shocked as well. Pickle said, ‘apart from wasting fuel it is unhealthy. We live in a temperate climate zone – not tropical – so lets behave accordingly.’

Dave D pointed out that the opposite problem often happens in the summer:

‘I am speechless on a regular basis when people I work with complain that they are “frozen” when the room temperature in the offices and classrooms is around 23 or 24 degrees C. I am equally lost for words when people moan in summer that they are “boiling” if the air con isn’t on and the temperature is above about 21.’

Are you hot under the collar?

As a keen energy-saver, this came as a devastating surprise – surely no one needs to burn fuel just to maintain tropical temperatures in their home? The combination of high temperatures and failing to adjust as the evenings get warmer means that many are, almost literally, burning money.

But the new research from British Gas implies that it is not a deliberate choice, like having the heating up so high in the winter. It seems that with automatic timers, many people simply forget to change their settings when spring rolls round.

British Gas is launching an ‘Energy Spring Clean’ initiative to encourage people to make spring changes to reduce their energy bill. But should we really need reminding? Are these 8 million people really cold, or is it just a case of forgetting?


Speaking very personally the intro to this just sums up exactly why I think so many people have exorbitant fuel bills, including the likes of my neighbours who’s boiler flue was pumping out plumes of vapour at gone 9 this morning even though no one was at home, whilst I manage to run a 31 year old boiler and have lower bills than most people I know.

Wear a jumper in winter and open a window in summer.


I am aware, of course, that a number of people with illnesses or disabilities, and of advanced years, do need to be far warmer than I usually keep my home, but most people with the heating still on are either lazy or have become accustomed to Bondai Beach temperatures all year round and have forgotten what clothes are for.

Sorry – I sound really bitchy there don’t I, but honestly I do believe what I am saying is correct and looking at the intro and the research from E.ON and BG it seems like there is some evidence to back up my comments.

To answer Hannah’s last question though, I don’t think it’s that most people are cold or that they forget: I think it is that they have become far too used to having unhealthily high ambient temperatures and whilst ever they can afford the fuel they will continue to be profligate.

There could be a few people too who rent property and for whom the heating is included in the rent: I do know of people in that position who have the heating on 24 / 7 / 365 on the grounds that they have paid for it so they’re going to use it. A very selfish and stupid attitude if you ask me.

You must be joking – on my pension I can’t afford to “keep it on” at all – The most I use it for is heating the water for washing and bathing for an hour in the morning and an hour at night. The central heating is off at over 54 degrees.

I now keep warm using sweaters and blankets – but the worst of it is I removed most chimney breasts years ago – so I can’t even use illegal fires now.

Going off at a slight tangent, Richard why would the fires be illegal? All around me I see people with log burners or coal fires or something as their chimneys are pothering smoke like there’s no tomorrow. Why are fires illegal?

I know about the clean air act of course – came in the year I was born and Grandma was unable to make the smokeless briquettes burn properly the rest of her life – that what you are referring to?

Sorry for the digression; I’m just curious.

Dave – Yes I live in the London smokeless zone so the only fuel I can burn is the smokeless briquette – but it doesn’t burn very well at all in my 1802 only fireplace – Here a chimney belching smoke would rapidly invite council visitors and hefty fines (a family down the street were fined two years ago).So in reality I can’t use it – except as a room focus.

Jenny says:
22 April 2011

It’s not even summer yet, are we not jumping the gun a bit? I still have my heating on in the evenings as my humble flat does not contain heat very well. It’s like walking into an ice-box after spending a few hours outside! Last summer I had my heating off for prob 3 months & I’ll probably do the same this summer, just not now. The sun’s simply not warm enough yet, give it a chance yeah?

Jenny – each person must do what is right for them (provided they can afford to), but in most of the UK the temperatures for the last week or so has been much higher than seasonal average and certainly here in Sheffield it’s been hotter than most mid-summer days. It would be very uncomfortable to have the heating on even late at night round here.

I’m not sure how helpful it is to point out at this stage that the PUblic Heating Seasons (which frankly I think should never have been abolished) meant heating in public buildings would have be switched off next weekend until October 31st, regardless of the weather and ambient temperatures.

One thing is for sure though: no matter how warm the sun makes any individual’s home, it’s getting my water up to more than 70 degrees in the cylinder from the solar panels, so my boiler and heating has been off altogether for over a week.

Jenny says:
23 April 2011

Well, that’s the thing, it is very hot for a few days & then it cools down a bit. Normal April weather for me except it’s slightly hotter when the sun’s out. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for my house to need a a bit of consistently hot weather (as in the summer) to warm up? It can still be quite cool when the sun’s not out. Also, I don’t have money to burn (no pun), I cannot afford to have my heating on willy nilly (neither do I).

All I’m saying, I think the preaching’s a bit premature atm.

Phil says:
22 April 2011

As a rule a man’s a fool
When it’s hot he wants it cool
When it’s cool he wants it hot
Always wanting what it’s not

David W says:
23 April 2011

So what one really needs is a device which compares the ambient temperature with a pre-set ideal and switches on the heating if (and only if) it’s needed, summer or winter. Because if it’s cold it’s cold, whether it’s August or December. And – hey – you might even design something that lets you set different temperatures for different period of the day! Wonder why no-one’s thought of that? I’ve even got a name – an electronic room stat. But that would stop people having silly debates about the right month to turn the heating off, wouldn’t it!

Superb point well made David! If only more people fitted exactly these devices (and they are not expensive nor hard to fit) and, crucially, once fitted used it properly, rather than manually cranking it up higher and then leaving it there.

Maybe Which? can persuade the government to run a campaign to get everyone to fit one of these (very cheap) BEFORE they go on and on at us about things like insulation, modern boilers, etc.,etc. all of which cost more, are more disruptive to fit and rarely achieve the savings suggested in the PR hype.

[Please do not use more than one username/account to post on Which? Conversation. Thanks, mods.]

Sorry, new to this, I don’t know how to change it.
I just stumbled on your web site looking for a product that my solar installer was phoning me about, and spent quite some time reading all the letters, brilliant, I have learned a lot and need to work on some things.

Ross Anderson says:
13 July 2020

At last – somebody is talking sense. Our central heating THERMOSTAT in the hall is set to 22 degrees all year round. Amazingly, when there is a bit of sun & the house temperature gets to 22 or above the central heating goes off. Even more amazingly, when the temperature drops to 22 or below, the heating goes on!!!! Has anybody else got one of these amazingly gadgets?

Yes, Ross – That’s how it works in our house. It’s a good system. We use all the rooms and leave all the internal doors open so it’s comfortable everywhere.

pickle says:
24 April 2011

A lot depends on what sort of house/flat you have got
My heating (Night store) is generally off – but there are two rooms with it on – bathroom which faces North and where one strips to the skin and where the heating is on at its lowest setting.
And a dining room which is naturally cold and also faces North and which needs a bit of heat. This too has heating on lowest setting.
I think this is reasonable – don’t you?

YouKnowWho says:
26 April 2011

We’re in a 1990’s detached 3bed house. with the CH rarely above 19C.
It’s much more comfortable to wear a jumper – or two if it’s extra chilly – than to have the heating cranked up high.
Heating & Hot water all fully automated using heating programmer, programmable roomstat and TRV’s. Easy, and saves £££££££ too.

Fiona Mac says:
26 April 2011

I have only just turned my heating off – having previously had it on but with the thermostat set at 16C – isn’t that what they’re for – to turn it on only when the house falls below a certain temperature? We face east/west so never get boiling sun streaming in – for which I’m more than often quite grateful as our houses are not designed to cope with warm weather.

As two comments have already touched upon – the PR hype about boilers, is a far bigger issue.
British gas, the company doing the research on this piece, are the same company who advocate that replacing an old G rated boiler with an “Energy efficient boiler” will save people money.

This is at the same time as British gas’ own billing staff catagorically state that a new boiler will use the same amount of gas as an old G rated boiler!

The difference is that with an old G rated boiler, there are essentially only 3 working parts to it, that rarely break down (One broken part in over 20 years using a back boiler here!)
With a new energy efficient boiler there are many extra costs to the household.
Service contracts at a minimum of £7 per month (that exclude some repairs and have a £50 excess per repair) – the new boilers also use more water – not to mention the average installation of a new boiler cost, average of £2500 (energy saving trust figures)
A new boiler’s average lifespan is deemed to be around 12 years (energy saving trust) and “could” save a household “up to” £250 per year… it all adds up to a nice little earner for the energy companies and those that run boiler service contracts.

As per usual, what’s being done to protect the consumer? Nothing!

Steve in Essex says:
27 April 2011

Well we haven’t turned ours off yet, but then it hasn’t been warming the radiators many nights due to the wall stat, but most mornings it does kick in at first. Probably because when I went out early on Saturday (06:00) according to my car the temperature was only 6C which in my book is not warm.

When will we turn it off? When it feels comfortable to do so and it appears that it will stay that way for over a week.

Curtis says:
23 May 2011

I also used commercial plumbers london, very handy and they are registerd.

st says:
26 July 2012

I must be the only man like it, i have mine on 25c in the winter months and often when i have the house to myself will have it on even in the summer, only man like it i think

You are not the only man. I have mine set at max (35c) all year round. It’s the only way the heating will stay on all day. I don’t want it to switch itself off when it gets to a certain temperature (what’s the point in that – it will cool down!). I want to feel nice and warm all the time, so I leave it on full in summer. Anyway, 35c is a lovely warm temperature for me. The heating does sometimes turn itself off in summer when the room gets above 35, but in order to keep warm, I put the fire on and the room temperature has been known to get up to about 55c – and it is lovely and warm!!

steve says:
26 July 2012

I love heat, always have done

miss roberts says:
18 August 2015

never been able to set central heating thermostates to lower temperatures its almost like they are preset and i dont know how to overcome this. any ideas?