/ Home & Energy

It’s madness to crank the heating up high in winter

Turning thermostat up

‘It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes’… these may just seem like silly song lyrics. But research shows they aptly describe many people who are cranking up their thermostats to tropical temperatures up to 27°C.

With energy companies announcing price hikes all winter, I assumed that most people would have been far more frugal with their heating temperatures this year.

But apparently, I’m wrong. Energy company E.ON has questioned 2,000 people on how hot their houses are – and the results are rather surprising. Not only have people been cranking the heating up this winter, some are basking in temperatures as high as 27°C.

Those in the 25- to 34-year-old category were four times more likely than their parents’ generation to like it this hot, and a quarter of Scots admitted to keeping their living rooms at 23°C or hotter.

Unnatural temperatures are good for nothing

Putting cost aside for just a second, are these temperatures really comfortable? Not according to the 2% who admitted to lounging around in nothing but their underwear!

We seem to have a national obsession with artificially changing room temperatures to the exact opposite of the great outdoors. Surely sitting in rooms that are stiflingly hot in winter and arctic in summer is neither good for our health or our environment?

And least of all is it good for our wallets. I’m glad some people can still afford to overheat their homes, because I certainly can’t, which is why this winter has been all about a low thermostat, good insulation and a well-stocked fire in my house.

Mind you, as I write this I’m working from home in a chilly house, which is slowly heating up having just turned the thermostat up a few degrees. Even I draw the line at working all day with frozen hands.

The thermo-spat

And it usually falls to me to point out when the house has turned unbearably cold, often to audible tuts from the other half. But we’re not alone – 23% of men admitted to bickering with their partners’ demands to turn the thermostat up, aptly dubbed the ‘thermo-spat’.

So is any of this ringing true with you, or is the research as barmy as it appears? Have you been known to bask in tropical temperatures mid-winter or would you rather put some logs on the fire and an extra jumper on your back?

Pickle says:
10 March 2011

I’ve seen this happen – people living in an overheated house and wearing few clothes. It is MAD! Apart from wasting fuel it is unhealthy. We live in a temperate climate zone – not tropiical – so lets behave accordingly.
I am an oldie and lived for many years in a house heated only by a fire in one room, (The exception was to have an electric fire in the bedroom if you were sick.) and a coke boiler in the breakfast room. I’m not suggesting we live this way now since insulation and better heating devices enable temperatures to be maintained at reasonable levels.
Ideally we should live in a temperature of around 20deg C, but that could be in one room where we are working/living and drop it to 18 deg in the reast of the house. After all there is some stuff called wool which is a very effective portable insulation!!

Gazza the Jazzer says:
19 January 2013

Whoa there! Whatever temperature people feel comfortable with is certainly no concern of anyone else, we’re all different! I’m a heating engineer, I have each room in my house wirelessly thermostatically controlled and time programmed, 18 deg in communal areas, 20 deg in bedrooms, 24 deg in bathrooms and 23 in living rooms, where I stroll about in my boxer shorts and t-shirt! I do go into some gaffs where the heating is maxed out at 27-28 deg because the owner / tenant hasn’t a clue when it comes to thermostats though – I spoke to one customer a few months ago and managed to cut her fuel bills by 75%! If you feel comfortable wrapping up in layers of clothes in your own house to keep warm well that’s just fine. Me, I like to come in from work, get showered, put some shorts on and enjoy the warmth of my house, with the 98% efficient system that I installed, and with the bills and taxes that I pay towards the running of it all. It is, 2013 after all!

Those are the temperatures that run in our home Gazzer, what heating! you dont notice differing temperatures, its really comfortable living.
We have an intelligent heating control retro fitted, which saves 25% on bills. central heat costs just gone up to £336 april 2013 and its on all day, in a bungalow.
If its frosty outside it thinks for itself, using data continually being taken and provides exactly the right amount of heat

Emily says:
10 March 2011

Ah, this is a particular bugbear of mine. I can’t stand an overheated house in winter – a view unfortuntely not shared by my flatmates, who like to have the heating on max all the time (and one of whom also has an extra electric heater in his bedroom).
Me, I don’t have the heating on at all in my bedroom, and try and turn the heating down in the rest of the house to much closer to this minimum whenever I notice it’s been turned up.
Feeling cold? Put on a jumper!
Heating your house to anything over 20ºC is a waste – I lived in Canda for a while, and we kept the thermostat at 19ºC throughout the winter, and temperatures outside there were down to -35ºC, so I don’t think ‘cold spells’ are any excuse.
Oh, and I should add that I’m Australian, so if anyone in my house should be feeling the cold, it’s me (the rest of them are all from far colder European countries).

I thoroughly agree with Emily and Pickle above. Heating your house to tropical temperatures is horribly wasteful, and it is something that drives me up the wall. Not only does it waste money, it’s also bad for the environment, and it makes me feel horrible – sweaty and tired and headachey.

I once had a rather fiesty row with a flatmate who had opened the windows to cool down while the heating was turned up to 30. When I asked her why she didn’t just turn the heating off, she said “because all of our bills are included in the rent.” Words absolutely fail me.

Jay says:
10 March 2011

Have you heard about the Carbon Fast, it’s 40 simple actions over lent to help lower your carbon footprint. Today’s action was turn the thermostat down to 17degrees…


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.

In my own home the central heating (which is 31 years old including the boiler and has never broken down once) has ALWAYS been set to 15 degrees C in the hall and the house is NEVER “freezing”. Granted that even I had to nudge it up a notch this winter – to about 17 degrees – but I don’t lounge about in my pants in mid-December nor do I sit in a beanie hat, scarf and silly thick joggers in mid-summer.

This is no doubt why my gas bills, even with such an old system (though actually I think and my plumber says that it’s more efficient than many new ones), come in at around half of my neighbours bill with their 2 year old (and already 5th time broken down) new boiler in a house that I can barely breathe in …. but they do wander round in pants, vest, night clothes and flimsy summer dresses all year round.

Perhaps (stupid) fashions are at least partly to blame for the situation?

Dave. I don’t think your plumber is right that a gas boiler over 30 years old is more efficient than modern boilers. Old boilers can be a lot more reliable than newer models. Mine is a similar age and I have replaced two thermocouples at a total cost of £10. Like you, I keep the house cooler than most people.

Some people do feel cold more than others, especially the old and those who are ill. That’s why care homes and hospitals are kept warm.

Many couples spend time arguing over room temperature. One solution is to make use of local sources of heat and the one who feels cold should sit nearer the gas fire or radiator.

Absolutely Wavechange: use a room heater when the weather is not drastically cold outside and / or locate your self nearer the heat …..or wear decent clothes!

You’re right about the plumber and the boiler: I keep saying “efficient” to him and he keeps reminding me that the right word is “Economical” – as he regularly points out to me, new boilers guzzle gas at quadruple, or more, the rate of old boilers, but they do turn more of what they burn into heat in the heating system than older ones.

It’s a concept I find very hard to get my head around because like most people I equate more “efficient” with more “economical” but it isn’t always the case ….. as I found out with an EST recommended washer that guzzled huge amount of of electricity compared to my 26 year old one.

Thanks. I’d better keep my 30 year old washer too. It’s so old that it rinses clothes properly.

Fat Sam, Glos says:
14 March 2011

Every year, since I bought my house 12 years ago, I’ve heeded the advice issued by the eco-mentalists to reduce the temperature on the thermostat by a degree.

It’s now down to 9ºC. Please can I stop now – it’s f*****g freezing in here now!

We have not heard from Fat Sam for a very long time. I assume he is doing a study in human cryopreservation. 🙂

Gazza, I’m with you on this. Heat your house in a way that lets you feel comfortable. To satisfy your purse, and placate the environmentalists, make all the energy-saving measures that are cost-effective. If you want to lower the temperature and wrap up in warm clothing, that’s equally fine. Life is too short (and unpredictable) to be uncomfortable, providing you have the means.

Gazza The Jazzer says:
22 January 2013

Yeah mate – I bet these eco-mentalists don’t shower / bathe in cold water hehe. Exactly my sentiments regarding life is too short… If you’re in work, can afford it, why shouldn’t you heat your own house to whatever temp you like?

FS is probably sleeping outside now where it’s warmer but lacks internet.

Mavis says:
19 February 2013

Because of all the advertising telling us that a new boiler would be more efficient and cheaper to run, in October I changed from a 31 year old gas boiler and warm air heating to a new boiler and radiators. Since then my heating bill has quadrupled and I’ve now got to the stage where I huddle round a halogen electric heater as I can’t afford to run the new central heating. I was assured by the British Gas salesman that “it would be much cheaper to run”. I think I’ve been had.

Mavis – this just doesn’t make sense! Have you checked your actual gas usage from your meter – sure it’s not just a change to your direct debit for example? Suggest you have another heating engineer look at your sytem to see what’s wrong.

Mavis says:
21 February 2013

Thank you for your comment Malcolm. The reason I know exactly how much my Gas Bill is – is because when British Gas installed the new boiler and rads they also fitted a new meter and ‘gave’ me a smart monitor which I can check on minute by minute if I wish and I must admit I have become obsessed! Since my initial comment I have contacted British Gas to look into my problem so hope they won’t take too long. One of the reasons I think the cost is really high is because when the heating comes on in the morning (set for 2 hours to 20 deg) most often the temperature hasn’t even reached 20 in that time and ofcourse the same situation in the evening. I didn’t have this problem before having the new boiler etc. Also I’ve got decent loft insulation, cavity wall and double glazing. So around £120 per month just for the gas in a 2 bedroom semi and for 1 person surely cannot be right.

Mavis – no, it doesn’t seem right. I’m not surprised you’ve become obsessed! Look forward to hearing what British Gas say, but it might also be worth asking an independent heating engineer as well.
I check my meters every month and have a spreadsheet to check actual against predicted use and cost. Bit sad but it keeps me off the street!