/ Home & Energy

Have you been ‘fooled’ into turning the heating on?

Dog using a radiator

I won’t do it. You can’t make me, cold weather! I won’t turn the heating on; not until the end of October. Yet, energy usage apparently surged by 65% last weekend as householders reached for the radiators.

We’re suffering from a so-called ‘faux winter’, with Npower speculating that we’re switching on the central heating because the hot summer has made it feel colder than it really is.

Despite the sudden drop in temperature, this September is apparently only 0.25˚C colder than the same time last year. Yet, according to Npower, gas usage is 15% higher. Npower’s Simon Stacey comments:

‘We’ve had such an amazing summer, but because it’s been so good with hot, sunny weather for months, now that it’s dropped off a little, people think it’s colder than it really is.’

When will you reach for the thermostat?

The ‘big switch on’ is predicted to start at the end of October, and I’m going to try my best to hold out. On Twitter, Celine is going to wait until at least the start of next month:

I’m probably lucky to live in a relatively new well-insulated flat. And I’d be doubly lucky if my neighbours decided to turn the heating on – a tactic used by a Very Happy Bunny:

#HeatingOn or #HeatingOff?

In our quick straw poll on Twitter, 24 of our followers voted for #heatingoff, with 13 voting #heatingon. That’s 65% refraining from cranking up the thermostat, including Ruth:

However, Aibo has had to make the tough decision to turn up the heat:

So are you holding out or turning on? If you haven’t switched the heating on yet, when do you plan to reach for the thermostat?

Have you turned your heating on yet?

Yes, I've turned my #heatingon (71%, 875 Votes)

No, I'm keeping my #heatingoff (29%, 364 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,239

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I never turn it off. That’s the whole point of thermostats. If it warms up again it won’t kick in. If it wants to come on in a cold morning in June it does, and in any case it is said you are supposed to run it once in a while to move the sludge about a bit.

Nick, exactly. If you want to tolerate cool evenings for longer just turn your thermostat down and put on a wooly. Or use a fan heater. Otherwise, let your heating do its job. It was different when I had a solid fuel boiler – judging when to light it up again. But no problem with gas.

19 September 2013

I would prefer to light my solid fuel boiler if I was fortunate to be lucky enough
to have one at least your house would be comfortable and warm ALL DAY.
at not to much cost.
Gas is not a luxury anymore but a necessity to many families but with families to nervous to
use it because off the cost and possible debt which no one wants.
It is a sorry sad state off affairs.

Squirrel, it was dusty, needed filling each night, occasionally went out, and was expensive to run. I appreciate all heating is a substantial part of many peoples budget; at least gas is efficient, and with thermostatic valves on radiators you can minimise the amount of heating. When I was young, we had a coal fire in the living room and a hot water bottle in bed – frost on the insides of the windows in the morning.

I likewise don’t understand all this talk about “turning the heating on”. With most modern heating controls, you simply set the temperature you want and the heating will come on when necessary to achieve that temperature. If you want to suffer indoor temperatures of 16°C, then set your thermostat to 16°C. If you want to have a comfortable temperature of 20°C to 23°C, then set your thermostat to that temperature. Manually overriding the automatic operation of heating systems seems rather pointless. For example, it’s equally daft for the heating to come on when it reaches 20°C in February or for it to remain off when it plummets to 12°C in June. Whether or not the heating comes on should be temperature-dependent and not date-dependent. The latter defies common sense.

I don’t think it is as simple as that. Our thermostat has a low and high setting, eg, low at night, high daytime, or just high breakfast and evening. If it is hot weather I will turn it off completely as I don’t want to waste fuel heating up rooms in the morning when by 9am the sun will have warmed them anyway. At other times, I will set the low temperature all day to stop the night temperature dropping too much. A really intelligent control would predict outside temperature and heat/not heat accordingly but I don’t have such a control, so I do it manually. To set 21 degrees 24/7 defies common sense.

Mike. 21 C makes sense if your thermostat is located in your living room, and your other rooms have thermostatic radiator valves to give some control over temperature in bedrooms, bathroom and so on. With you programmer to time when your heating operates you’ve fairly crude but reasonable control over your heating. Add a programmable thermostat and you can look after night temperatures more effectively.

@Malcolm: I have the thermostatic radiator valves and timer with two temperature settings. However, to get to 21 C in winter when I get up, the heat would need to come on very early and build up. It is wasteful to have the downstairs at 21 C at night with the bedrooms only needing 15 C, say. Now, if I use the timer the same in winter and summer, the heat will come on downstairs at 6am, say, to hit 21 C at 7am, but that is unnecessary in summer as by 7am the sun will have done that for me.

Sophisticated systems monitor outside temperature and adjust the warming cycle accordingly, so if the temperature is high and rising outside then the heat inside will come on later or not at all.

Anyway, I agree that putting the heating on/off is irrelevant these days. It was barely off at all last year (2012) and this year as always it will be on when it’s cold and off when it’s warm.

I agree that it’s not as simple as leaving on the same temperature all year. I tend to turn the temperature down in the summer (to avoid wastage on cool early mornings), and obviously there is still a timer which deactivates everything when nobody is in the house or is asleep.

My main point is that determining whether the heating comes on by date instead of by temperature is plain daft.

Totally agree with that. Try telling institutions that though. Many lectures have I given to students shivering in thick coats!

Malcom R, Yes I remember too those freezing times, also getting dressed under the bed covers, cleaning the grate out and the ecstasy of finding a glowing ember, then trying to coax the fire to light by holding a paper over it to draw the air up from the bottom to get a hot drink. Also the luxury of electric light and central heating which was I think, gravity driven certainly no pump in 1952.
My appreciation of all new technologies holds no bounds, I am still adding to my collection the latest is a single plug in induction hob, wow! a and omelette in a flash.
Our best investment is still an intelligent heating control Klimat K2007 not only does it keep an even temperature all day if extra heat is required then a twenty minute blast or less if you want is available, or you can set lots of chosen temperatures, it also will give the system, if it left in the unoccupied state, will run through every day to keep the sludge from clogging up the works. It reads your usage and uses the information to keep your chosen comfort levels very accurate.

Yes we recently had a quick blast putting the heating on, but it was probably on for half an hour, If you consider Spanish Ladies in temperatures of 20 degrees wrap up in woollen stockings and more due to the sudden change in temperature.

Why is Which is still listing Intelligent Controls and weather compensators as not best practice, as it saves us an enormous amounts of energy at very impressive payback times.

We perceive temperatures differently in summer and winter due to the varying amounts of radiant and convected heat. If you work in a modern building where the temperature is set to a constant 20°C you’ll know that in summer people happily work in shorts and t-shirts; in winter everyone’s got sweaters on and electric fans appear under desks. In summer it’s hotter outside than in, the fabric of the building conducts heat inwards which is then felt by the occupants as radiant heat even when the air conditioning is going full tilt. In winter the reverse is true, the only heat source is convected warm air and if you’re in an area where it doesn’t circulate well and the air is being chilled by those cold walls you’ll soon complain.

Malcom R Sorry but our thermostat is situated in the coldest room the inner hall was chosen, and yes TVR’s are used the bedroom and bathroom ones are set at 3 or less, they reach 19 degrees in winter, and reads hardly ever less than 16 in the early hours with the heating off all night from 10pm. also we can be cooler or warmer in the living room by opening or closing doors ie. the kitchen, At this time of year our Klimat K2007 saves its greatest amount of energy, because of its intelligence, using 4 readings to calculate and give you warmth, the human body notices a 2% difference in temperature our control keeps it between one degree.
Its about time we rethink about only keeping one room warm , it smacks of an outside privvy! do you know how much it costs to warm up a building or the U factor (if that is what its called)

19 September 2013

It is just a disgrace by the energy companies also the coalition government allowing this huge cost of heating to our homes
when wages are not rising and the energy companies making vast
My heart goes out to families with young children to keep warm and well.
What a world we are all in it is so shocking i wonder how much worse
it will all become.?

I usually wait until after the clocks go back before I turn on the heating. We need to dress for winter even when we are indoors. Usually my body is warm enough, even without heating, but I have really cold hands and feet. Athough I wear warm socks on my feet I have not found a solution for my cold hands, especially when reading in bed. Perhaps I should try gloves with the fingertips cut off but they remind me of Steptoe and his grubby looking hands. Any suggestions?

Have you tried putting the book in the oven on a low setting for about an hour before going to bed? [Don’t try this with an e-book!].

John, would I be able to heat my nightly cocoa/complan at the same time as the book? What will I do if the cocoa spills over the book.

glenn cornish says:
19 September 2013

I wouldn’t put the heating on until November, and then only when needed. However my better half feels cold as soon as the temp drops in Autumn. It’s an argument that’s just not worth having, so I turn the heating on for her, we keep one room cool for when I’m too hot, and I spend the winter indoors in shorts and t-shirt.
Am i happy about it – no, but is it better that she’s cold, or I’m too hot? We’re very fortunate that we don’t have to worry about our heating bills.
The trade off is that I have been allowed to replace our bulbs with ultra-low energy LEDs – highly recommended, but buy ones that give a little more light than the existing ones – some of their ratings don’t seem too accurate!

With the wind, rain and temperatures in single figures of course I had the heating on a little last weekend in the evening.
Even with a pullover on sitting and reading in a room at 15C is not comfortable.

I’m not planning on switching the heating on until December, some chance I know. I have within the last few days gone from just wearing shorts to jeans, t short and sweater.

The temperature in the lounge is now down to the 17 degree mark, which doesn’t bother me (yet). I do prefer it cold.

Why not wait another 9 months before turning on in September? Backdate the turn on to last December. You can then turn on now and save a load of money.

I’d rather wait another year and get even bigger savings. If I can wait til December, it probably means Its not been that cold (for me) and its saved wear and tear on the boiler as its currently off.

20 September 2013

I wonder where all the MILD winters have gone nowadays we could relish them coming back.
now with the soaring costs off heating the home.
I personally have survived the winters by not having the heating on at all and I can boast no
colds or flu so it can be done if one is strong enough to stand the winter.

I don’t keep my heating at a constant temperature. I feel warm in the morning and turn it up later in the day when I sit down, especially if I am tired. I don’t like feeling cold, but hate being in an overheated atmosphere far more.

I can understand why elderly people with poor circulation need to keep warm, but I am surprised how warm many middle-aged people keep their houses.

Surly it depends on where you live, the further north you are the colder it will be! The South East of England is always warmer, I live in NI and it is much cooler. I have noticed that Which very rarely includes NI in its research, when Which should cover the whole of the UK, not just the SE of England!

put an extra layer on and keep the colds and flu away?

Bring back petticoats! a couple of silky layers under a real wool jumper if possible (for ladies that is) Cashmere feels good , only the moths have taken up residence here and I am wondering just how much embroidery you can put on a jumper. Were do you get mothballs these days?

My thermostat is my nose if that is cold then action is taken.
My husband on the other hand is in shorts and t shirt for the whole year. Our home has a relatively stable heat winter or summer, it doesn’t change very much and is on the warm side.

Thank you Southern Electric (gas) I think I now understand some of the NEW pricing structure. For half the year we used (mainly used for central heating) 140 units, for the other six months 45 units use much less We were charged an extra £2. per month to cover estimated usage.
From £30. we owed changed to £43.24 in credit, they only collected £10. in extra revenue, and the heating was on longer that last year. we must be doing something right.

Gerard Phelan says:
26 September 2013

Type mothballs into an Internet search engine and be amazed at the numbers of UK responses. Traditional white mothballs containing 1,4-dichlorobenzene or the older inflammable naphthalene are still widely available. See Wilkinsons or a local traditional household goods store or Amazon. Cedar discs and rings are regarded as effective deterrents and available from the same stores as well as from Lakeland and Robert Dyas. The Robert Dyas website lists 14 different moth killers and deterrents, but not mothballs!

Thank you for mothball info brilliant!, Timothy Whites and Woolies where are you.? Will be out shopping soon.
I can look at the information on the web but haven’t mastered buying from it yet.

A couple of people have mentioned switching on the heating to prevent sludge causing problems. Sludge and related problems can be avoided by using a corrosion inhibitor in central heating systems. My system is thirty odd years old and the pump and boiler are still working fine, even if they are not up to modern standards for efficiency.

Wavechange, I am pleased to hear you did not even think of changing your boiler just because it is over 10 years old, as many people think this is the thing that they have to do due to the hype around today.
The old boilers are usually of cast iron and hugely reliable, I agree you don’t have to fix something that isn’t broken. There is always sludge even if you put Fernox or other stuff in. I have just heard from my brother a plumber of yesteryear, that there is a magnetic strainer which supposed to be cleaned out yearly its about the size of a baked bean can apparently, we still don’t know where ours is located on our combie, which is a sealed unit which we fill up only with tap water when it gets to a certain point on the dial, we have valves at the bottom of each radiator to empty it if necessary, but so far have not attempted to do this.
What a Klimat The seriously Intelligent Control will do is bring an old boiler like yours up to modern efficiency and beyond with sophisticated electronics which as far as I am aware far exceeds any other control available on the market today. Which is easily retrofitted. and will be there ready to service a new basic boiler when the old one eventually does need to be changed, why would anyone spend on expensive controls on a new boiler which are thrown away with the boiler after another 15 years.

wavechange, I’m sure your boiler is not as efficient as a modern condensing boiler. So presumably it comes down to replacement cost vs. energy saving – what is the pay back time for you to make an economic choice? So many decisions – cars, house insulation,double glazing, solar panels. wind farms, HS2, come down to whether the initial expenditure can be recouped in a reasonable timescale. How do you factor in climate change for example – should this be a subsidy on your replacement boiler cost (and other such choices)?

I have drained my system occasionally in order to replace radiator valves and taken radiators off for decorating, and there is nothing that could be described as sludge in the system. I have added extra Fernox a couple of times to make sure it is still doing its job.

I am hoping to move next year, so don’t intend to do anything with my system if it carries on working. The boiler is inefficient. It is not a condensing boiler, so a lot of heat goes out of the flue and there is nothing that can be done to improve that. Unlike a modern boiler, there is a large pilot light running continuously because I use my boiler for hot water throughout the year.

Sophisticated electronic controls are expensive at the moment, but hopefully they will come done in price in a couple of years once they become more popular and there is more competition. I’ll look at this option when I’m the owner of a modern boiler, and might catch up with your heating technology.

It’s worth having a look at the state of your magnetic filter and perhaps adding some extra Fernox to the system.


My earlier reply was to Ellen, but I was interrupted. As you can see, I certainly don’t believe my boiler is efficient. I should probably have had it replaced years ago.

For the householder, the payback time is probably the most significant factor. Environmental issues are difficult to judge because there is the impact of manufacture and disposal of goods to consider.

Energy cost is not a major expense for me, despite my old boiler, because I live in a small house and I keep the temperature lower than most people would be happy with, for reasons of comfort rather than economy.

Malcom R/wavechange, it seems you are both of a scientific background,and am reading with interest the views of very successful people.
I am being occupied and stretching my brain a bit whilst being housebound (which I hope will only be for a little bit longer) A computer allows you to research and communicate, something which was unavailable to me before.
Which Magazine has a powerful reputation of being able to give you confidence in purchasing long lasting, energy efficient goods. But realise recently that they too have limitations, and some categories are not being investigated, probably because there are many choices.

The Greening Campaign is high on my interest list and have been to many of their meetings, I even managed to visit the House of Commons with them a couple of years ago, celebrating their achievements. What a dedicated group of people they are, quietly going about changing the way people think and act. Ordinary people are out there, really doing extraordinary things, in small communities and much larger cities.
Find the products that are worthwhile investing.
There are products other than lightbulbs, insulation, solar etc. and continue spreading the word.


One of the biggest problems is knowing who and what to believe. Quite apart from deceit and deliberate misrepresentation, there is a lot of genuine misunderstanding about energy.

We should certainly all be aware of how much energy we are using and minimise waste where possible. I have friends who have installed solar panels in their large houses a couple of years ago. They are certainly not short of money, but through producing some of their own electricity, they have become far more conscious of what they are using, much in the same way that those with water meters tend to be more careful with the amount of water they use.

It’s probably worth investing in a simple plug-in energy meter to find out how much power appliances actually use, particularly anything in regular or continuous use. Mine cost £9.99 and the only thing I cannot use this to test is the electricity consumption of the heating system.