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How are you saving money this winter?

With rising prices and soaring inflation, we’re keen to hear what changes you’re considering to help keep your costs down.

The rising prices of products, record inflation driven by energy prices, supply chain issues, all of which are exacerbated by the continuing pandemic, could easily force consumers to make difficult decisions just to meet their basic needs.

Which? has seen this concern about the cost of living rising significantly throughout the last year. In our polls, 79% of respondents said inflation was a major worry, with 70% saying food prices are also of concern. 

Where are you looking to reduce your spending the most in 2022?
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Money-saving advice from Which?

If you’re looking to reduce what you spend this winter, there’s a wealth of guidance from Which? that can help you. 

💷 Our team has been rounding up ways to save money on your household bills this winter. It’s also worth checking out Ian Aikman’s guide on the best ways to save money, or barring that, 46 ways to make your money work harder for you.

💷 You can save hundreds by haggling on your household bills. Ian has also put together tips on how to haggle to get the best deal.

💷 If you’re looking to save on your weekly shop, Ellie Simmonds has some tips on how to spend less at the supermarket, as well as which supermarkets are the cheapest of the month.

💷 With broadband and mobile network prices set to rise this year, Adam Snook has looked at what this means for the cost of your internet connection and mobile coverage. More advice to come in this area soon.

The Which? Money podcast will also be looking more in depth at the cost of living. 

How are you aiming to save money?

We’re guided by you, and keen to hear your experiences and concerns. Where are you seeing prices going up unexpectedly? Are you making changes you weren’t expecting to make in order to manage the rising costs?  

If you have started making changes, what do you find is making a difference for you? We’re keen to hear more of your tried and tested money-saving tips, so please do share in the comments below. 

And remember, this may be a difficult subject for people to talk about. Let’s be as kind, empathetic, and helpful as we can – we’ll go further together. 

Ian Cartwright says:
10 February 2022

I’m rather ashamed to say this, but I find i am cutting down on my charitable giving – as well as looking a bit more carefully at my periodical subscriptions. I save by not having a television – why pay all that money just to gawp at “Pointless”? -and my phone is “Pay as you go”. I buy lots of books at reduced prices and at charity shops – even borrow them from libraries – and generally go to the big town on the bus after 09.30. I still have plenty of clothes I bought before I retired, and can still get into most of them. I generally use only the small oven or the microwave, and as I am on my own, I have a water meter. I rarely buy “ready meals” from supermarkets, preferring to buy or grow the ingredients and cook them from scratch. I am now feeling rather smug – a feeling that will last until I get my next electricity bill!

I live alone, have a small well insulated house which I heat to about 19C, shop at Lidl which is about the only place I visit in my 44MPG+ car, have unlimited internet at about 10MB/S so I don’t have much scope to cutting-back

Having compared the gas used when running the heating 24/7 compared to timed operation, the results were not as significant as expected.

Due to the age of our property our heating engineer always recommended we operate the heating at a low level 24/7 as maintaining a constant temperature would be better for the fabric of the building and reduce the risk of damp and condensation etc. We live in an old property without a damp proof course or cavity walls. Operating the heating at a low level 24/7 has meant we have not encountered any problems. We don’t have a central thermostat, but all radiators have thermostatic radiator valves which are set to position 1. This keeps the building comfortably warm and the thermostatic radiator valves are not turned down at night.

To determine any cost saving we took gas readings for a 2 week period with the heating operating 24/7 and then for a further 2 week period set the timer for the heating to come on at 5:00am and turn off at 10:00pm and took further readings.

The outcome was a reduction in cost of approximately £5.00 per month with the heating on timed operation, which is less than we expected. That said, I work from home and therefore the heating needs to be on all day, but for anyone who is out all day and does not require the heating to be on, the savings would be significantly greater.

Thanks for reporting your findings, Wingman. By making measurements you have been able to compare the costs. Presumably the walls, etc. are retaining more heat than a modern home with cavity wall insulation and in my case the additional cost would be at least £1 a day. As you say, it makes more difference if the house is unoccupied during the day and the heating turned off.

Hi Wavechange, I guess there are numerous factors that will determine results such as type of property, degree of insulation, cavity walls, construction of building and wall thickness etc and the overall efficiency of the boiler. The potential savings will vary accordingly.

Some heating engineers do suggest that operating the heating at low level 24/7 is more cost effective, but I think this demonstrates this is probably not the case, although it does keep the property comfortably warm all the time. The only difference we noticed was first thing in the morning, when there was more of chill while the boiler worked to bring the building up to temperature.

But it was certainly a worthwhile exercise.

Yes, there are many factors to be considered, but from the point of view of energy use it cannot use less energy to keep heating on continuously. The increased cost needs to be weighed against the benefits.

The type of gas boiler is a factor. Older boilers operate on full power and then switch off. When there is little need for heat the boiler comes on for short periods and this ‘short cycling’ is wasteful. Modern boilers can ‘modulate’ so that rather than the burner switching between off and full power they can adjust the heat output, which is more efficient. Unless a heating engineer has carried out tests, as you have, I would not be convinced by their thoughts.

Unless there are structural faults, dampness and condensation should be controlled by ventilation and heating, if improving insulation is not practical. With the rising price of energy many will risk dampness problems if the cut back on ventilation.

Our boiler is relatively new, so as you indicated will be adjusting the heat output and hopefully operating at maximum efficiency. Seems logical really the less time the boiler is operating, the less energy used and less cost.

Ultimately, unless 24/7 operation is essential for the building, timed operation provides the most economical solution, so it was certainly worthwhile performing the comparison.

Thank you Wingman for taking the time and trouble to carry out this exercise, which will no doubt provide a useful guide for others to adjust their own means of heating, according to their type of property, their life style, and may enable them to save a little on future predicted increasing energy costs.

I hope it proved useful to others Beryl, especially those who have been advised to operate their heating 24/7 and are not home for most of the day as I imagine they will benefit from much greater savings.

We don’t mind the extra home heating costs in the winter months since we cut back on the foreign holidays in the warmer climes at that time of the year. In fact, I think we are making considerable savings.

Em says:
1 March 2022

I explain the wasteful concept of keeping a house at constant temperature to STEM students, by using the analogy of trying to keep a leaky bucket filled with water.

Leaky bucket —> your house

Water —> heat (Calories or Joules)

Water level —> temperature

The more you fill up the bucket, the faster it leaks.

Which option uses less water?

a) Keep the bucket full at all times?

b) Let the bucket empty whilst you are way. Only refill the bucket when you return.

Of course, other analogies can be used:

More insulation —> less leaky bucket.

Doors and windows open —> more holes in bucket.

Not for nothing did the Greeks and others believe in Caloric.

Novel way of explaining the concept Em, I shall retain for future reference.

Kevin says:
1 March 2022

Hi Em
Some online retailers will sell you a zero-g bucket adapter, which will radically reduce your bucket watering requirements using the latest developments in NASA gravitational lensing technology; they have top 5 star reviews too.

I well remember the first and only time a salesman pushed his way into my house to try and sell me an insulation package. The projected savings in gas costs were amazing, amounting to more than I was paying. I happened to have my quarterly bills to hand to show him.

Undaunted he tried a different approach and told me that 60% of the energy I used in heating my home was lost. When I looked concerned he was obviously encouraged. I said that I thought the figure might be a little higher – possibly 100%. After checking his notes he assured me that his figure of 60% was correct. At that point he decided it was time to leave and dropped his notes in a waste basket. I retrieved them and saw that he had written ‘Bad lead’.

If you freeze the water in your bucket, none will be lost. Similarly you can save energy by turning off your boiler completely. But not mine…..I like comfort.

Hopefully globally warming will produce a warm spring and summer so my gas consumption should be low and the devastating effects of increasingly high gas prices somewhat mitigated. Depending upon world events, if I am here by next Winter I might be revising that strategy but, when I do have to get up in the night, early in the morning, or return home in the small hours, I do like the bits of house I use to be warm.

Kevin says:
1 March 2022

If you have a big enough bucket of water, you can use the waste heat from freezing it to heat your house too, and say goodbye to old fashioned central heating boilers.

While I accept the theory of your argument, there is a counter to it, which mitigates some of the savings you suggest are made.
Firstly we both agree that a house with gales through the windows and heat out of the roof will be costly to heat and it pays to insulate.
However, past experience has shown that houses I have lived in have a problem when the temperature fluctuates wildly. This leads to cracks in the plaster and some items in the house not functioning well from expansion and contraction.
Also, it takes quite a bit of energy to heat a house up from cold before the effects are felt inside. A house at a set temperature avoids the need for the all or nothing approach and the thermostat cuts in and out regularly instead of being on continuously every time the heating is turned back on. There is less stress on the boiler and the plumbing.
As Malcolm says it is a joy to come back into a warm house.
The time lapse between going out and coming in is also a factor. The longer the house is cold the less energy is used, but unless there is a freeze setting things can get really icy, damp and mouldy in the long absence.
I keep this house at a steady back-ground temperature and might use a fan heater in any room or find an extra jumper. It is certainly a lot warmer now the renovations have been completed.

Em says:
2 March 2022

@Kevin – Rather than waste money on a zero-g bucket adapter from some scam retailer, which will only save virtual water in the home heating thought experiment, why not go for something that will make real savings?

Oil companies don’t want you to know this, but you can wire a cigarette lighter adaptor into the boiler controls. Then buy a FuelShark, plug it in, sit back and watch the savings mount!

By smoothing out the electrical supply to the thermostat, you will get faster fuel ignition, better combustion and cleaner emissions. It also magnetizes the water in your system, so no more heat losses from leaking radiators.

Or instead of letting someone pull the wool, you could knit a sweater.

Boilers, as with most machines need to be kept running, as long as they are regularly serviced, so its better to keep them running at a low temperature rather than switching it off completely, especially for a long period during the summer months, to avoid a build up of debris.

Commercial aircraft will change flight crews many times, but the same plane will normally be kept running, subject of course to routine checks and refuelling.

I once lived next door to the chief engineer at Heathrow, whose son became a flight engineer on Concorde, and one of my old friends was a pilot in the RAF, who used to keep me well briefed about maintenance issues and engine care.

It’s recommended you switch your CH boiler on twice a month during the summer months for a few minutes at a low temperature, but if it also heats the water, turn the thermostat down and leave the boiler switched on.

The purpose of running a heating system periodically for a short time during the summer months is to prevent the pump and valves from sticking. Heating systems used to be quite dirty due to iron oxides produced by corrosion of radiators. Nowadays, it is usual to add corrosion inhibitor when the system is commissioned and to top this up occasionally to maintain protection. If the system is drained fresh inhibitor will be needed unless the system water is collected and reused. If draining a radiator produces any black deposit, this is a sure sign that there is not enough corrosion inhibitor in the system.

It is also common to have a magnetic trap (usually incorrectly referred to as a filter) to remove iron oxides from the circulating water. Many modern heating systems incorporate a timer that will run the pump occasionally when the system is not in use and my boiler which is over 20 years old has this feature.

Phil says:
2 March 2022

Danger with leaving the heating off during very cold weather is frozen pipes and lot of expensive water damage to come home to.

Insurers, I believe, require the heating left at 15C if the house is not occupied.

When on holiday abroad during winter months I always left the boiler switched on and the thermostat at 15C. Which insurer(s) require this Malcolm?

LV in my case, Beryl. Which? reckoned 12C or more, depending on the insurer https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/11/winter-2019-will-your-home-insurance-protect-you/

I wasn’t aware of any insurance stipulation but we used to leave the heating on at 18C degrees. On many winter days the heating would not come on at that level but when outside temperatures dropped to zero or lower then the protection is valuable. Apart from anything else, coming home to a flooded house would be no joke even if insurance covered the cost of repair, and at times like that available plumbers are hard to find.

General advice used to be to turn off the water at the mains stop-tap but doing that would not be appropriate unless the heating system was completely shut down as well and the system drained.

I keep my thermostat at 15C during nighttime winter months. 12C would be too cold for me for nightly trips to the bathroom 🙁

My boiler is 25 years old, is serviced annually and has never let me down, so paying £30 pa extra for boiler insurance cover would have added another £750 over 25 years to the cost of my energy outlay over the period.

Dependant upon how much you pay for insurance boiler breakdown cover, insurers may stipulate an annual service is also required for full cover.

I remember you mentioning your old Glow-worm boiler, Beryl. There is very little to go wrong with these old boilers because they are so simple. Modern condensing boilers are more efficient but are considerably more complicated, contain circuit boards, and their aluminium heat exchangers can corrode and leak, particularly if there. is insufficient corrosion inhibitor in the system. I have a slightly younger boiler, which is serviced annually, but I would not pay for breakdown cover.

The old Glow-worm boiler still glows worm Wavechange. I am hoping it will last another 2 years until new gas boilers are no longer produced. I doubt if it will last until 2030 when all gas CH systems are scheduled for obsolescence.

It’s difficult to know what will happen but the only definite date is the ban on installation of gas boilers in new homes in 2025.

This is what Worcester Bosch say about existing gas boilers ”Can I still replace my old gas boiler? And do I need to replace it before 2025?
Yes you can replace your existing gas-fired boiler and no, you don’t have to do this before 2025. There is talk that only gas-fired boilers that can be connected to a hydrogen gas supply can be purchased in the future, there is yet though no legislation or policy changes in place.

If it becomes the case that only hydrogen-ready boilers can be placed onto the market in the future then rest assured, Worcester Bosch will have a full range of hydrogen ready boilers available.

If there is going to be a future hydrogen supply proposed, and if we don’t put in place sufficient new electricity generation (renewable or otherwise) then maybe the gas boiler ban in new build will be postponed. Assuming natural gas supply returns to normal.

With the expected continuing future price hikes in energy there soon will be little difference between the price of gas and electricity. The future is electric, so beware of gas boiler company’s promotional advertising to sell you their soon to be redundant gas boilers.

See: https://www.electriccombiboilerscompany.com

As 40% of electricity is currently produced by gas, and no sign of a dramatic increase in renewables to produce all the extra electricity heating, cooking and cars will need, I suspect there will remain a significant difference in price.

John wrote: “General advice used to be to turn off the water at the mains stop-tap but doing that would not be appropriate unless the heating system was completely shut down as well and the system drained.”

It is common advice that the mains water should not be turned off if the heating is left on, but I would like to see evidence to support this. If I go away for a weekend or longer I always turn the water off and if there is a risk of freezing I set the heating to come on automatically if it gets too cold.

Gas boilers are gradually being phased out by 2030. we need to focus on the future and mindful of the environment. Prices will vary according to energy availability and supply. To do nothing is no longer an option.

See: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/stories/future-energy/

At present I pay five times as much per kWh for electricity so there is little incentive to persuade me to change from gas heating. I am looking forward to neighbours moving to heat pumps and learning from their experiences.

As with motoring, the infrastructure needs to be there to make the heating change happen. World events are causing chaos in the energy markets and this doesn’t help in the short term. There has to be more of an incentive to change than the stick of banning the sale of gas boilers. Where is the renewable carrot or any indication that one has been grown?

Only reasonably well-off people will be able to afford a heat pump and take advantage of the (limited) grant money. Just as only similar people can afford a new electric car. The incentives should be aimed at those less well off people who need help to reduce their energy bills by, for example, improving the insulation of their homes.

At present, the cost of running a heat pump is likely to be significantly higher than a gas boiler due to the unit cost difference so a big capital outlay – heat pump installation and probable expensive changes to the heating system – plus maybe twice the running cost, so is not an incentive to change on financial grounds.

Should we subsidise better-off people who could probably find the whole money needed? Or use the £450 million to improve the lot of more deserving people?

Watch the following:

YouTube.com – This is why heat pumps may NOT be the future.

Em says:
3 March 2022

That video on heat pump technology is not objective or unbiased. It focuses purely on the UK’s politically-motivated finacial incentives and the mismanagement of these half-cocked schemes by government. Technically, he is only looking at air to water heat pumps interfaced via a buffer tank (whatever that is???) to existing high temperature radiator systems.

Of course they are inefficient as they were never designed to work this way, other than as a compromise. Rip the lot out and go for air-to-air heat pumps with a higher CoP. Plus, it will keep you cooler in summer when the “I’m sticking with gas ‘cos some bloke on Youtube said so” brigade finally cook the planet.

I don’t deny it costs a lot more than gas (currently) to run a heat pump, but that is no justification for continuing to burn gas, especially when some of us don’t even have that option due to uneven gas supply coverage in the UK. There are plenty of poor people living in my village. How do we suppose they are managing to pay for electric heating without the additional efficiency a heat pump would bring?

I’ll leave it up to to others to decide and chip in with their factual opinions, but please recognise that social media influencers promoting these types of tub-thumping half truths are doing it to make money for themselves via Google advertising. This load of rhetoric has netted him about $5,000. Why drive even more traffic and money their way for such ill-informed dross?

Many people are already using heat pumps because they have no access to mains gas or oil. As Em has pointed out, it’s cheaper to use a heat pump than electricity, certainly at current prices. It will be interesting to find out more about the costs of using mains gas and heat pumps in typical UK homes.

The presenter largely ignores the reason why there are targets to phase out use of fossil fuels. I wonder if he is aware that like petrol and diesel cars, gas boilers emit nitrogen dioxide and contribute to poor air quality in our cities, affecting those who live and work there.

As Beryl pointed out earlier: “To do nothing is no longer an option.”

Love him or hate him, I agree with him on 2 points, (1) gas prices will continue to rise until they are on a par with electricity. (2) £16k installation costs minus £6K govt grant is still more than the average consumer would be prepared to pay, even if he could well afford it, when you end up paying more than you used to pay for your gas usage.

I would certainly invest in one of his battery heated suits, as long as that also includes PJ’s for night trips to the bathroom in a house without heat 🙁

Hydrogen boilers seems to be the best way forward.

The UK seems a very poor adopter of heat pumps, rather than “ many people are using heat pumps”, according to Greenpeace https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/resources/briefing-uk-poor-record-on-heat-pumps/ Maybe we look at the capital and running costs compared to keeping our existing gas boilers and don’t want to pay more than we need.

Of course those who only have electricity would benefit from lower running costs, but Coefficients of Performance are lower in cold weather when you need heating most. And the payback is likely to be unattractive when you consider the capital cost of a whole heating system.

If Statista is to be believed the vast majority of UK homes use gas for heating https://www.statista.com/statistics/426988/united-kingdom-uk-heating-methods/ so the scope for converting electric users seems very low.

We still need to deal with the question of where all the green energy will come from if we want to convert over 90% of homes on oil and gas to heat pumps.

Hydrogen boilers will probably rely on hydrogen produced by electrolysis from water, using electricity, so an expensive fuel. But, if there is sufficient unwanted electricity off-peak – i.e. cheaper – then storing the energy as hydrogen would make sense. Therefore keeping conventional heating systems with a gas boiler that can run on hydrogen also makes sense, in new and existing housing. It would also make use of an established distribution system, saving substantially on additional electricity wires.

An alternative power source as well alongside battery electric vehicles, overcoming the vast raw material issues associated with batteries and removing the problem of long and inconvenient charging times.

That video on heat pump technology is not objective or unbiased” is, of course, true.But some of the points raised are quite valid and should be considered. Many comments made in Convos are “biased” in the sense they express one particular point of view.

I suspect if some commenters were asked to write a full article on a particular topic they would present a far more balanced contribution than is made in a relatively brief comment. Nevertheless, a series of such comments taken collectively should allow a reader with an open mind to reach a better informed view of the topic.

Em says:
3 March 2022

There would appear to be three obstacles to the wider uptake of heat pumps in the UK. None of these are insurmountable with a bit of forward thinking.

1) The unsuitability of most of the the UK housing stock for heat pump installation, thanks to the abysmal standards of insulation that have prevailed, caused by the availability and affordability (until now) of cheap North Sea gas.

Well, like the little pig who built his house of sticks, it is time to stop singing and dancing, and face up to the consequences. (Only in terms of heat retention, the house built of straw was a good choice.) Regardless of the method of heating, the first priority should be compulsory insulation, draft proofing and mechanical heat recovery ventilation. It would also improve the general health of the British population living in damp housing.

2) The high capital cost of heat pump installation.

Again, there is a lot of whingeing about this, but it always seems to be relative to the lower cost of a wet gas boiler system. Until Covid-19 caused the global chip shortage, a million UK car buyers every year seemed to find the wherewithal to finance a brand new car on PCP. No car I know of is less expensive than a whole house heat pump system.

So perhaps the problem is more to do with finance, priorities and perception, rather than affordability. Why can’t we lease our new central heating systems for a monthly payment like PCP, rather than have to find the up-front capital cost once every 20 years and paying out for servicing and repairs?

3) The high cost of electricity compared to gas.

The price of both energy sources has little to do with the cost of the raw energy input. Gas comes out of a hole in the ground, requiring not much in terms of human effort, unlike coal. Wind and solar were free the last time I went outdoors. About 70% of the retail price of energy is made up of infrastructure, distribution, government climate levies (ironically far more of which is contributed by green electrical energy than gas) and taxation.

There is no universal law that says electricity has to cost more than gas, and certainly no basis for electricity prices to go up by another 50% following the latest Ofgem review. Did the cost of wind and solar increase, or has the National Grid become far more expensive because of the rising wholesale cost of gas on the world markets? I don’t think so. The cost of a unit of electricity is artificial and could be set at a level that would make heat pumps competitive with gas, either by reducing the cost of electricity or by increasing the cost of gas to reflect its major contribution to CO2 pollution.

I wrote: “Many people are already using heat pumps because they have no access to mains gas or oil.”

Malcolm wrote: “The UK seems a very poor adopter of heat pumps, rather than “ many people are using heat pumps”, according to Greenpeace https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/resources/briefing-uk-poor-record-on-heat-pumps/

My point was specifically about heat pumps being more economical than electric heating for those without access to mains gas and what I wrote was misrepresented by selective quotation.

It was not intended to misrepresent what was said. Simply that a relatively small proportion of people are using heat pumps. For example: “However, currently less than a quarter of a million of the UK’s 29 million homes have heat pumps. In 2019, 27,000 were installed – compared to the 100,000 additional homes connected to the gas network and the 1.7 million replacement boilers installed.28 May 2021“.https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/the-future-of-heating-in-the-uk-heat-pumps-or-hydrogen/

I wonder just how many of the small proportion of people who use electric heating have the money needed to purchase a heat pump installation. I guess a fair proportion are also in rented accommodation where the option does not exist.

What is important, I think, is to see heat pumps in the overall home heating solutions and the costs involved.

As Em indicates there are a number of factors to consider, some artificial and some real. Debate should revolve around such factors. We buy gas on the world markets at costs partly determined by supply and demand (in my view). The same probably applies to electricity. I expect electricity from wind and solar to be considerably cheaper than that from gas – the fuel is free – but may be wrong; I’d like to see the figures. I expect nuclear to be far more expensive because of the capital cost of the plant involved; but what does it really cost? Tidal energy would be similarly at a high capital cost but again, free fuel.

The future is undoubtedly electric if we are going to minimise emissions. But that is likely to be expensive energy and we will have to get used to paying substantially more to heat our homes and to cook. Heat pumps will inevitably become a much larger source of heating to minimise energy costs but how will we afford their purchase and installation?

I think the right place to start is to minimise our energy use. That both keeps personal costs down and reduces the considerable extra generating plant and infrastructure required. Insulation – loft and walls, double or triple glazing – draught-proofing, need addressing in poorer quality housing. New housing needs much higher control of energy-saving measures under building regulation legislation. These are areas where subsidies should be directed, rather than heat pumps.

A simple apology would have sufficed.

I certainly agree that improved insulation and heat capture would improve our housing stock and save energy for the country and the owners. I am less convinced with your argument on installation. The fact is that to install the heating pump system one has to practically rip out everything and start again -that in a country where most houses have radiators and boilers heating the house and the water. This revolution is a challenge for any society. There is also the suggestion (I’m not sure how true it is, but it has certainly been said) that the regular heat pump does not do a very good job of heating the house and its water. It relies on noisy compressors and refrigerants, to say nothing of the extended pipe work and necessary extra heating outlets in the building. Heat pumps are being promoted as the holy grail of climate saving and thus alternatives are not being developed in the same way.
I agree that energy costs are high and likely to increase exponentially. We have to use energy and pay for it. The only interesting bit is not the cost of relative forms of energy but their effect on the planet. Sadly, burning gas is bad even though it makes the best form of heating we have ever had. Hydrogen hovers on the horizon but somehow no one seems convinced enough to develop it, either for motoring or heating.
I don’t see the next heat revolution as being one of mass destruction and re-installation. Yet, evolution will not be enough to stop global warming. It would make a lot of sense to adapt our current heating at the heat source and leave the house and its plumbing alone.

Vynor Hill says: Today 09:37

I certainly agree that improved insulation and heat capture would improve our housing stock and save energy for the country and the owners. I am less convinced with your argument on installation. The fact is that to install the heating pump system one has to practically rip out everything and start again

It didn’t with us, Vynor. Wen we were finding an air con system for the house we chose a recommended chap who took two days to install a system for the entire floor. There was no ripping out, because we kept the LPG boiler as a backup.

The air con system is simply a heat pump which is completely reversible. On hot summer days it functions as an air conditioner, using the external heap pump to vent excess heat to the outside. In winter, when we need quick heat for the upstairs, it reverses, heating the air by compressing the cold air outside.

Now, this is all about warming or cooling the house; we don’t use it to heat water, so we’ll need someone with knowledge of a heat pump who does use it to heat water to comment. But from our experience, we wouldn’t be without it, now.

Em says:
4 March 2022

A heat pump is a device that can raise the temperature of a liquid or gas (air) from a lower to a higher temperature, enhancing its calorific value – the amount of thermal energy it contains. But like any pump, it is more efficient to raise the temperature of a large mass by a small amount, rather than a small mass to a higher temperature, simply to achieve the same calorific gain.

Since the closed refrigerant compression / expansion cycle is only capable of raising the temperature by 40-50 degrees C max (with lower levels of efficiency), it is not possible to heat water from UK winter ambient to more than 40 degrees C with a single device. They have to be run in series. Going back to my water analogy of heat, it is like the locks in a canal, necessary to raise the level gradually. This is why you cannot use a domestic freezer and just turn the temperature down to store the Pfizer Covid vaccine. Of course, this also makes them almost twice as expensive and less efficient overall.

So domestic water heating remains a challenge, and most of these systems cheat by using standard immersion heaters to raise the water temperature the last few degrees for storage and consumption. That last bit probably can’t be helped, unless we all go back to having cold showers and greasy dishes.

However, domestic space heating is a different issue, since no one wants (or needs) to heat their well insulated house to more than 21 degrees C. Unlike North America, I know the UK is fondly attached to wet system heating and there are many commericial companies that want to protect their investments. But wet radiator systems are simply not the way to go if we want to use heat pumps to help save the planet and reduce energy consumption as much as possible.

I have Daikin air-to-air heat pumps. Getting up in the morning, I can turn on a unit in a bedroom and have warm air coming out equivalent to a 2kW fan heater within 5 minutes, and turn it off again just as quickly. Even the most powerful gas boiler would find that a challenge. And hot radiators contain residual heat that is largely wasted after the room is vacated for the day.

So I do not understand why anyone would design a system that hobbles heat pump technology at its most efficient, and then claims that as a good reason not to implement it.

How do you distribute the warmed (or cooled) air to individual rooms and achieve preset temperatures?

Em says:
4 March 2022

I posted the above without seeing Ian’s reply, which confirms my own experience.

Whilst we never had a wet system that needed removal, the installation of the multiple heat pumps we now have caused minimal disruption to the fabric of the building. The refrigerant pipework is as small as microbore radiator pipework and just as flexible. I did build a false wall between two bedrooms, which also served to hide the pipework and condensate drains, but the rooms needed soundproofing 😉 in any case.

If you have a suitable external wall, I would encourage experimentation with a single-split air-to-air system to see how you get on. VAT (I think) is still 5%, but government grants are not available for reversible systems capable of cooling as well.

If there are concerns about the additional electrical energy that cooling uses in the summer, I have finally decided to invest part of my pension assets in a solar PV and Tesla storage battery, which should generate all of my electrical demand throughout the summer including the new EV. I now reckon, that with the April 2022 price cap, the ROI of this system is only 5-6 years. Whether electricity prices go down or up in future, I should still come out winning.

As others have pointed out, you need considerable financial assets to go fully green, but whilst I still had the means I am not going to sit on my hands, whilst the Government fiddles and the planet burns. The stock market meltdown combined with today’s near meltdown of Zaporizhzhia caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, means that, one way or another, I won’t live to regret that investment decision.

Vynor Hill says:
4 March 2022

So, it depends what we mean by a heat pump. Yours appears to be a unit or units, half in and half outside on a wall or walls. I can see that this is less invasive than a heat pump that tries to heat via underfloor or massive radiators. It also uses air and not water and there is no pipework underground.
Em’s upstairs unit also sounds efficient and I am surprised that she gets 2kw from it on cold days. I wonder how many of these units are needed for a whole house?
There needs to be a lot more public – and reliable – information in circulation about all these things and a few more carrots. You have described two successful systems to us. Would they be a model for a standard house in a standard street, or are you just fortunate in having the right environment and (without being at all rude) the right budget to install them.

Sorry I’ve messed up the icon again, but it is me. The last post should have ended with a question mark.

Em says:
4 March 2022

@Vynor – You are right. Mine are known as single-split or multi-split air-to-air heat pumps (and cooling air conditioners). I started installed these in 2014 to replace electric panel and storage heating, as well as a cheap but noisy and ineffective portable air conditioning unit that needed constant emptying, leaked everywhere, kept us awake at night and gave us sore throats.

That initial installation still working today, was a 3.5 kW single-split to the south facing sun room and a 2.0 kW of the north-facing bedrooms. Both of these rooms are about 16 m2. The compressors sit outside the bedroom window and are inaudible, at least with the windows closed (and why wouldn’t they be if you are trying to heat or cool the house?).

These have an average CoP of about 4. This means I draw about 500W per room, unless the weather is sub-zero, when the amount of energy required increases and the CoP falls to about 2 – maybe a maximum of 1.5 kW per unit.

The capital and installation costs of these units was about £2000 each. Some people would choose to spend that on a Jacuzzi or a new carpet. There are premium Daikin Emura, but cheaper single-split units can start from about £1,000 with installation. Combined, the capital cost was also slightly more that a 2 way multi-split, but I have both redundancy in the event of a failure and independent heating and cooling of the two rooms involved for sunny winter days.

In 2018, we installed a single 10 kW multi-split with 4 air handling units in the two other main bedrooms, the lounge and the kitchen/dining area. All the pipework runs in the loft in cable trays and the drops are concealed in the walls. We have no other sources of heating, except electric towel rails in the bathrooms, and the hall, a small spare room and the home office are all heated indirectly. The main house is about 150 m2.

The 10kW multi-split was about £8,000 including installation – the cost of a mid-range bathroom or small kitchen refit. Certainly a lot less than a typical outdoor swimming pool and without the additional heating costs and maintenance liabilities of such an “investment”.

To answer a separate question, each indoor unit is controlled separately with its own remote control and thermostat, giving precise temperature control in each room. For the single-split units, each indoor unit manages its own compressor. For the multi-split, one indoor unit is designated the master unit, which determines whether the compressor operates in cooling or heating mode. But within that limitation, each of the indoor units has its own temperature control, and their heating/cooling demand will activate the compressor, if not already running.

I don’t think you are being rude. For those of us with some excess capital, it’s all about priorities. As mentioned above, I have finally decided to bite the bullet and install PVs to offset all the energy still used to heat my house and run my EV, although I may never see a financial return if we are forced to sell up within the next 5 years.

Apart from the high cost of the electricity I have been paying for to date, whilst gas customers have so far had an easy time of it whilst polluting the atmosphere, I have no real complaints.

Many thanks Em. That is comprehensive and very interesting.

This might be going off topic a little, but thought it worthwhile mentioning gas warm air heating which was popular in the 1970s/1980’s. My parents purchased a new build property on a small development in 1980 and all of the properties had gas warm air heating fitted.

The boilers were installed in the kitchen, with ducts feeding each room which have a vent just above the skirting board. No copper pipes, no radiators, no water. The vents in each room measure approximately 200mm x 150mm and are quite discreet. The boiler has run without fault for over 40 years and the system keeps the property wonderfully warm.

After a few years, many of the neighbours decided to replace their warm air system for a conventional boiler and radiators, even though it was in perfect working order. When asked why, they replied ‘we just prefer radiators’ or ‘without radiators there is nowhere to dry our washing’.

The system heats the property really quickly, is quiet, ultra reliable and less expensive to run than a conventional wet system. After 40 + years of reliable operation my parents were advised by the Manufacturer they could now offer greater efficiency models and having looked at the costings my parents decided to upgrade. The houses were built with a made to measure recess in the kitchen, hiding the boiler completely and leaving just a control panel visible, a very neat installation indeed. The Manufacturer has continued to produce these warm air boilers in compatible sizes, so the new boiler was an exact fit and installed and commissioned in less than a day.

Total cost was £3500.00 with a 5 year manufacturers warranty. Given the simplicity of these warm air heating systems with no requirement for copper pipes and radiators or the potential for leaks etc, I do wonder why warm air systems are less popular?

I had one of these I inherited in my last house, back in 1978. It required a fan to push air to the ducts, but by the time I got it , it was down right dangerous and a fire risk to the property. The air was quite dry and could be a little dusty. There was also a smell of hot rubber! It was basically another form of a central heat source and a distribution system. Putting an electric fan heater in there would have been expensive in energy use. We are discussing heat pumps because they use a different form of heat gathering, but, unless someone corrects me, they need to be in the room they are heating and so need to populate the outside and inside of the house in numbers to reach each room.

Thanks Vynor Hill, that’s correct, the system does have a fan that distributes the warm air throughout the property. Sounds perhaps as if the system you inherited had not undergone regular maintenance. There are certainly fewer heating engineers qualified to service and maintain warm air heating systems of this type and I wonder whether consumers have difficulty finding someone to undertake annual servicing. But otherwise the simplicity, efficiency and low running costs of the system are worth noting when compared to a conventional boiler and radiators.

Em says:
4 March 2022

I am familiar with warm air central heating from my parents’ houses in North America and England (where it was specified in preference to radiators). It also happened that my first 70’s build terraced house had warm air central heating. Lennox is still one of the main suppliers in the America and Europe.

The biggest problem I see with these systems is poor air filtration and maintenance, which will lead to more dust building up over time. Humidity should not be a problem in the UK, but in Canada particularly where there is very cold dry winter air, it is normal to incorporate a plumbed-in humidifier in the heated air output.

It also requires underfloor ducting, which again North America basement construction easily supports. Basements are necessary to get below the frost line in Canada and colder American states. It is almost impossible to retrofit into UK concrete slab construction.

I have seen attempts to install warm air ducting in the loft but, because hot air rises, blowing hot air from the ceiling and lead to uncomfortable temperature gradients – hot heads and cold feet, particularly if standing on the aforementioned cold concrete slab.

If burning gas or oil, I don’t see a particular benefit, but it is possible to have a concealed and ducted heat pump, as is often found in modern hotel bedroom/bathroom layouts, usually hidden over the entrance door / wardrobe space.

I recently reported on purchasing a counter top air fryer oven to reduce our electric usage when compared to using our full size oven.

Due to the oven having a significantly lower power rating than our full size oven, no heat up time required and the ability to cook food faster, it was clear we would use less energy, but we have been amazed at the energy savings.

Having logged in to our Energy account online, the bar chart detailing our electric usage reveals an almost vertical drop, with the reduction being to such an extent I wonder if our Energy supplier will become suspicious, thinking we have perhaps bypassed the meter.

But there is no doubt that purchasing the counter top oven has significantly reduced our electricity usage, which will counteract the impact of rising energy costs.

That’s amazing to hear, we’ve had an air fryer (NINJA Foodi MAX Dual Zone by the way, it’s amazing) and have noticed we don’t bother with the oven anymore. I didn’t even think about the difference in the costs of energy consumption when making the purchase so thank you for sharing, that’s really good to know.

We specifically wanted a front-loading oven with at least two shelves rather than a top loading appliance. With a little research we found a superb oven manufactured by Tower, front loading, three shelves, integral rotisserie and easy to operate. Despite its small size the three shelves easily provide enough capacity for cooking meals for a family of four and of course air-frying provides wonderfully crisp foods.

Like you, we no longer use our full size oven and are delighted with the energy savings.

I would encourage others to consider an oven of this type if it meets their needs.

I considered buying an air fryer some time ago but changed my mind.

My concern was that they would release greasy steam that I didn’t want in my newish kitchen. Have either of you found this to be a problem?

Hi Alfa, no, not at all. Our airfryer is essentially a mini-oven which sits below some kitchen cupboards (but with adequate space to ventilate in accordance with the Manufacturers instructions).

It does release some steam, but very minimally, which is hardly noticeable and definitely not greasy. We have been using ours since January and there are no signs of any greasy deposits on the underside of the cupboards or the cupboard doors or the ceiling.

Chrirag I believe has one of the top loading airfryers, similar in appearance to a chip fryer, whereas we wanted an oven to use as a direct replacement for our main oven, essentially to reduce our energy bills. It made no sense heating a couple of pasties in a full size oven. Our main criteria was it should be front loading, for ease of use and have at least two shelves for cooking multiple items. We eventually decided on a Tower oven, front loading, with three shelves. Situated on the worktop, it’s no longer necessary to bend down which we especially like and its much easier to check on food while cooking.

Our electricity usage has dropped significantly since using the oven.

That’s good to know Wingman.

We noticed a difference in energy usage when we upgraded our outside lights. We held back for quite a while as they were not powerful enough, but new ones are brighter, smaller and we are pleased with them.

Alfa, I assume you upgraded from halogen to LED outside lights?

Yes. When we first looked they were huge to get comparable light.

LED technology has certainly come a long way. Pleased to hear you were able to upgrade to something with is more energy efficient and provides a comparable light output.