Worcester Gas Boiler - modern boilers can save money
A Worcester gas boiler installed on a wall

Martin Lewis, the fabulous ‘Money Saving Expert’, shared the welcome news that there would be a 7% drop in the energy price cap in July on his website, but that isn’t necessarily the whole picture – especially as we are heading into the time of year where heating and even lighting is not as prevalent as it is in the dreary winter. It also doesn’t help when the best predictions suggest that just as we go into the autumn, there is likely to be another hike – of at least 12%.

Perfect timing, then, for those of us who are being affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

If you want to find different ways to save money, then we have some tips that will make the most of your heating, making sure that it is running efficiently and working correctly.

1.    Adjust temperature down on milder days.

The NHS advise that rooms in your home should be heated to a minimum of 18°C for healthy people, but most people will feel that about 20°C is more comfortable.

On milder days, you can afford to drop the temperature by a couple of degrees – you might not notice a difference in warmth, but it will make a difference in saving money on your bills.

For every degree that you raise the thermostat, it can add up to 10% on your bill, so think before you turn it on.

2.    Make sure that there is space around your radiators.

Radiators work by convection; cold air is drawn in to the radiator and warmed before being raised into the air, allowing more cold air to be drawn in.

This process needs space to work, which means that if your radiators are blocked by things like clothes airers, furniture or even long curtains that will mean your heating will need to be on longer to reach the required temperature.

Avoid blocking radiators at all if you can help it, even radiator cabinets will interrupt the convection current and cost you more money eventually.

3.    Check radiators are heating up equally

When you are using your radiators, the whole of each radiator should be emitting heat – and every radiator should be heating up (unless you have TRVs installed – more about that later). If they aren’t, you will need to have your heating on for longer and your boiler will have to work harder,

If you have cold areas in your radiators, that could indicate that they aren’t working effectively. Some common problems include:

  • Radiators need bleeding (cold at the top)
  • System needs a power flush (cold at the bottom)
  • Radiators not equally warm (system needs balancing)

Before you turn your heating on for the winter, make sure to bleed all the radiators – and while the upfront costs of things like balancing and a power flush might seem like an extra cost, the long-term money benefits make it worth considering.

4.    Check your system pressure.

Pressure problems can affect your heating (and your bills), and it is something that you can monitor yourself. Most boiler systems work best at 1.0 – 2.0 bar pressure, so if there is a problem with low pressure, you can fix it yourself. A filling loop is usually the best way to do this – contact your user manual for more.

If the low pressure remains, you will need to call in a professional engineer.

5.    Insulate your hot water cylinder and heating pipes.

Wasting heat and hot water is very inefficient – so anything you can do to prevent that is good. While some advice might be to turn the temperature down on your hot water cylinder, this is not a good idea unless you have support from a professional – hot water needs to stay at a certain temperature to avoid bacteria growth and things like Legionella.

One way that you can make a difference is to buy a jacket for the cylinder and lagging for the pipes. Water loses a lot of its heat in transit.

6.    Check your boiler settings.

Boilers will have different settings that can be manipulated to give efficient and cheaper service – this will depend on the manufacturer and the ideal situation, of course, but there will be things that you can change.

If you have a combi boiler, then you can turn down the water temperature, even by a couple of degrees, you could save up to 8% on your heating bill.

7.    Plug up draughts.

Preventing heat escaping from your home can save more than a third on your energy bills, and while insulating might be the best way to do this, little things that you can do to help make a difference.

Draught excluders along the bottom of doors, plugging keyholes, fitting letterboxes with draughtproof fixtures, and filling gaps around electrical outlets and pipes are relatively cheap fixes. You can take this even further by looking at threshold seals or using adhesive waterproof tape or thermoplastic rubber around doors and windows.

8.    Wear extra clothing.

This might seem a bit obvious, but it is always cheaper to heat the person and not the room – so if you can layer up a bit when you are at home, you will feel warm without the added costs.

Of course, this is not always as simple as it sounds. It doesn’t necessarily work for the elderly, or those with small children or families with extra needs – so it might not be the answer for everyone.

9.    Use electric heaters sparingly.

Electric heaters might seem like a good compromise, especially if you have a lower electricity tariff than gas, for example.

They work using convection, in a similar way to your radiators, and they can heat up small areas quickly. However, for larger rooms, or for more constant use, they are unlikely to be cost-effective.

Electric heaters are an excellent quick fix for a brief period of time or as a backup.

10.                      Keep curtains closed.

Radiators are often situated under windows, so keeping your curtains closed can be another way of insulating your room.

Choose curtains that are well lined, thermal if possible. Make sure that they don’t cover the radiator either so that the air can keep moving as much as possible.

11.                      Keep doors closed.

Like the windows, doors are another way that heat can escape. It might seem like a simple thing, but keeping all doors closed in the house will mean that each radiator is only heating the room it is in.

This means that the heating is not working too hard, saving you money.

12.                      Install TRVs

Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) are individual controllers that can be installed to each radiator, and they can control how much heat each radiator produces.

With TRVs, you can decide to turn the heating right down in rooms that are not used often, meaning that you are not spending the money heating areas where it doesn’t make a difference.

13.                      Invest in better heating controls.

The latest innovations for home include many smart controllers, as part of the Internet of Things. You probably have a voice-activated personal assistant like Alexa or Google Home already, and you can grow your control over your home by adding something like a smart thermostat.

These are readily available and reasonably cheap to install, and they can really be effective to the way you use your heating and electricity. Controlled using your home assistant or even your smartphone, you can change the temperature as well as turn on and off, even when you aren’t at home.

14.                      Get your boiler serviced (regularly)

You should already be getting your boiler serviced at least annually. This is not only to protect your warranty (and insurance, in some cases), but it also gives you the opportunity to spot potential issues before the grow and become even worse.

Annual boiler services might be an expense that you might consider doing without, but actually they will save you money in the long term.

15.                      Spend money on insulation.

This begins the more expensive part of the list – but the long-term cost saving benefits would be worth it if you can stump up the initial costs.

First, it is insulation. Much of your heating will be lost through the roof and walls. Roof insulation or loft insulation is usually cheaper to install and can save around 30% on your energy bills.

Most houses built after 1930 are constructed with two layers of wall and a cavity between. Cavity wall insulation involves injecting thermal material into these gaps. This can cost a few thousand pounds, but again, will save around 30% of your energy bill.

16.                      Upgrade your windows.

Even if your home already has double glazing, you might be due an upgrade – and the newest window technology includes both uPVC and metal framed units, and even triple glazing.

If you cannot afford new windows, some experts suggest adding thermal film to the glass or even bubble wrap – there is limited data on whether this actually makes a difference, however. If you can spare the money, then new windows would be a better idea.

17.                      Check for grants and payment support.

Upgrading your central heating system, installing renewable energy generators, and other ways of saving money on your bills, come at a price – but that doesn’t mean you cannot get support.

The government provide a number of grants and other financial support, everything from the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to cold weather payments and the Winter Fuel Payment for those on low incomes.

As your local experts on everything from renewables to central heating systems, here at GMS we are ready to help you save money – especially if you are looking to get all this sorted before winter comes back.