How to save energy at home
At Hometree, we like to find ways to save you money in the short and long term from the moment we install your new boiler. In addition to our highly efficient boiler range, we ensure that you not only get full control of your heating but also more aware of your energy use. In this article, we will take you through some top tips for your home heating system.
A room thermostat is probably the best place to start energy in your home. Every home should have one, and we’d be worried if yours didn’t. A basic thermostat comprises of a small dial or a small digital display with up/down arrows. The thermostat should typically be in the most central part of your home, which is often the hallway. Thermostats are used to set the temperature which your boiler must reach before being switched off automatically. Once the temperature falls below your desired temperature, your boiler will switch back on automatically to reach this temperature again.
The only disadvantage with room thermostats is that the temperature setting will apply to every room within your home, which isn't ideal if some rooms are not in use throughout the day. The thing is that the thermostat will only control your boiler based on the temperature of the room in which it is located, so if one of the rooms in which there is no thermostat gets too hot, you will have to manually switch off your boiler or leave it on a low-temperature setting when no one’s home.
Programmers and programmable room stats
A room thermostat is the basic set up for your central heating system but there is a lot more to make your life more comfortable. Programmers, for instance, are essential to turning your heating on and off based on a preferred schedule. 7-day programmers give you the ability to set programs over a 24-hour period for each day of the week. This is obviously great for those cases in which you’d prefer your heating to be switched off while you’re at work from Mondays to Fridays but would prefer a different heating schedule on the weekends. Some programmers can be more expensive than others, especially if you’re keen on a digital one.
Smart thermostats are the evolution of digital controllers in the sense that they give you unprecedented control over your heating. Many include the ability to control your heating remotely, work out your and your family’s preferred heating schedule or adjust the settings automatically, and some even show your energy usage and suggest ways to save energy and costs. Head over to our guide to smart thermostats if you want to know more.
Thermostatic radiator valves
TRVs (short for thermostatic radiator valves) are basically thermostats that provide individual room comfort. However, unlike room thermostats, TRVs reduce the flow of water to your radiators based on your preferred settings, and are installed on each radiator. TRVs will give you that additional control of your heating system, especially if some of your rooms aren’t in use during the day. You can decide based on how often you use your rooms whether to turn the radiators down slightly or switch them off completely in order to better regulate the temperature in your home. This will do away with heating any empty or unused rooms unnecessarily.
Customers often ask us why the location of a thermostat is important. A thermostat needs to be installed in a room that is always in use, which tends to be either the hallway or the sitting room in order to sense the average property temperature. It would be a bad idea to install a room thermostat in a room in which you also have TRVs on a low setting because your desired temperature will never be met but your boiler will keep running. Remember that TRVs are thermostats themselves so they would continuously clash with your main thermostat.
By the way, the Energy Saving Trust estimates that you could save around £70 - £150 per year if you installed TRVs and a thermostat within your home. Find out more about TRVs here.
Weather compensation uses an outdoor temperature sensor to detect a drop in temperature and instantly fire up your boiler until it matches your desired, pre-set temperature. This will help maintain a constant comfortable radiator temperature rather than constantly switching the boiler on and off. There tends to be a delay between the temperature dropping outside and the boiler responding to the change. This delay can be eliminated with the install of a weather compensation sensor. Weather compensation could save you between 5-10% on your energy bills.
A material called magnetite (mostly referred to as “sludge”) can build over time in your heating system and move around your radiators and pipework. You are likely to experience issues with magnetite if your heating system hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned and maintained before installing a new boiler. These problems can lead to an overall inefficient heating system, which can include reduced heat output and damaged water components. A powerflush will remove the magnetite and make sure that only magnetite-free water flows around your radiators, with no risk of damage to your overall heating system.
A powerflush (especially with older systems) will almost immediately improve the efficiency of your home heating system. Old systems with a lot of circulating sludge will use a lot more energy to heat up, whereas a powerflushed system with clean water will heat up far quicker. This could lead to fuel savings and decreased energy bills. Find out more about powerflushes here.
Replace your boiler
Modern boilers are more efficient for several reasons, but their main advantage is that they are all condensing boilers. Well-maintained boilers burn their fuel very efficiently, but they inevitably lose some heat in the hot gases that escape up the flue. A condensing boiler, in turn, has a more extensive heat exchanger, so it recovers more heat, sends more cooling gases up the flue and is more efficient. Sometimes the flue gases get so cold that the water vapour in the gas condenses, hence the name, and even more energy is recovered from the condensing vapour.
Replacing a boiler does come with a multitude of factors that you need to consider. For instance, the size of your property will play a significant role in determining which boiler is the best fit for your home. Both a regular boiler and system boiler will use a cylinder (regular boilers also require a cold-water tank), which makes them more suitable for larger homes with families. A combi boiler however, is directly connected to the mains and won’t require a tank or cylinder to store water. Combi boilers are smaller in size and are perfect for small flats and homes, whereas a regular or system boiler tend to be more suited to larger properties. As well as the size of your home, homes with more than two bathrooms will be generally better suited to a system or regular boiler, while a combi will only be able to cater to provide hot water on demand to two baths or showers at the same time. So if you do have a large family, you will need to consider options that will guarantee you have the most amount of hot water available.
In most cases, it’s best to stick with your current boiler system and opt for a “like-for-like” swap. If you wanted to swap from say a regular boiler to a combi boiler, you’d need to consider that the remainder of the old system including the cylinder and/or tank will need to be removed in the process. Properties with older radiators and older central heating systems may also be a deciding factor for which type of boiler you choose, as the radiators may not be able to cope with higher water pressure.
You can find more information on what to consider when replacing your boiler here.
Replace your hot water cylinder
A hot water cylinder should provide you with an efficient source of hot water without ever running out, which is essential to catering to your hot water needs. While choosing the correct type of cylinder for your home is important, choosing the right size is crucial, and you only want to store as much water as you need without wasting energy in the heating process. The size and capacity of your cylinder should be based on the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and people in the property.
It is difficult to give a rule of thumb when it comes to determining what cylinder size is the right one for you. However, below you’ll find some estimates of how much water are used for different activities:
• 70-80 litres of hot water to run a bath
• 45 litres of hot water for a 5-minute shower
• 50-100 litres of hot water for a full load in the washing machine
• 12-20 litres of hot water per cycle in the dishwasher
• 0.2 litres of hot water per second when you run the kitchen taps
• 0.15 litres of hot water per second when you run the sink taps
However, finding the right cylinder size isn’t a straightforward case of multiplying the litres used for each activity by the number of people living in your property. It’s actually more a general understanding of how much and how frequently the cylinder will need to be used, including re-heating times.
So how can I stop all the hot water from getting cold? Well, most new cylinders will already have some sort of polyurethane foam insulating the cylinder, which is usually more than sufficient. Older tanks will lack in insulation and will require a jacket to prevent energy loss, especially during the winter months. Some jackets will range in cost, but even with a small investment, you could make a lot of savings on your energy costs over a year as your boiler will need to use less energy to re-heat the water as it stays warmer for longer.
What are the types of cylinder?
An unvented hot water cylinder is fed directly using the cold mains water pressure, which delivers hot water to both showers and taps at mains pressure. Unlike a vented cylinder, an unvented cylinder will significantly improve the pressure of water coming out of your taps and showers. To heat the water in an unvented cylinder, either your central heating system can be used or solar technology, which allows you to tap into a more energy efficient and green energy source. Unvented cylinders also eliminate the need for any sort of cold water tank to feed in cold water, as it uses mains water instead. You can find out more about unvented hot water cylinders and system boilers here.
A vented hot water cylinder uses a gravity-led system instead of water pressure, which is reliant on a cold-water tank in a lof. The tank will feed the cylinder cold water until a heat source such as your boiler, heats the water. A cold-water tank is required to enable air to escape the system as well as acting as further storage for water during the heating process. This eliminates the need for an expansion vessel to cope with trapped air. You can find out more about vented hot water cylinders and conventional boilers here.