With the cost of living crisis showing no signs of easing up and colder weather just around the corner, many people are worried about covering their central heating bills this winter. At KHS Heating & Plumbing, we understand these concerns and we’re keen to help where we can. So, our expert team have put together some hints and tips to help you use your gas or oil heating more efficiently during the colder months, and keep your costs under control.
1. Get your boiler serviced
If your boiler’s still under warranty, you’ll need to have it serviced once a year to keep the warranty valid. However, it’s easy to let things slide once the warranty has expired. So, if you’ve not had a boiler service for a while, book one now. KHS’s qualified Gas Safe engineers can identify and sort out any problems at an early stage, reducing any repair costs and making sure you’re not left without heating or hot water over the winter.
2. Book a system flush
Build-ups of rust, sludge and other debris are the commonest cause of boiler or pump failure. We recommended booking a system flush with all new boiler installations to an existing central heating system, and every five to six years after that, as. If you notice any signs that you may need a flush (such as cold spots on radiators, noise from the boiler or pump, low water pressure, or radiators leaking sludge or dirty water), contact KHS straightaway.
It’s a good idea to test your central heating now, so we can investigate and resolve any issues before the weather turns cold, or your boiler and/or pump suffer irreparable damage.
3. Optimise your boiler’s heat setting
It’s important to set the heat control on your actual boiler correctly as this controls how hot the water in your radiators will get. If it’s set too high, you’ll not only waste gas or oil and emit excess carbon into the atmosphere, but your heating system will work less efficiently and wear out more quickly. And if it’s set too cold, your radiators won’t get hot enough.
The recommended temperature settings vary by fuel type, boiler type, make and model. As a rule of thumb, we suggest 60 oC to 65 oC for a modern condensing gas boiler during colder spells (you can turn it down a bit during milder weather). If you have a conventional boiler with a hot water cylinder, however, please don’t reduce the heat below 65 oC, as this creates a risk of legionella bacteria growing in the cylinder (More information here.)
Oil boilers may need to be set a little higher than gas boilers – say 75oC – to make sure your radiators heat up enough to keep you warm. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for guidance.
4. Adjust your thermostats or TRVs
The problem with main thermostats is they’re often fitted in places that are colder than the rest of the house, such as a hallway. This means it will take longer for the room where the thermostat is located to reach the desired temperature and switch off the boiler, whilst other parts of your home get too hot. Try turning the thermostat down to 18oC and then increase the temperature by one degree each day until your home is warm enough for your needs.
Where Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) are fitted, you have the flexibility to heat each room in line with how much it’s used. For example, you could turn off the radiators completely in unused or rarely used bedrooms. For your main living areas, start by turning the TRVs right down and, just like your main thermostat, gradually upping the heat until you find the sweet spot for each room.
5. Bleed your radiators
If you’re finding your radiators are hot at the bottom but colder at the top, they probably need bleeding to release trapped air bubbles. These can cause mould, condensation and damage to your boiler and central heating pump if they’re not removed. Bleeding radiators is a quick and simple task you can do yourself – all you need is a radiator key, a large bowl to collect escaping water, and some dust sheets or old towels to protect your floor coverings.
If bleeding doesn’t solve the problem, or any escaped water is very dirty and/or sludgy, you may need a system flush – see point 2 above.
6.Invest in energy saving products
Spending money to save money may sound like a false economy, but with the right products, you’ll see the benefits in the long run. There are all kinds of products you can buy to help keep your home warmer and your central heating working more efficiently. Some of these, such as home insulation, are covered by the Government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) grants for vulnerable people, low-income households, or those experiencing fuel poverty. You can find out more and check if you qualify here.
Other options include:
- If you do a lot of cooking on your gas hob, investing in a 3 or 4-tier saucepan steamer. You can boil potatoes, rice, pasta or eggs, plus vegetables or boil-in-the-bag ready meals, and even prepare a sauce, all on the same ring.
- Fitting or replacing an insulated jacket to your hot water cylinder, to keep your water warmer for longer.
- Fitting TRVs to your radiators if you don’t already have these (see point 4 above).
- Replacing your central heating programmer and controls with an advanced model that offers features such as remote control from anywhere with an Internet connection, and automatic adjustments to temperature settings based on the weather.
- Replacing your boiler if it’s old or starting to creak. (You can read more about the benefits of buying a new gas or oil boiler here.)
Of course, saving energy isn’t just about gas and oil. For more energy saving tips and advice, including suggestions for reducing your electricity and water use, visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk.
Need any help with your central heating? KHS are on hand to help.
If you’re worried your boiler or any part of your heating system could let you down this winter, don’t wait to find out. Our experienced and friendly engineers will be pleased to help – call us on 01892 249 044 to discuss your concerns or contact us online to book a home visit. We’re based in Tunbridge Wells and cover all the surroundings towns and village in Kent.