Heating Control – Comfortable Home & Low Bills

Heating Control

It’s important to have an energy efficient boiler or alternative means of heating your home, but many don’t realise that it’s equally important to have a high quality heating controls in place too.

The greater control you have over your heating system the better you can stay in control of what you pay.

In the middle of winter it may seem like the right thing to do is to whack the thermostat up to 25°C and bask in the warmth. That’s all well and good but at the end of the month you’re going to pay for this extravagance.

It’s much better to be in control of your heating, set it to a comfortable level and have full say as to what temperature each room is set at.

If you had two identical homes with identical boilers and radiator systems, but one had a programmer, a room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) and one had no heating controls, the house with the controls would save around £75 a year.

Heating Control Types

Room Thermostat

Obviously allows you to set the temperature of a room, but its resulting function is actually to stop you burning more fuel than you actually require. As soon as a room reaches its desired temperature the room thermostat, in effect, turns off your heating.

It will then remain off until the temperature drops below your set level.

Always ensure that your thermostat is set to the lowest temperature you are comfortable with. In most cases and with most people this should be between 18°C and 21°C.

The key thing to remember is that you don’t have to turn your thermostat up and down depending on what the weather is like outside. Your house will heat up to your desired temperature regardless. The only difference is that in cold weather it may take a little longer as it is starting at a lower temperature.

Another key point is that your home will not heat up any faster if you turn the temperature on the thermostat up!

Ensure your thermostat is not behind a cupboard or curtain, it needs access to free flowing air. Also make sure it’s not situated next to a radiator or any other secondary heating sources.

TRVs

These have a very simple function, allowing you to adjust the heat of individual radiators in your home. They can save you money by allowing you to turn down the temperature in rooms that you aren’t using.

Never turn off TRVs completely. A cold room will effectively suck the warm air out of the rest of the house, like a heat sink, making it harder to heat the parts of the house you want heating. Ultimately it costs you more money.

Programmer

The time control for your heating system. This allows you to programme in your daily routine. Ensuring your heating isn’t on when no-one’s at home.

In order to ensure that the house is warm when you get out of bed, or when you come in from work, set the heating to come on half an hour early in each case.

In case of a change to your timetable, like being home from work unexpectedly, programmers will always have an override.

Don’t forget to check that the clock on your programmer is accurate, especially when the clocks go back and forward.

Smart Energy Controls

These are all the rage at the moment and seem to be well worth the investment. The most famous brands include Nest and Hive.

These controls are connected to the internet and can be accessed from your mobile phone wherever you happen to be. This allows you to adjust the temperature of your home remotely.

These controls also learn from your daily habits and programme in your daily routines automatically.

See other articles for ways to save money in your home, such as Hot Water Cylinder Insulation.

Tips for Improving your EPC Rating

Improving your EPC

There are many reasons to try and get the highest possible score on your EPC. The first is to try and ensure that your house is as energy efficient as possible. An energy efficient house costs less to run, saving you a potential fortune on your heating bills.

The other reasons are in terms of actually needing to achieve certain ratings. If you’re a landlord then your property MUST achieve an ‘E’ rating before you can rent it out. If you are looking for a Feed in Tariff (FiT) when you install a renewable energy product, then your property must already be ‘D’ rated.

Here are five top tips for improving your EPC score.

  1. Insulation – The most important consideration can also be the cheapest too. Twenty five percent of a property’s heat is lost through its roof, luckily loft insulation is not only cheap, it is also one of the easiest things to install. Ensure you install it to a depth of 270mm (do not crush under boarding) in order to get the most benefit.Wall insulation is also crucial. Cavity wall insulation needs to be done by a professional company but it can be a relatively cheap process. Depending on government funding available to energy companies it can also be free.

    Solid wall insulation can be very expensive but can also be the number one saver for energy bills in older houses.

  2. Install renewable energy – If your home is suitable you should look into installing renewable energy. In almost all cases they will provide a large boost to your EPC score.Most people will think of solar panels when they imagine domestic renewables and Solar PV panels to supply electricity have been very popular. But you can also consider solar thermal panels for your hot water or biomass boilers or heat pumps to heat your home.

    When improving your EPC, if you want your property to achieve maximum score then you MUST have some renewable energy in place.

  3. Replace an old boiler – Heating makes up a large percentage of a household’s energy costs. If you have an old, inefficient boiler it will be reflected in your EPC score and, more importantly, it will be costing you more money than it should to heat your home.Look into getting an ‘A’ rated boiler and ensure that you have full control over the heating in your home. Also consider the installation of a room thermostat, a programmer and TRVs (thermostatic radiator valves.)
  4. Get double glazing – If you have old, thin, single glazed windows with wooden frames then you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that a significant portion of the heat from your home is being lost through them.Get double or triple glazing installed. If it’s too expensive or it’s not possible, secondary glazing can be just as effective.
  5. Replace your lightbulbs with LEDs – You can’t buy halogen bulbs anymore and there’s a good reason. Not only are they not energy efficient but they often only last a couple of years.Although replacing the bulbs will only have a small impact in improving your EPC and despite the fact that at first glance they seem expensive, when you learn that LED bulbs can last more than 20 years you realise that you’re actually going to save money.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like Biggest EPC Wins.

Biggest EPC Wins

I often get asked as to what is the biggest win when it comes to an Energy Performance Certificate. What improvements can I make to my property which will improve its energy efficiency the most?

This is especially relevant to landlords nowadays who are bound by the regulations set out by MEES. Before you rent out a property to tenants, landlords must ensure that the property has a rating on an EPC of at least an ‘E’.

Landlords enquire about double glazing or cheap solutions like replacing bulbs with low energy alternatives. In truth both of these are pretty small fry in terms of improvements.

Boilers

Generally people want to avoid expensive improvements such as replacing boilers. In truth if the property has a gas boiler, unless it’s a very old floor standing gas boiler with an open flue, a change to a more modern boiler is unlikely to make a massive difference.

On the other hand, if the property is heated by electricity then the heating system could make a huge difference. If the property is old or exposed and it is heated by electric radiant heaters then the rating is going to be poor. In this case the recommendation will always be to upgrade to high heat retention storage heaters or fan assisted storage heaters. The difference in ratings can be huge and drag an ‘F’ or ‘G’ property into ‘D’ or ‘E’ straight away.

Insulation

But what of properties that aren’t electrically heated? The answer is simple. The biggest gains can come from simply insulating the property properly.

Loft insulation

If the property doesn’t have any loft insulation then add some. Any can make a difference but the recommended amount is to a depth of 270mm. Not crushed under floorboards. Putting boards on top of insulation makes it as effective as the depth it is crushed to.

This is a cheap and simple way to dramatically increase rating. It’s also an easy DIY job.

Wall insulation

The other vital insulation consideration is walls. This is especially important in pre 1930s houses with solid walls. This can be very expensive but is always very effective.

For houses with cavity walls it is a much simpler and cheaper solution but also very effective and can produce a significant difference to your EPC rating.

If you require a Landlord Report or any other services, please feel free to contact us at any time.

If you require an EPC in any the following areas, please click on the links.

Hot Water Cylinder Insulation

Hot Water Cylinder Insulation

Improving the Energy Efficiency of your Hot Water

There’s not a huge amount of difference between a hot water cylinder and a kettle. A hot water element is inserted into a large cylinder which heats and then stores water.  However, it is not necessary to insulate a kettle, but hot water cylinder insulation is essential.

It costs money to heat hot water and (especially if you’re using electricity to heat it) and it will start to lose heat very quickly once heated. Think how quickly the water in your kettle drops from being 100℃ to cool enough to touch. Hot water cylinder insulation is crucial to energy efficiency which in turn leads to financial and environmental savings.

It is also a question of convenience. If hot water is stored effectively it is also available instantaneously as opposed to having to be heated up as required.

All modern cylinders are now supplied with 50mm thick factory fitted foam which is sufficient to sustain hot water temperature. Slightly older cylinders will have foam fitted on the outside at 38mm but even these may need to be improved. The foam wears away and the cut outs for pipework can expose the copper cylinder.

Older cylinders may have no insulation fitted at all. If your cylinder has no or insufficient insulation fitted then it will need to be upgraded. This is simple to do and makes use of a purpose made ‘jacket’ which wraps around the cylinder. The depth of the insulation is normally at 80mm. The cost can be as low as £15 but its addition could save you up to £80 a year in heating costs.

When improving your hot water cylinder insulation it is also worth insulating the pipes around it. The sections that are next to the tank can also lose a lot of heat and are again very easy to insulate.

Hot water cylinder insulation will provide instant improvement in your EPC results.  If you require an EPC or any of our other services, check out the menu above for details of our prices.

Energy Performance Certificates – What Does an Assessor do in Your House?

EPC Bromley

You know what an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is, but what exactly does an assessor do when they visit your house?  If you call EPC Bromley to arrange an domestic energy assessment then what can you expect when they visit?

Have a look below for a summary of the items that EPC Bromley will consider during the assessment for your EPC.

House Age and Build Type

Working out the year that the house and any extensions were built will tell us what the building regulations were at that time and therefore how energy efficient the house is in general.  A house built in 1930 would have had no insulation fitted to the walls as a regulation, this is not the case with a house built in 2010.

The build type (detached, terrace, flat) tells us where the heat may be escaping from.  A detached house generally has at least four cold walls whereas a semi will have one shared wall which is warm.  A flat could be heated from all sides and have a communal corridor area which is heated too.

Dimensions

Quite simply we measure the volume of your property.  We need to know the amount of space you have to heat before we make a judgement on how you heat it.  We’ll also consider whether you have a conservatory. 

If your conservatory has an outside door sealing it off then it is discounted, if it is open plan then it is included and considered a source where heat can escape more easily.

Walls

Wall types are generally solid, cavity or timber framed and are as efficient as the regulations in place when they were built.  Traditionally, solid walls without insulation were used on houses until well into the 1930s, this kind of wall is very inefficient. 

If it is a cavity wall then we check whether the cavity has been filled with insulation retrospectively, as originally cavity walls were not filled.

Roofs

We poke our head into the loft and see whether it is insulated, if it has then how deep is it?  Traditional insulation at the joists should be at least 270 mm deep.  Remember, if you crush it down with floorboards to 100 mm then it is only 100 mm effective.

Floors

Are they solid or suspended floorboards, has it been insulated or do you have another dwelling below you?

Openings

We consider how many doors you have and whether those doors are insulated.  We look at how much glazing you have and whether it is single, double or triple glazed.  If it’s double glazed we consider what year it was installed, double glazing installed from 2002 onwards is much more efficient than glazing fitted before then.

If it was fitted before 2002 then we consider the frame type (metal, pic or wood) and the gap between the panes of glass.

We also look at how much draught proofing is in place.

Ventilation & Lighting

We look at how many fireplaces the property has and whether these are open, we also look for any mechanical ventilation or cooling systems that are in place.

We count the amount of light fittings and at the same time we count how many of these have low energy bulbs in place.

Heating Systems

How do you heat your home?  If you use a traditional boiler then we consider how efficient that boiler is.  Modern condensing boilers get the highest efficiency scores.

We consider how the heat is distributed (radiators, underfloor) and how that heat is controlled.  Properties that have a room thermostat, thermostatic radiator valves and a heating timer will score  highest.

If your property has more than one heating system then this is also considered as well as any secondary heaters such as a gas or electric fires in the reception rooms.

Water

How do you heat your water?  Do you have a combination boiler or a hot water cylinder?  If it’s a cylinder then how large is it?  Is it insulated?  Does it have a thermostat?  We then consider how many bath/shower rooms are in the property, how many of these have baths, showers or both?

We also look at other options for water heating which may be in place.  These include solar water heating, waster water heat recovery systems (WWHRS) and flue gas heat recovery systems (FGHRS).

New Technologies

We investigate if you have any other new technologies in place like solar photovoltaic panels or a wind turbine.  The terrain you live in is considered(urban, suburban, rural) which determines whether a wind turbine would be suitable.

Checks are made at this point to see what type of electricity meter the property is has (dual or single charge).   If the house isn’t heated by a gas boiler, we see whether there is a gas meter indicating it would be an option.

Any other info

Here’s where you can note whether the property has a swimming pool or  uses a more obscure way to heat itself.  For example micro CHP or a biofuel that isn’t listed in the usual database.

If you don’t understand some of these points, feel free to get in touch with EPC Bromley and ask.  Otherwise your EPC Bromley assessor will be happy to answer any questions you may have whilst the survey is taking place.

What is an EPC and What Does it Show? – EPC Bromley explains

EPC

If a home is on the market for renting or selling then it needs to have a valid EPC, it’s as simple as that.  But rather than being a pointless piece of bureaucracy, EPC Bromley considers that it can actually be used as the instruction manual telling you how to make your property more energy efficient.

However, EPC Bromley has discovered that although people have the certificate they have trouble deciphering the information within it.  So we’ve put together this guide.

What are EPCs for?

On a very basic level an EPC lets you compare the energy efficiency between one property and another.  This is obviously useful information if you are looking to buy or rent a property.

Secondly it tells you which energy efficiency improvements can be done, how much they will cost to install and how much money they will save you once installed.

EPC Explained

Page One – Current Costs and Potential Costs

EPC Bromley

This shows you the estimates of how much your house costs to light up, to heat and produce hot water.  It then shows you what these costs could be if you had the recommended energy efficiency measures installed and how much you could therefore save.

In this case you can see that this house could potentially save over £1,000 a year.

Energy Efficiency Rating

EPC Bromley

This is the main data that people are concerned with.  It looks a bit like the ratings that are given to electrical appliances because it is.

The ratings are scored out of a total of 100 and these then correspond to the letters A-G, with A being the highest. 

The two ratings show the level that the property is currently at, compared to the level it could achieve if all measures were installed.  In this case the property is ‘F’ rated but could potentially achieve a ‘C’.

Top Actions

EPC Bromley

The top actions are also featured at the bottom of page one.  These are the measures that could see the property reach its potential the most quickly.  A full list is shown further on in the document

Page Two  – Energy Performance Summary

EPC Bromley

This breaks down each and every element of the property into a description and a rating.  This is to give you more information as to the construction of the property, the way it heats up, the way that heating is controlled and how the property is lit.

This property has energy inefficient solid walls and no insulation in the loft.  However the boiler is considered pretty efficient.

Low and Zero Carbon Energy Sources

EPC Bromley

This list shows if the property gets any energy from low carbon sources.  this includes renewables such as Solar PV or Solar water heating panels.  In this case the property has none.

Heat Demand of the Property

EPC Bromley

This shows the expected heat demand of the property and how this will change if insulation is installed.  This section is used for people considering installing renewable heating into their home, it enables calculations for Renewable Heat Incentive payments.

Page Three – Recommended Improvements

EPC Bromley

This is in fact the most important part on the EPC.  It shows you in detail all of the recommendations, their costs, their savings and how much the property’s energy rating will go up once they are installed.

They are also shown in order of how important they are.  It is a good guide as to how you should decide which energy efficiency measures to install first.  In this case installing wall insulation will increase the rating from a 31 to a 50, an increase of 19 points which would take the property from an ‘F’ to an ‘E’.

The latter recommendations are aimed at people who want the property to achieve the highest possible rating.

Alternative Measures

EPC Bromley

This is a list of other measures that could further improve the efficiency of the property.  This could list things such as air and ground source heat pumps.  In this case it recommends Micro CHP.

Page Four – Other Information

EPC Bromley

This part has disclaimers about the EPC, who completed it, when and how they are qualified to do so.

Environmental impact

EPC Bromley

The last section shows the amount of carbon emissions from the property and how this impact could be lowered if all recommended measures were installed.

EPC Bromley hopes this guide has been useful.  Remember, your EPC is public domain and can always be viewed at epcregister.com

Double Glazing Effectiveness and Alternatives

EPC Bromley

We all know that double glazing is more efficient at keeping the heat in your home and the cold out than single glazing can ever be.  It is also completely obvious that triple glazing is more energy efficient than double glazing.  But did you know not all double glazing is created equal?  EPC Bromley advises the very basic differences between double glazing and what alternatives there are.

Double Glazing Types

The types of double glazing and their rating on an energy performance certificate are broken down into two basic types.  Double glazing installed at any time up to 2001 and double glazing installed in 2002 and after.

The latter is considered the most energy efficient as regulations surrounding the manufacture of double glazing changed at this time.

If your double glazing was fitted in 2001 or earlier then we need to ask a couple of questions before establishing how efficient it is.  The first question is ‘Is it a PVC frame?’.

If it isn’t a PVC frame and is made from wood or metal then it is considered the least energy efficient. 

If it is PVC then we need to establish how big the gap is between the pieces of glass.  Is it 6 mm, 12 mm or more than 16 mm?  The bigger the gap the more energy efficient the glazing is considered.

Double Glazing Alternatives

EPC Bromley realises that double glazing is not always affordable, appropriate or even allowed on certain properties.

Depending on the size of the property, double glazing can cost anything between £3,000 and £10,000, with costs for ultra efficient triple glazing even higher.  This is beyond a lot of people’s means, though EPC Bromley does recommend considering how much you will save on your heating bills each year if you were to have it installed.

There are other reasons for not getting double glazing.  The house might be in a conservation area, it might be a listed or period building, or in some cases it might just be opposite or near a listed or period building.  In these cases you’ll need to look for alternatives.

Secondary Glazing

This is a secondary pane of glass, which is fitted in the window reveal behind the existing pane of glass.  It’s not as well sealed as a fitted double glazing unit but it is a huge amount cheaper and will save you money.  It is even more cost effective if you fit it yourself, it’s an easy job that is achievable by even the least confident DIYers.

EPC Bromley can also reveal that secondary glazing is considered just as effective as pre 2002 double glazing on an energy assessment.

Curtains, Blinds, Shutters

Heavy curtains can be a very cheap and effective way to reduce your heating bills.  Heat loss will be reduced and draughts can be blocked out enabling you to feel the benefit immediately.  Purchasing draught excluders for draughty doors is a must too.

Blinds fitted in a frame can provide a complete seal, as can shutters, these have the added advantage in that they look attractive and take up less space than curtains.  They are also easier and cheaper to keep clean.

Saving Money on your Water Heating

EPC Bromley

You’re probably aware of how much you pay for water each year as well as being aware how much your electricity and gas bills are.  But are you aware of exactly how much you spend on heating water in your home?  EPC Bromley looked into this and the ways you could save money.

In Bromley, the average household gets through approximately 330 litres of water every single day.  If your home and hot water is heated by gas then you can safely assume that around 15% of your heating bill is for heating your hot water.  EPC Bromley would estimate that this amounts to around £80 per year.

If we save water we can save money.  This is obvious if you are on a water meter, but it can also have an impact on your energy bill.  It also helps your local environment and your carbon footprint.  The heating of water domestically, contributes to around four per cent of the total CO2 emissions in the UK.

Boilers

The set up in most houses means that the hot water you use is provided by a boiler.  This hot water is either supplied directly in the case of a combi boiler, or by way of a hot water cylinder with a standard boiler.  If it’s the latter system there will also likely be an electric immersion heater included.

One of the most important tips EPC Bromley can give you is to advise you to always use the boiler to heat the hot water, even in summer.  Using the immersion heater will always cost more money (unless using solar) and should only be used as a last resort.

Immersion Heated Water

If you don’t have a mains boiler heating your home then you may not have the facility to use gas or oil.  In this case you’ll most likely have to heat your hot water by way of an immersion heater.

Most of these kind of storage cylinders contain two elements.  One is located at the bottom and will heat all of the hot water at nighttime using off peak electricity at lower prices.  The top element will be used in the day when top ups are required.

In these cases the one thing EPC Bromley can recommend is to ensure that you do not have the immersion switched on all day and all night.  You’ll waste a huge amount of money heating water when you don’t need it.

Top Tips to Reduce Water Heating Bills

  1. Simply try to use less hot water!  Shower instead of bath, fill up washing up sink instead of running tap.
  2. Ensure that your hot water cylinder is adequately insulated.  If you have no insulation then putting a hot water jacket around it is cheap and saves as much as £20 a year.  Consider insulating hot water pipes too.
  3. Make sure you have the correct controls.  Use a timer, never have your hot water set for 24 hours as you will be heating hot water at totally unnecessary times.  Make sure you have a thermostat on your cylinder and ensure it is set to 60°C.  Any higher and it is a waste as it is too hot to use.  Any lower and you run the risk of legionella.
  4. Can you switch fuels?  If gas is available use it, it is far cheaper than gas or oil.
  5. Solar water heating (also known as solar thermal) can give you almost all the hot water you need. This is at virtually zero running cost.

Hot House Howlers – Turning Down the Heat At Home

EPC Bromley

A recent government survey suggests that we are heating our homes to a far greater temperature than we have in the past.  It suggested that the average home was up to four degrees centigrade hotter than it was in the early seventies.  This is something that EPC Bromley has also noticed during domestic energy surveys in Bromley.

The total energy we as a nation consume is falling, but the energy that is being consumed in people’s homes is up by over 30%.  The fact that there are approximately eight million more homes than there were in 1970 does play a part, but our heating habits also have to shoulder a large part of the blame.

An issue with these figures is using averages means that people at the extreme end of energy usage are ignored, despite being the main part of the problem.  My father-in-law, for example, sets his home thermostat on 27°C and has the timer set on 24/7.  When we visit we spend the time turning the thermostat down, opening windows and switching off radiators.

It’s people at this end of the spectrum who make us forget about people at the other, those in fuel poverty who struggle to heat their homes at all.

It may be true that on the coldest days of the year, a tweak upwards of a few degrees on the thermostat will actually make a difference.  But it’s forgetting to turn the thermostat back down again after the temperature rises to something we can bear, that’s where the problem lies.  It is imperative that our homes have the right set up when it comes to heating controls.

Recommendations

In a traditionally heated home with a gas boiler, EPC Bromley recommends that you have the following in place in order to have effective control of your heating.  If you have all of these in place you will achieve the highest score on your energy performance certificate.

  • A room thermostat
  • A timer (for heating and hot water)
  • Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs)

Technology

There are also a range of technological breakthroughs for the tech savvy.  These include smartphone apps with which you can accurately set timings and temperatures for your heating system.  Some even make use of GPS to ensure that the heating switches on and off as you leave and return to the house. 

Some of these apps are actually being introduced by the energy companies themselves.

Our obsession with modern technology may in fact end up being the solution to our energy usage at home, but it’s worth remembering that these apps are far more effective for owners of large detached houses, than they are for people in smaller properties and flats. 

In the case of the latter, something as simple as effective draught proofing may prove cheaper and more efficient in the opinion of EPC Bromley.