Last updated: 18 January 2021
In this guide you’ll find answers to the following questions:
Should you leave the heating on all day or turn it on and off as needed?
When do you need the heating to be on?
Can you test it?
How else can you save money on your energy?
It’s a debate that usually springs into life around autumn and has raged on for as long as anyone can remember: is it cheaper to leave your heating on at a low temperature all day, or only turn it on as and when you need it?
There are arguments on both sides, but unfortunately there’s no blanket “either/or” answer for everyone. Read on to find out why.
At the simplest level, you need to work out whether you’re likely to waste more energy keeping the heating on at a low level throughout the day, or whether you’ll lose more when you turn it on and off as and when needed.
Don’t underestimate how much this depends on how well-insulated your home is. You’ll always be losing a bit of energy throughout the day, so if you have the heating on all day to maintain the inside temperature, that’s fine, but you’ll be wasting more energy than you would be if you were just turning it on and off. Conversely, if you turn it on and off throughout the day, you’ll be using energy but not benefiting from it while waiting for the system to reach the required temperature. The more effective the insulation in your walls, windows and attic space is, the less heat you’ll lose generally.
Obviously it depends when you actually need the heating on, too - if you can live without it in the morning but need it in the afternoon and evening, that’s better than waking up and immediately putting it on. The most energy-efficient approach would be to set timers so the heating comes on when you’re in and turns off when you’re not in. With more people working from home (or for a greater part of the day), though, it might not be possible to take that approach.
The only way you can be sure which method works for you is to test them. Try keeping the heating on low for a week and then turning it on and off as needed for a week, and compare your energy usage. Take a meter reading at the beginning and end of each week so you can see your usage, and then see which one comes out lower. You’ll also be able to see what it’s really like to live with the heating on all the time, or sometimes off - you might decide that you prefer one or the other.
It’s an oft-quoted tip, but whether you have the heating on all day or only as you need it, you can save up to £80 per year on your energy bills by having the heating on at a single degree lower than usual. You won’t notice the difference in one degree, but you’ll definitely notice the difference in your outgoings.
You can also switch energy supplier, or at least compare energy deals to see if you could save. Switching supplier is a bigger overall step than just adjusting your thermostat, but switching regularly is a good habit to get into if you want to really minimise your energy costs. Comparing takes minutes to do and you can get started just by providing your postcode.