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Should I keep the heating on all day?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 January 2015 at 4:47 pm

Q: We own quite a large old stone house and each winter we have the same discussion! Should we leave the oil heating turning over at a low temperature (we like a cool temp of around 18) or use it during 2 or 3 periods of the day? The same for underfloor electric heating in the bathroom?

A: Generally speaking, for a lower temperature heating system, it is more efficient to leave the heating on continuously, and for a higher temperature system it is more efficient to turn it on around key demand periods.

Heat loss from a building is proportional to the difference in temperature inside and out. The more airtight and well-insulated your building, the less important this becomes. This explains why in well-insulated buildings using low-temperature heating (for example many houses in Scandinavia) it becomes efficient to leave heating on 24 hours a day.

There is no hard and fast rule. It will depend on how you use the house and your comfort. If you are in all day, then you may well choose a different option than if you are out at work all day. 

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2 comments - read them below or add one


HarrytheWASPComment left on: 29 January 2015 at 7:33 pm

Two important points to taken into account are the way the house is heated and also its insulation levels. If a home is well insulated its probably better to have the heating coming on at programmed times if you are using a conventional system.

Harder to heat homes or ones that have a ground source or airsource heat pump will probably find it better to have the temp lower and heating on all the time. This way the fabric of the home ( solid walls for example) will act as a heat sink.

Backed up with solar pv during the day time and the heat pumps will tick along nice and cheaply.

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Linn Rafferty

Linn Rafferty from JTec Energy PerformanceComment left on: 21 January 2015 at 5:36 pm

As an energy assessor I'm often asked this question. Assuming you want to know which approach uses less fuel, and costs less, then the answer is to turn the heating on only when it's needed.

To see why this has to be true, think about the average temperature inside your home.  The amount of heat lost to the outside, per day, depends on the average temperature inside - the higher this average, the more heat is lost.

Obviously it also depends on the average temperature outside the house. We can't control the average temperature outside, but we can control the inside.

If you keep the heating on all day/night at a lower level, and turn it up when needed, you are keeping the average temperature of the inside higher than it otherwise would be.  Hence, you are using more fuel than you need to.

Of course there may be other reasons to want a low level of heat all day, such as preventing pipes from freezing up, or reducing the time it takes to warm your house up; but this does come with a cost.

Hope this helps!


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