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Top tips to reduce your heating bills

Expert tips to reduce your energy bills with simple and cost-effective upgrades with DD Wilson:

We all want our heating to keep our homes cosy and warm, but it would be lovely if it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Your central heating system is likely to be the biggest contributor to your household bills.

Reduce your heating bills

This means there is potential for some big savings. Follow our top tips to get the best from your heating system – from boiler and radiator maintenance to boiler controls - to find simple ways to cut your energy use and achieve cheaper energy bills. How to cut your energy costs - reducing heating bills isn't the only way to save money. Heating and hot water cost Heating and hot water account for about 55% of a household's energy bills, according to the Energy Saving Trust (April 2020). With the average home's energy bill set to increase by £693 from 1st April 2022, an even bigger chunk of money is set to be spent every year heating your home. It's easy to see how small improvements to your heating efficiency can lead to serious pounds and pence saved. Additionally, heating accounts for the highest proportion of UK household carbon emissions – higher than transport and aviation! Yearly carbon dioxide emissions in kilograms Heating - 2,745kg Transport - 2,376 kg Diet/Agriculture - 1,591 kg Aviation - 1,027 kg Electricity - 755 kg Waste - 305 kg Data from Energy Saving Trust, based on household emissions in 2017 As we head towards a more sustainable net-zero future, reducing our energy use is a win-win: not only will it save us money, but help save the planet from the impact of climate change as well.

1. Update your boiler and heating controls.

Old boilers can cost more to run than new ones – but given that buying a new boiler and having it installed can cost up to £4,000, replacing it is not always cost-effective unless you go with DD Wilson; we’ve boiler deals from £1,499 to go higher spec for £1,899 both eco-pro energy efficient. If you decide to replace your boiler with DDWilson, we can walk you through every step of the process, helping keep the price down and installing new heating controls – newer heating controls are much more accurate and will help keep your heating bills down. Based on a typical three-bed semi-detached house, there is a potential saving of £75 a year by installing a thermostat, programmer and thermostatic radiator valves (Energy Saving Trust, May 2020). Not only that, but it could reduce your home's carbon output by 320kg every year. Types of heating control The type of heating control you need depends on your heating system. But these are the general types available: Timer – turns your boiler on or off at set times Programmer – lets you set different times and temperatures for different days of the week Weather compensating thermostat – adjusts the boiler operation based on the outside temperature Load balancing thermostat – adjusts the boiler operation based on the inside temperature Room thermostat – measures how warm your room is and adjusts the boiler operation accordingly (room thermostats are load compensating thermostats) Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) – allow you to adjust the temperature of individual radiators and turn them off completely Smart thermostat heating system – allows you to control your heating remotely via an app. Some are even 'weather responsive' like the Google Nest learning. This allows them to act as weather-compensating thermostats. Smart heating systems, such as Nest and Hive, are the latest innovations in heating controls. DDWilson, who installs all smart systems such as Hive, claims it could save you up to £110 a year, but this is only if you have a higher-than-average energy use. A 2021 Which? Investigation into smart heating manufacturers’ energy savings claims concluded they aren't always representative, in our view, of a typical UK home.

2. Clean your radiator system

Ensuring that your system water (the water that lives in your pipes and radiators) is clean and free of sludge will mean that your heating system is more efficient. It’s also suitable for the ongoing life of your boiler and central heating system. A clear sign that your system may be overly sludgy is if you have cold spots at the bottom of your radiators or if some of your radiators take an age to heat up compared with others. Which? Has seen research carried out by Enertek International (an independent company offering innovative services to the gas, oil and renewable heating industry) that suggests a heavily sludged heating system can increase your bills by as much as 25%. If you're getting a new boiler, a clean system is also essential to validate the manufacturer's warranty on your new boiler. Ensure that your installer completes the Benchmark commissioning documentation to confirm that this has been done. Best boilers - discover our shortlist of the best boiler brands and expert advice on choosing the right one for your home. How to check your radiator system is clean: You can check how dirty your system water is by simply bleeding a little into a container from your radiator valve. However, be aware that much of the dirt in the system will sit at the bottom, so bled-off water may appear reasonably clear, even in dirty systems. Does my radiator system need a power flush? Here are the different ways your system can be cleaned: Gravity flush: A gravity flush can be done yourself if you're a competent DIY enthusiast. It simply means draining the water in your radiator system and replacing it with new, clean water. Power flush: A power flush will be more effective at removing sludge from your system, but it does require specialist equipment and can be expensive. The cost of a power flush for a five-radiator system can range from £300 to £750 (DD Wilson does this for £300 for up to nine radiators), with an average cost of £481 (based on quotes from 24 Which? Trusted Traders, February 2022). Chemical flush: A chemical flush is a lighter clean with a chemical that will help to ease the muck out of the radiator more gently. A chemical flush doesn't require high-pressure equipment, so it should be cheaper than the full power flush treatment. After either of these processes, a chemical inhibitor should be added to the system water to prevent further sludge build-up. This should cost around £20 and will help to protect your system water. It's important to remember that if you ever add system water to top up the pressure of your boiler system, then more inhibitors will need to be added to keep the concentration at the correct level. Products like magnetic filters, which cost from £90, can also be very effective at keeping your system water in a good state. They capture materials within a sealed system that predominantly come from the radiators and keep your system water clean. Some boiler manufacturers, like Vaillant or Alpha, offer a longer warranty on some of their boiler ranges if installed with a filter. In areas with particularly hard water, a water softening filter is a sensible precaution to prevent limescale build-up on critical boiler parts - such as the hot water heat exchanger. Signs you need a new boiler – if your boiler is on the blink, see if it's time for an update.

3. Check your radiators are balanced

You could have clean system water, but a shoddily balanced heating system will result in you spending more money heating up your home than you need to. Are your radiators balanced? The image above shows the impact of an unbalanced heating system on a typical household. In an unbalanced system, when you set the thermostat to 20°C, the upstairs might actually reach 23°C. While downstairs, where most of us spend the majority of our day, will still be too cold. If you turn the thermostat up until downstairs reaches a comfortable temperature, then upstairs is overheated, resulting in a thermostat that’s set at too high a temperature, leading to higher bills. According to the Energy Savings Trust, increasing the temperature by just one degree will increase your annual heating bill by about 10%. So it pays to keep your thermostat as low as possible while obviously keeping your home comfortable to live in. If you have a new boiler installed, your system will need to be re-balanced. After the installation, you should insist that your heating engineer provides proof that your system has been balanced before paying for the installation. Ask to see the engineer's benchmark agreement, or simply run the heating for a few hours to check that your system is properly balanced.

4. Put your boiler on the correct settings.

You only really need to have your boiler on its highest setting in the very depths of winter. Otherwise, your boiler is needlessly heating water up to a very high temperature and wasting energy. It could also mean that your condensing boiler doesn't even condense. The easiest way to make sure your boiler is condensing is to not set the temperature of the boiler too high.

A water temperature of 70°C on the boiler should ensure that it condenses. However, if you have a dirty or poorly balanced system, then this will also impact the return temperature of the water to your boiler and its ability to condense. Is your boiler actually condensing? Condensing boilers recover heat that would usually be lost from combustion gases by condensing water vapour within the gas. This releases heat energy which is then transferred into the cooler and returned water from your radiator system. All modern boilers, whether they're combi boilers, system boilers or heat-only boilers, are condensing boilers. If you're not sure if you have a condensing boiler, check to see if your boiler has a condensation drain pipe, like the one above, in addition to the flue gas pipe. If there's no condensation pipe, you don't have a condensing boiler. Condensing boilers are at least 10% more efficient than old-style boilers, so they can save you substantial amounts of money each year on your heating bills. Critically, condensing boilers only condense if the return water is at around 55°C or lower. If it's at a higher temperature than this, then your boiler is not condensing. Somewhat depressingly, due to poor installations, there are thousands of condensing boilers installed every year that do not condense. So they do not deliver the promised efficiency gains. If you want to know whether your condensing boiler is condensing, you can check the temperature of the water return flow pipe (or inflow pipe) with a digital thermometer. Consult your boiler's guide to identifying the inflow and outflow pipes, and simply measure their temperatures with your digital thermometer. A healthy heating system will have about a 20°C difference in temperature. Best and worst boiler brands - check before you change your boiler

5. Programme or time your heating

A timer allows you to schedule when your boiler turns on and off over a 24-hour period, so you don't have to do it manually yourself. A programmer gives you even more options, allowing you to set different times and temperatures throughout the week. If you are buying a new programmer, look for one that lets you set different temperatures for each part of the day. Then customise the pattern for each day of the week. When you're setting up your heating schedule, don't forget to keep it switched off at times when you might be home and not need the heating on. Such as during the night. Consider setting it to switch the heating off 20 minutes before you usually go out, as there will still be residual heat in your home. It's a good idea to choose a model that also lets you override your normal pattern, so you can easily switch off your heating if you decide to head out for the evening or plan a few days away from home. This allows you to change your heating pattern without completely reprogramming the whole week. Going one step further than this are smart thermostats. As with a timer, you can programme your heating ahead. But with a smart thermostat, you can also override the timer and turn your heating off from your phone. So if you're running late getting home from work, you won't waste money on energy by warming up an empty house. How to choose the best energy company - make sure you're getting the best deal

6. Get the best from your thermostats

It may seem obvious, but the hotter you have your home, the more money you'll spend heating it. The Energy Savings Trust estimates your annual heating bill increases by about 10% for every degree you turn the thermostat up. Turning the thermostat down will save you money. According to the Energy Saving Trust, a typical home can reduce its carbon emissions by about 300kg a year for every degree the thermostat is turned down. Thermostat temperature tips Set the room thermostat to 18°C and then turn it up by one degree each day until you find a comfortable temperature. Note that the temperature shouldn't drop below 16°C for elderly people and those with impaired mobility. Room thermostats need a free airflow to sense the temperature accurately – they must not be covered by curtains or blocked by furniture. Nearby electric fires, televisions or lamps could also stop them from working properly. Many room thermostats are for one room only and will turn your boiler off when the room it's sited in reaches the set temperature. For this reason, it's best to install your thermostat in a room that you use all the time. Boiler controls and thermostats - learn more about how you can control your heating.

7. Zone your heating.

Instead of just having one room thermostat, you can have separate heating circuits, each with its own room thermostat or programmer. This allows you to zone the temperatures in different areas of your house. If you have a smart thermostat, you can also use smart radiator valves to create heating zones in different rooms. Setting lower temperatures for parts of your home that you infrequently use – such as a spare bedroom – or only heating at certain times of the day, like an office, will save energy and money. Best smart thermostats - discover the models that came out top in our lab tests.

8. Set your thermostatic radiator valves low.

With your room thermostat, you should set the thermostatic radiator valves (TRV) in each room at a low level, then gradually turn them up until the room's left at a comfortable temperature. Turning a TRV to a higher setting will not make the room heat up any faster – that depends on the boiler size and setting and the radiator size. It will keep heating the room until it’s at the temperature designated by the TRV. Despite their name, radiators actually work by convection. This means cold air enters at the bottom, is drawn through the radiator and hot air leaves through the top. You can reduce your heating costs by ensuring each radiator in your home is able to circulate heat properly. For example, moving furniture away, not using cabinets to disguise them, and making sure curtains do not cover them. You can also get smart radiator valves that you can adjust from your phone.

9. Consider installing a low-carbon heating system.

From the mid-2030s, the government plans to phase out the installation of fossil fuel gas boilers. From this date, newly installed heating systems will need to be low-carbon or able to be converted to use clean fuel. However, this transition will result in cleaner heating and potentially huge savings on energy bills. The initial costs of installing low-carbon heating systems, such as heat pumps, are generally higher than new boilers. Still, there is currently financial support for installing renewable heating systems, such as the Green Homes Grant. So if you have the money for the initial installation, you could make huge savings in the long run and start a more sustainable lifestyle today. Renewable energy guide - learn about the technology that will be heating our homes in the future

Source: - Which? / DD Wilson added our own deals and prices within the text with other links. We have done this to show how much more value for money we are.

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