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Improve your heating controls to save money


While upgrading to a modern, condensing boiler is a good way to make savings on our fuel bills, small adjustments made with heating system controls can also cut the cost of keeping our homes warm. With winter on the way, heating engineer Matt Hunt explains the options.

1. Temperature controls

Thermostatic radiator valves

Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) detect the local air temperature, and boost or restrict the flow of hot water through the radiator accordingly. Suits any system with radiators.

Likely cost: £150 for the first valve, £20-£50 per extra valve.
Possible saving: Significant.


Zone control

Any part of the system can be controlled as a 'zone'. Normally, there are two – hot water and heating. Larger properties can benefit from separate control of living and sleeping areas. Zones are usually electro-mechanically controlled using thermostats and programmers.

Likely cost of installation:
Variable. Ask installers for a free quote.
Possible saving: Significant.


Cylinder thermostat

A thermostat is normally, but not always, positioned on the side of the hot water cylinder and set at a maximum temperature of 60◦C. It can be hard wired or wireless. Suits any system with a hot water cylinder.

Likely cost: Like for like - 1 hour labour plus cost of thermostat.
Possible saving: Significant.


Hot water tank insulation

This is usually a jacket that covers the hot water cylinder. Can be fitted to any system with a hot water cylinder.

Likely cost: A DIY job but be careful of hot pipework. Jackets cost around £15.
Possible saving:
Significant if the cylinder is totally bare. Small if it already has some from of lagging.


Boiler interlock

This is any control or series of controls that inhibits a boiler from ‘firing’ when there is no demand or when demand has been satisfied. This can and should, in some form, be fitted to all systems.

Likely cost: Variable. Ask installers for a free quote.
Possible saving: Significant.


Room thermostat

Trader tip

Heating engineer Matt says: 'A room thermostat and TRV in the same room or area could be in conflict. If this is the case, set the TRV to maximum and seek advice from a heating engineer.'

A room thermostat is normally located where it will be subject to ambient temperature change in the room or area most used.

Room thermostats can be hard wired or wireless and suit most heating systems.

Likely cost: Variable. Ask installers for a free of charge quote. Like for Like - 1 hour labour plus cost of thermostat.
Possible saving: Significant.


Compensation controls

This is usually a small sensor fitted to the exterior of the home and wired directly to the boiler.

Outside conditions are monitored almost continuously and the boiler adjusts to the weather.

Weather compensation is usually more efficient than using ordinary room thermostats and suits most heating systems.

Likely cost: Variable. Ask installers for a free quote.
Possible saving: Significant.

More on this...

A few simple changes to your routine, such as closing curtains in the evening and closing doors when entering or leaving a room, can keep you and your property warm without turning up the thermostat.

Find out how to save money on your heating bills by changing your habits

2. Timing controls

Programmer or timer control

These are many and varied. A timer is usually set to operate a heating system at the same times every day. A programmer provides more control, allowing hot water and heating at different times during the day or on different days of the week.

A combination boiler will normally only require ‘single’ (heating) channel control. A system with hot water cylinder and heating will require ‘twin’ channel control. If you’ve a large house with more ‘zones’, a triple channel programmer may suit.

Likely cost: Variable. Ask installers for a free quote.
Possible saving: Significant.


About our expert trader

Central heating engineer Matt Hunter from The 29th Element in London, UK

Our expert: Matt Hunt

Heating engineer Matt Hunt set up his company, The 29th Element Ltd, in 1998. 

Matt specialises in in boiler and heating system installations, breakdowns and fault finding. 

Matt's advice? 'I would advise all consumers to read reviews and ask prospective installers many questions, including why boiler 'X' would be better than 'Y' in a particular situation.'

Read reviews for The 29th Element Ltd