Many people believe that it’s cheaper and more efficient to leave heating on all the time to save money rather than heating up rooms on a higher setting as you use them.
It’s a reasonable theory but according to the experts, it’s not true. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) says it’s generally better to heat your home only when you’re using it.
The reason is that all homes will lose heat constantly through walls and windows etc even if they are well insulated. The longer the heating is left on, the more heat is lost. This amounts to wasted energy and therefore wasted money.
If you only heat your home while you’re using it, the amount of time the heating is on is reduced and so is the heat loss.
This approach was backed up by Martin Lewis, presenter ITV’s Martin Lewis Money Show.
Appearing on ITV’s This Morning, he said: “You pay to pump energy in as and when it is needed, and to keep pumping it in constantly isn’t efficient.
“Using a timer’s best, because your thermostat is designed to turn your heating on and off to keep your home at the temperature you set it at. So in general I’d stick with that.”
There are exceptions, however, and it may sometimes be necessary to leave heating on while you’re out to avoid condensation. The build-up of water can cause dampness and mould, which may eventually lead to problems that are too expensive to repair.
Allowing wide temperature swings in a home can in extreme cases cause damage to the structure. However, this is unlikely unless the home is left empty and cold for long periods. If you suspect this may be a problem then it might be advisable to seek professional advice from a builder or surveyor.
Condensation is most obvious when it appears on windows, but it also clings to the surfaces of walls and can even penetrate into the mortar, reducing the efficiency of the insulation.
When you eventually turn on your heating, radiators will first have to generate energy to evaporate the condensation before they can start to heat your home.
Over time, condensation can also get inside plugs and electrical equipment causing rust and corrosion.
If condensation is a problem, or if some rooms in your home are left empty for long periods, it may be necessary to leave the heating on occasionally but for most circumstances, the message from experts such as those at the EST is that it’s better to only turn on the heating while your home is being used.
Cold weather kills – how to stay safe
Sudden weather extremes are becoming more common creating all sorts of problems from heatwaves to flooding to severe colds snaps. Each one brings its own challenges and often results in devastation for those affected and, in many cases, even death.
Cold may be the least dramatic of these changing weather scenarios but that doesn’t make it any less serious and potentially damaging to health.
Every year throughout the United States and Europe, hundreds of thousands of people die of cold-related conditions.
One of the main reasons is that the cold makes our blood thicker, which can cause clotting. This is why there are more cases of heart attacks and strokes in the days following colder weather.
The cold also reduces our body’s ability to fight off infection, which is why winter brings an increase in infections such as colds, flu and pneumonia.
Research by Harvard University found that weather and respiratory disease, including flu, are interconnected. It says: “Research has shown that cold spells are reliably followed by upticks in the number of deaths from respiratory disease. Some of this may have to do with a few infectious organisms, like flu viruses, thriving in colder temperatures, but there’s also evidence that exposure to cold temperatures suppresses the immune system, so the opportunities for infection increase.”
Prolonged exposure to extreme cold can lead to hypothermia and even frostbite, but in most cases the problems are less dramatic though potentially just as damaging.
The best way to protect against cold snaps is to keep our bodies warm enough – around 37.5°C (99.5F) – to protect our organs, boost our immune system and prevent damage to our cells.
The National Health Service in the UK has issued advice on how to protect your health in cold weather. It says the people most at risk are:
• people aged 65 and older
• babies and children under the age of 5
• people who cannot afford heating
• people who have a long-term health condition
• people with a disability
• pregnant women
• people who have a mental health condition.
The health service offers the following observations and advice:
“If you are 65 or over, or in one of the other at-risk groups, it’s important to get medical help as soon as you feel unwell.
“If you have a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, it could be coronavirus (COVID-19).”
Flu will often get better on its own, but it can make some people seriously ill. It’s important to get the flu vaccine if you’re advised to. The flu vaccine is safe and effective and will protect against flu and its complications.
The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts spreading. But you can get the vaccine later.
Make sure to keep your home warm
Follow these tips to keep you and your family warm and well at home:
• if you’re not very mobile, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease, heat your home to at least 18°C (64.4°F)
• keep your bedroom at 18°C all night if you can – and keep bedroom window closed
• if you’re under 65, healthy and active, you can safely have your home cooler than 18°C (64.4°F), as long as you’re comfortable
• use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed – but do not use both at the same time
• have at least 1 hot meal a day – eating regularly helps keep you warm
• have hot drinks regularly
• to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), babies should sleep in rooms heated to between 16°C (60.8°F) and 20°C (68°F)
• draw curtains at dusk and keep doors closed to block out draughts
• get your heating system checked regularly by a qualified professional
• Check on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or breathing (respiratory) problems, to make sure they are safe, warm enough, especially at night, and have stocks of food and medicines so they do not need to go out during very cold weather.
The National Health Service in the UK is paid for by national taxes and care is therefore free at the point of delivery in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. Vulnerable people in countries with privately funded health care should check their insurance policies in advance to see what care is provided in cases of cold related illnesses.
It’s important to ensure that the level of care is adequate, even if it results in slightly higher insurance premiums.