Saturday, 23 February 2008

Keeping heating costs down

Since starting to reduce our fuel use for heating and hot water, this little Galileo thermometer has stood on our mantelpiece giving us a visual indication of the room temperature.

We have gas central heating and up until a few years ago I used to set the timer clock at the start of the winter and leave it on the same setting until spring. The heating would switch on for a couple of hours in the morning as we were getting up and then switch on again mid afternoon until bedtime. I think back then the thermostat was set for around 18-20C (64 -68F). Not any more!

When I started thinking about how much heating we actually need, I realised that the temperature of the house varies from day to day depending on the amount of sunlight, the number of people at home, the amount of cooking etc. The temperature we require also varies depending on what we are doing, the temperature needs to be higher if we are sitting reading or watching television than if we are cleaning, cooking or moving around.

So now we have reduced the thermostat setting to 15 C (59 F) and the heating comes on automatically for 45 minutes in the morning just before we get up and for three hours in the evening from 6-9pm. If the house cools too much outside of these times we push the "extra hour" button for some additional heating.

We use the Galileo thermometer as a quick guide to the temperature of the living room. Ours has four glass bulbs, calibrated at 16, 20, 24 and 28 C. If all the bulbs are at the top of the tube then the temperature is below 16 C (61 F) and if we are cold we add an hours heating. If the red bulb has dropped to the bottom of the tube (as in the first photo) then the room temperature is above 16 C and the rule is that if you are cold at this temperature then you should be wearing more clothes!

After several years of keeping to these temperatures we now all have a good supply of warm clothes (lots of layers) and find we are quite comfortable running the heating a lot less than we used to.

I have recently completed one of those carbon footprint calculators. I put in the figures for our 2007 gas usage and was pleased to find that per person we came out at well under a third of the average UK carbon dioxide emissions for heating and for electricity. Using this little thermometer to gauge whether the house really is cold or whether we should wear an extra sweater must have saved us a considerable amount of money and fuel - its certainly paid for itself.


Denise said...

What an attractive thermometer. It sounds like you have got the heating issue really organised. I suppose the important thing it to get the whole family on board. I too have the heating on for a short time before getting up in the morning and a few hours in the evening. Our central heating also provides hot water, but if we need to take a shower or bath outside the normal heating times we switch over to an electric emersion heater. I'd love to have solar heating but apparently the initial outlay is quite high, so I guess I'll have to wait till it gets more affordable.

Moonroot said...

Well done!
It absolutely horrifies me the number of people I know who have their homes boiling hot while the whole family runs around in shirtsleeves during winter. What do you think jumpers are for, people?!
We have our central heating set to come on for about 45 mins in the morning and an hour in the evening - if we're cold after that we usually light the woodburning stove in the lounge and retire in there, or put the heating back on for a while.
Thanks for being a great example!

Jane said...

I grew up in a house with no central heating at all - there was a Rayburn in the kitchen and if it was really cold then there were fires that could be lit. We had a lot of jumpers and got changed in the kitchen.
Now we have LPG as our main heating supply and made the decision (partly for environmental reasons, partly cost) to rely more on wood - very abundant locally - and will be getting a woodburner with a heat store later in the year.
I do notice that most of my children's friends regard the house as cold - none seem to come with jumpers so they keep their coats on!
The thermometer is lovely

Emma Herian said...

Right, that does it, I am going to take your lead - thermostat down, limit time on heating. Such good sensible and obvious advise.
I have just spent a while reading back all most of your posts, you seem to be a very inspiring woman!

willow said...

Thanks for the comments.

We looked into solar water heating a couple of years ago but when I phoned up for details the company looked at an aerial photograph and said that our house wouldn't be suitable because it faces east/west and is shaded by trees late afternoon - I was very disappointed.

moonroot and Jane,
A woodburning stove would be great but unfortunately our modern house doesn't even have a chimney and as the house is right on the boundary we have no room to have one added for a stove.
I don't think that when houses were built twenty years ago much thought was given to "green" design, an alternative method of heating and some south facing windows would be good.

Thanks for visiting. As Denise said its important to get the family on your side, I brought the temperature down and shortened the heating time gradually so that they didn't notice too much difference.