In this article

Deciphering your Heating Controls

Setting a Heating Schedule

Finding your Comfort Temperature

Winter is here and we want to help you stay comfortable as efficiently as possible. We all want to stay warm as it gets colder outside, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth! Every heating system is different, but the good news is there are some general steps you can take to ensure a cosy home this winter.

The first thing you should do is get your house and your heating system in a good place.

We have created a number of checklists to help you get your heating controls, boiler and insulation in shape for the winter:

Home insulation guide

Radiator guide

Gas boiler guide

Air source heat pump guide

Deciphering your Heating Controls

Heating controls can often be confusing and difficult to use. There are a wide variety of types, functionality and combinations but most newer homes will have both a timer/programmer and at least one room thermostat. In this set-up, the timer determines when the system is active while the thermostat switches the boiler on and off to maintain the set point temperature.  

Your thermostat is probably fairly easy to locate, it’s normally in the main living space and consists of a dial or a display. 

Quick tip: if your thermostat is hidden behind furniture or too close to a heat source it may not get an accurate measurement of the room temperature.  

Image of two heating thermostats side by side

The timer or programmer may be less familiar and could be tucked away near your boiler or in a press. 

Image of three heating thermostats side by side

If you don’t have this set up, it might be time to consider investing in a smart thermostat. 

Heating programmers can be quite tricky to use. The Centre for Sustainable Energy in Bristol have produced some helpful videos on how to use some common programmers.

Setting a Heating Schedule

In order to use your timer/programmer or a smart thermostat to best effect, you need to determine a schedule that best fits your lifestyle and your needs. You should think about the periods when you are generally at home and those when you are generally out. Many programmers have a boost button you can use outside of these times. 

If your schedule varies a lot, it might be worth investing in a smart thermostat that can control your heating based on your location or give you the ability to control your heating on the go via an app. 

Depending on how well insulated your home is and the speed your heating system can deliver heat, you may want to program the heating to turn on and off slightly in advance of the schedule you have determined. 30 minutes is a useful rule of thumb but this depends on your home. If you are part of our Smart Energy Research Project, we will be providing specific advice on these timings this winter. 

Many households have found their schedules have changed more than usual over the last year as work locations and schedules have changed. If your habits have changed since you last set your heating schedule, check it still reflects when you need your home to be warm. It’s worth reviewing your settings when your needs change as well as when the weather changes, to make sure your heating is always right for you.  

Finding your Comfort Temperature

Graph displaying participant target temperatures

We have gathered data on our customers’ temperature preferences, and it seems that most of us like to set the thermostat around 20°C. This is the generally accepted ‘comfort temperature’ but, in reality, the temperature we need to stay comfortable depends on what we’re doing, what we’re wearing and what room we’re in.  

  • If you are in a room with lots of cold surfaces such as windows, you may need a higher air temperature to be comfortable. 

  • If you make sure your radiators aren’t hid behind furniture a lower air temperature might be sufficient. 

  • If you are older or have young children you might need a warmer environment. 

  • If you’re busy and moving around, for example running around trying to get ready in the morning, you may find a cooler temperature is more comfortable. 

  • If you wear more or thicker clothing or are under the duvet at night (more insulation!), again, a cooler temperature may be more comfortable.  

By paying a little more attention to these factors, we can make sure we’re comfortable while cutting our carbon footprint. In general, the best approach might be to set your thermostat to maintain a lower temperature and turn the dial up temporarily when you feel chilly. 

If you spend most of the day in one room, you may like to run this room warmer than other areas of the house, while you can allow the rest of the house to be cooler. There are tools out there to make this a little easier, if your radiators are fitted with Thermostatic Radiator Valves you can use these to create different environments in different rooms. If you have a smart thermostat, you may be able to program different target temperatures for different parts of the day.  

To get the most out of your specific thermostat, take some time to understand what your controls can do, and make sure you’re getting the most out of their features! Here are some more resources from:



Energy Saving Trust: take control of your heating at home

Energy Saving Trust: heating controls