When winter sets in, your central heating is there to help keep the cold at bay. But exactly when is the right time to reach for your boiler controls? Doing so sooner rather than later might help you to stay toasty at home, but it will also mean you use more energy and spend more money over the winter. So, what’s the right balance when it comes to comfort, efficiency and cost?

When should my heating be turned on?

There are two main approaches to deciding when to turn your central heating on. One is to wait for a particular date and the other is to go by the temperature - either indoors or outside. Here we take a closer look at both options.

According to the time of year

If you’re a stickler for dates and you like switching your heating on at a certain point in the calendar, it’s advisable to wait until around the end of October when the clocks go back. By then, the darker evenings can make it feel like winter is really starting to bite and you might crave more cosiness at home.

There may be the odd cold snap before this point, but these chilly spells often don’t last long and if you turn up your thermostat too early, you could find you heat your home unnecessarily and end up with a bigger-than-expected bill over winter. Figures from the Met Office show that mean temperatures in October 2021 stood at 10.9 °C in the UK. If you have a well-insulated home, it might be overkill to turn your heating on when it’s relatively mild outside.

If you’re able to hold out even longer, you could wait until December 1st, the official start of winter according to the meteorological calendar. Even though this may seem very late, it’s still before the coldest months, which tend to be January and February in the UK. Opting for a later date will obviously help you to save yet more money and energy

According to the temperature

A more common - and arguably more sensible - tactic is to go by temperature rather than specific dates. By using the weather as your cue, you avoid the problem of potentially making your home too hot or cold. You might decide to use the outdoor temperature as your guide. For example, when your weather app says that the temperature is going to drop below a certain figure - such as 10 degrees - you can turn your heating on. Should the temperature rise above this, you may wish to turn your heating back off again.

Alternatively, you could rely on a thermostat in your home to turn your heating on when the temperature indoors drops below a certain level. This can be more precise than going by outdoor readings and may help you to manage the ideal room temperature.

Bear in mind that the accuracy and reliability of thermostats in older heating systems can degrade over time though, which may cause delays in your boiler coming on or mean your home is hotter than required. If you think your thermostat is no longer doing its job properly, you should consider replacing it. The latest smart thermostats make it easy to control your heating, helping to prevent energy wastage while keeping you comfortable throughout the colder months.

 How can I delay turning on my heating?

There are also some fairly quick, simple and cheap actions you can take that might help you to delay the need to turn your heating on. Just putting an extra layer of clothing on when you’re relaxing at home could reduce the temptation to fire up your boiler. You could also get into the habit of using a hot water bottle and blanket in the evenings when you’re watching TV or reading. If you tend to spend a lot of time in one particular room, for example if you work from home, you might want to think about using an electric heater to warm just that space.

Placing draft excluders under doors and in your letterbox could make a difference too, and make sure you keep windows and external doors shut where possible to keep the cold out. Also, on clear days, remember to fully open curtains or blinds to allow rooms to heat up in the sun.

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