As the cost of living continues to increase, fewer homeowners will be looking to shell out on a new boiler upgrade or heat pump system. Research carried out by market research company Savanta on behalf of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) revealed that despite 95% of UK households reporting that energy price rises have damaged their finances, over half are still not seeking advice or support around energy usage.

It seems, however, essential that end-users should be made aware of the steps they can take to boost the efficiency of existing heating systems, and heating engineers should use their knowledge to provide that expert advice.

At a minimum, an annual boiler or heat pump service will help to prevent breakdowns and maintain long-term heating efficiency. End users are encouraged to request a check from an industry professional to find out the most suitable improvements that can be made to increase the efficiency of their property. The HHIC has created a consumer guide to gas boiler servicing, Improving the Efficiency of Home Heating – Combi Boilers, so customers know what to expect from their engineer during a service.

Comfort at a lower temperature

It’s often tempting to turn the heating up even higher, particularly in the cold weather, yet it is possible for boilers to work efficiently while providing comfort to the end-user. The EUA and Savanta suggest that 54% of homes lowered their boiler flow temperatures to save money during the winter months, but what figure should they be lowered to?

Research conducted by Nesta last year revealed that some condensing combi boilers have their flow temperatures set to a high setting of around 70°C, which could reduce their efficiency.

By encouraging households to lower their boiler flow temperature to 60°C, heating engineers can help their customers save energy throughout the remainder of the heating season. The HHIC advises that, in accordance with Health & Safety Executive (HSE) guidance for Legionella, the flow temperature for system and regular boilers should not be reduced below 60°C. Further research carried out by Kiwa Gastec on behalf of the HHIC concluded that further savings can be gained when a Boiler Plus-compliant room thermostat is fitted, and the temperature is reduced by as little as 1ºC.

Radiators are key

Heating engineers will be aware that bleeding radiators can significantly improve heating system performance. Explaining how air can be removed from the heating system and how to repressurise a sealed system, which is normally detailed in a manufacturer’s instructions, can help maintain system efficiency.

The importance of thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) shouldn’t be understated either. Where TRVs are fitted, they can maintain a comfortable room temperature depending on how often the room is populated, for instance, reducing needless energy usage that comes with high heating temperatures throughout the property. The HHIC encourage engineers to check that TRVs are operating correctly and advise consumers of the need to ensure air can circulate around them.

Maintaining balance

If the flow of water through a property’s radiators is unbalanced, then it’s likely that the radiators won’t heat up evenly. This is a result of some radiators consuming more of the hot water flowing from the boiler or heat pump than others. This, in turn, can restrict system efficiency and home comfort conditions as rooms may be too hot or cold. 

The HHIC has released Consumer Guide: Balancing the central heating system to encourage consumers to request heating engineers check the balancing of their heating system to make this issue a thing of the past. This is an important requirement for boilers, but particularly for lower temperature systems like heat pumps.

Looking ahead

Moving forward, it’s clear that a collective effort is required to boost heating efficiency in order to keep the bills down. Manufacturers, heating engineers, and end-users all have a role to play in improving heating system productivity throughout the country.

With expert advice, homeowners can start with simple tasks like reviewing their boiler’s timer settings to shorten the period that heating will be in operation, lowering their boiler flow temperature and room thermostat, in addition to arranging their next boiler service.