When is the best time to put the central heating on?

We’ve all got energy costs on our mind – but is there a right time to put the heating on and should you just leave it on low all day?

Heating control at home. Economic problem. Woman turn on, off heating radiator
(Image credit: Olga Rolenko)

We’ve had a warm start to autumn so far, but as temperatures start to drop, you may be asking: when is the best time to put the central heating on?

According to the Office for National Statistics, electricity prices rose by 6.7% in the year to August 2023. 

Under the new energy price cap set at £1,923 for average use (your actual bill is determined by how much energy you use) households are paying around 7% less from October to December - down from £2,074 in July. 

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But this does not mean you will necessarily be paying less on your energy bill, as the fall is in unit price and not your total bill. How much you pay depends on your energy usage. 

Plus, this Autumn/ winter households will no longer be getting the £400 energy grant that helped millions of homes in the UK last winter.

So how do we keep costs low and what is the best way to heat the home? 

Is it too early to put the heating on?

There’s no right answer to what month we should start using the central heating as it will depend on the weather and your needs. However, most of us will wait as long as possible before pumping up that thermostat.

Ryan Collier, a heating engineer and director of Heat Pump Source, says most people should think about turning their heating on when the average outside temperature starts to fall below 15 degrees Celsius – this is typically late September or early October.

If you live in the UK, then you will have noticed that temperatures have been fairly mild so far, meaning you could keep the heating off for a bit longer to keep energy bills low.

Should you leave your heating on low all day?

According to the Energy Saving Trust, it is not cheaper to leave the heating on low all day as you will be using constant energy all day.

Leaving your heating on low all day uses more energy as your home is generally always losing a certain amount of heat – but just how much is lost will depend on the quality of insulation you have.

If your house is well insulated, there is an argument for leaving the heating on low all day – but just be sure it’s not escaping from windows or walls. The best thing to do here is to test it out – if you can remain at a comfortable temperature all day without the heating going on and off all day, then it may well be the right move for you.

You can keep it on low for one full week, and in the second week you can schedule the heating to come on twice a day and keep tabs of the cost using a smart meter if you have one, or by checking your meter reading.

The Energy Saving Trust stresses that, in the long run, only putting the heating on when you need is best practice in keeping energy costs low.

What time of day should you put your heating on?

There are times when you are less likely to need the heating on, such as when you are asleep or out to work.

“I would recommend turning your heating off at night, or when you are not at home, as this will help to save energy and lower your bills,” says Collier.

Temperatures are lower first thing in the morning and once the sun goes down; this is when you are most likely to want the heating on.

And if you’re returning home from a day out or from the office, scheduling it to come on just before you get in can help.

Working from home? Then it could be worth just heating a single room where you do all of your work. That way you won’t be spending money heating all your rooms where you do not feel the benefit.

What temperature should a room be?

We all have different comfort levels, but according to The Energy Saving Trust, heating your home to between 18 to 21 degrees Celsius during winter is comfortable for most people. The World Health Organisation suggests 18 degrees for healthy people.

For elderly people, Age UK recommends 21°C and the Lullaby Trust advises around 16 to 20°C for newborn babies. 

It’s also worth noting that simply turning your thermostat down by 1°C can save you over £100 a year, according to energy experts.

Gas and electricity bills

(Image credit: © Getty Images)

What is the most cost-efficient way to heat a room?

If your home is properly insulated, then it will keep the warmth in, meaning you can go easy on the heating.

Worried about heat escaping? Try draught excluders for windows and doors.

If you live alone or are the only one at home, it could be cheaper to use a fan heater or oil heater for a burst of heat.  

It’s also worth looking into the health of your boiler. As your boiler ages, it becomes less efficient as it will need to be on longer to heat your home.

Now is a good time to get it serviced and ensure it is working at an optimum level before the cold kicks in.

Vaishali Varu

Vaishali graduated in journalism from Leeds University and she has experience working with the likes of Leicester Mercury, Inews and The Week. She also comes from a marketing background, where she has done copywriting and content creation for businesses. 

Currently writing about all things personal finance, Vaishali is passionate about finding the best deals around, whether it's the best credit cards or the cheapest personal loans, as well as sharing top money hacks to help people save and better manage their money.