Does your home or small business have a combination boiler? With no hot water cylinder? You could save energy, money and greenhouse gas emissions by turning the boiler temperature to your radiators down to 55 degrees or below.
If you have a boiler with a hot water cylinder or heat store? You could still save – but it’s slightly more complicated with this type of boiler. So read on …
Making better use of existing heating controls is one thing almost every home or business can do to reduce their Greenhouse Gas emissions NOW … and it’s free.
The government has recently announced that on all new heating systems, the maximum boiler temperature should be set to 55 degrees. This is long overdue. But you don’t have to wait until you have a new heating system. You can be part of The Fab 55 right now.
If your boiler has been installed in the last 15 years, it is almost certainly a condensing boiler, whether it’s mains gas, heating oil, or LPG. It is designed to run at lower temperatures than older gas boilers. In fact it MUST be run at 55 degrees or lower in order to operate in condensing mode. If you run it at too high a temperature, then the water going back to the boiler from your radiators or under-floor heating will be too hot, and this excess heat will escape through the flue. This is not how condensing boilers were designed to work. Condensing boilers have a second heat exchanger, which is what makes them potentially more efficient than older boilers. But if the boiler temperature to the radiators is too high, then the boiler will run in non-condensing mode, wasting energy, money and greenhouse gases. Unfortunately I often see clients, both householders and businesses, where the boiler temperature to the radiators has been set to 60 or even 70 degrees.
Will it be cold if I turn the boiler temperature down?
You can get the same amount of heat to keep your home or business warm by running the heating for longer. A steady background heat during the heating season is more efficient than short bursts of on/off using the timer. You should also regularly monitor your room thermostats. You should not treat the thermostatic radiator valves like a motorbike throttle – it’s not good to turn them up and down too frequently. It’s best not to let temperatures fall below 16 degrees in a home at night, because that can be dangerous for people with cold related medical conditions.
If you have a combination boiler, you can experiment with turning your boiler temperature to the radiators to below 55 degrees – to 45 degrees. Do it in stages, not all at once.
How do I know if I have a combination boiler?
These are the signs:
A combination boiler doesn’t have a hot water cylinder or heat store
Google the manual for your boiler make and model – it will tell you if it’s a combination boiler.
If your boiler does have a hot water cylinder or heat store, then it’s not a combination boiler. See below.
How do I know if I have a condensing boiler?
All boilers can be condensing boilers. This includes combination boilers, and boilers with a hot water cylinder/heat store.
A condensing boiler will have a condensate pipe (see photo) that evacuates condensed flue gases down your drain. This will usually be an insulated diagonal pipe outside. If your washing machine is below your boiler then the installer might have done a very clever thing where the condensed flue gases run out of your washing machine outlet pipe, so there won’t be an additional condensing pipe outside your home.
Google the manual for your boiler make and model – it will tell you if it’s a condensing boiler.
If you don’t have a combination boiler …
Then you can still have the boiler temperature for the radiators at 55 degrees or lower, but it’s too complicated to explain in a blog as it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Google the manual for your boiler make and model.
If you have a hot water cylinder or heat store, then you must ensure that the stored hot water is not at risk of legionella bacteria. Normally this means making sure the temperature is raised to 60 degrees periodically to kill off the bacteria. Do not take risks with a hot water cylinder temperature – consult the boiler manual.
If your home is heated by a different type of heating system, e,g, electric radiators or storage heaters, then the same principle applies, that a steady background heat is preferable, although this might be harder to achieve with storage heaters.
Getting your building “heat pump ready”
If you are considering having a heat pump, then it is essential that you run the heat pump at lower temperatures of 55 degrees or lower. Practising running your existing boiler at lower temperatures is one of the most important thing you can do to make your home or business heat pump ready.
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Phil is truly an expert in his field. I can understand why most people around the West Midlands choose to go to Phil for energy-saving consultancy. Phil has a thorough understanding of energy conservation and sustainable living. Would highly recommend. Nathalie Rush, MD, Six Star Insulation.
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It has been hugely inspiring to work with Phil. While others talk, Phil gets on and does it. Rosemary Coyne, Coordinator, Sustainable Housing Action Partnership
In working with Phil I have been impressed by his level of knowledge and enthusiasm. He has a vast array of contacts and has brought us into contact with other stakeholder in the energy business that would have been much more difficult to achieve without him. I am also struck by his commitment to supporting communities and the most vulnerable client groups.
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If your business rents an office or shop premises from a landlord, then don’t worry, there are still many things you can do to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
And most importantly, however much or little you are able to do, you must tell your customers what you are doing. People like to buy from businesses that are ethical and sustainable.
Here are my top tips for improving the environmental performance of your business if you rent:
Turn off lights, computers and other machines when not in use. Put up stickers, particularly in parts of the building that are intermittently used – e.g. kitchens and bathrooms.
Make sure doors and windows are closed in cold weather. The Close the Door campaign shows how you can do this without losing trade.
Can you reduce the number of journeys made by car or van? Where journeys are unavoidable, are your staff aware of eco-driving techniques? Has home working and remote working had a positive or negative impact on your environmental performance?
How local is your supply chain? Can you buy local?
If there are heating and air conditioning controls that you have access to, have you reviewed how you use them? Better control of heating and air conditioning is one of the most effective ways to reduce your energy consumption.
Are there any empty fridges or freezers? Are they turned off? Where there are fridges that have stuff in them, are they kept full and frost-free?
Devise a simple monitoring strategy to show how you are getting on. Take photos. Tell your customers via your website, social media, in your window. They will feel good about buying from you if they know you are an environmentally business.
Can you think of any others? My workbook (pay as you feel) will help.
If you need expert help with taking environmental action then check out my energy advice packages for small businesses. Tell me what makes your business great and we’ll make it greener and more profitable. #EnergyConfident
The Heat and Buildings Strategy is a plan from the government to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced by heating buildings. It has strengths, but also limitations.
There is financial support in the Strategy for homeowners, landlords and the public sector to decarbonise homes and public buildings. Heat pump grants for householders are likely to be predominantly taken up by more affluent households with higher carbon footprints.
There is no financial support for small businesses in the Heat and Buildings Strategy. All is not lost, however, because there are many things that your small business can do to save the earth, without costing the earth.
Here are my top tips for what you can do now:
Review the way you use your heating controls. In every single building that I have ever helped, I have advised on better use of existing heating controls. More strategic use of existing heating controls needs no capital investment. Upgrading to smart heating controls is a cost-effective way of saving carbon.
Switch to LED lighting throughout the business and don’t forget lighting controls – for example, passive infra-red controls in areas of intermittent occupancy such as bathrooms and corridors.
Consider the impact of home working and flexible working on your business. Just because there are fewer people in your building, it doesn’t always follow that your building is using less energy. Now is a good time to undertake an energy audit.
Improve the airtightness of your building. Look for gaps where the floors meet the walls and where the roof meets the walls. They can be sealed quite cheaply and will effectively stop heat escaping from your building. This is particularly useful in older buildings where it is difficult and expensive to insulate the walls and floors. But if you can insulate, then walls, roofs, floors, and window reveals. Thermal imaging is great for identifying priority areas.
Move desks and equipment to make use of natural light.
Use laptops instead of desktops as they use less energy.
Tell me what makes your business great, and we will work together to make it greener and more profitable.
If you’re a business that needs expert help with energy saving then please check out my energy advice packages.
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Consumers want to buy off businesses that are ethical and sustainable. Now is the time to act on the climate emergency.
The price of solar panels is falling and the price of electricity is rising. This is good news for solar electricity in homes, businesses, caravans, canal boats. Here are a few things you should think about before you invest in solar electricity in your home or business.
How much electricity do you use? An average household uses 3,600 kWh a year, or 36 kWh per square metre a year. If you are using less than this then solar electricity is less likely to be a viable investment (at the time of writing – August 2021).
What time of the day or night does your building use electricity? If there is daytime electricity use then solar might work for you. If your electricity use is mostly at night, then it might not be worth it. You can store solar electricity in a battery for use at night, but only if you use electricity at night.
Remember that common household appliances such as fridges, washing machines, TVs, computers, kettles are becoming more and more efficient and need less electricity. The appliances in use in a typical household might not use enough electricity to make solar electricity worthwhile. There is no public subsidy for solar electricity and so correct design of your solar system is key to making it financially viable. The days when people put solar panels on roofs willy-nilly are over.
There are certain appliances that you might have in your home or business that will take your electricity consumption well above the average household use of 3,600 kWh a year. An immersion heater can use several thousand kWh a year; a heat pump will use at least 5,000; air conditioning will use several thousand; an electric vehicle will use at least 2,000 kWh a year. If you have any of these appliances, then solar electricity becomes more viable. You can make the most of the sunniest times of the day to store water in an immersion heater or heat pump; in an electric vehicle battery, plus of course air conditioning uses most electricity when the sun is shining.
If you use a gas or oil boiler, or immersion heater, for hot water, then solar thermal is an alternative to solar electricity. If you use a lot of hot water, for catering, washing, showers, or manufacturing processes, then solar thermal could work for you.
You will need a south-facing pitched roof ideally; solar can also work on flat roofs or south-facing walls. With solar electricity you will usually need a modern electricity meter and consumer unit; and space for a battery if necessary. If you are having solar thermal you will need an airing cupboard sized space for a hot water cylinder.
Solar energy in the right building gives you cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In some circumstances it will also be cheaper than fossil fuels. You should consider solar energy as part of a whole-building approach to energy saving. Even if solar doesn’t work in your building, there is always something you can do.
If you need expert advice on energy saving in your home or business, check out my energy advice packages. If you are within 50 miles of Birmingham, you will get a site visit, a thermal imaging survey and a comprehensive written report that includes a costed assessment of the suitability of solar electricity for your building. I will also show you what to look for when you are choosing solar products and installers, and help you to interpret quotes you receive from installers.