There's nothing to scare off anyone new to the world of renting or homeowning like the word "utilities". It can send a shiver down the spine of anyone who's ever had a painful bill come unexpectedly, or had trouble switching providers.
The reality is, though, that for most people utilities are something they almost never think about - and that's not necessarily a good thing, either! One of the big bones of contention that so many of us are used to, anyway, comes down to the heating. Whether it's a housemate who wants to save every penny possible, or a loved one who needs the radiators on in August, it can be tough to find common ground.
We thought it might be useful, therefore, to go through some key facts about heating, and indeed to bust a couple of myths, to make sure that you're not doing it all wrong. After all, as sustainability month at Pocket-lint draws to a close, we still know that better heating management is better for the environment. Check them out, below.
1. Your scheduling might not be the most efficient
Those of us who consider ourselves heating pros already are generally just the people who managed to schedule a few time limits on their boiler one time, and have rested on those laurels ever since.
Well, it might be time to revisit that. One of the most heated debates in this sector is the blazing row around whether, for maximum efficiency, you should a) only heat your home at times of the day when you need the temperature boost, or b) heat your home constantly at a lower level, ensuring that it's always comfortable.
Sadly, there's no clear answer - depending on who you listen to, both are true. But what we can say is that you should be adjusting your schedule little and often, so that you move away from a seasonal "turn off/on" moment, and into a world where you're only ever using the amount of heating you need. That'll save both money and energy.
2. You could find a smart thermostat a lifesaver
Of course, you might read the above point and think it sounds like a faff, and fair enough. There are better ways to go about taking control of your heating, and the most life-changing is a smart thermostat. These gizmos, which do require a little bit of installation, effectively bring your heating into the connected world.
You'll go from annoying dials and cryptic manuals to easy-to-use apps and timers, letting you choose your heating schedule without worrying. Some of the best are offered up by the likes of Resideo with their Honeywell Home smart products, but there are also great options from Tado and Nest, too. If you're interested in pursuing this route, the ideal place to head next is our guide to the best smart thermostats on the market right now.
3. That electric heater could be costing you
If you're not sure you want a smart heating system quite yet, though, there are still some concrete steps you can take. One fixture in many people's homes is the electric heater, often pointed at chilly toes or used to counteract a draft. The reality is, though, that even the best of these heaters is wildly inefficient compared to using your actual central heating, if you have it.
That means that if you want to be energy-efficient and indeed to be smart with your money, ditching the electric heaters is a good first step.
4. Keep those doors closed, if you can
Another step that you can really easily take, even if it might seem a tad antisocial, comes in the form of closed doors. Admittedly, you might not need to do this at every possible point in your house, but if your living room or lounge struggles to reach a nice temperature, you might find that closing the door makes a difference.
The reasoning here is obvious - closing the door makes the room a closed-off space and drastically reduces the amount of heat that can leak out it, just like if you had a window open.
5. Setting the thermostat high makes no difference to speed
There's no place for impatience in the heating game - you can't expect instant results when you turn your thermostat up, as we're not yet at the point where radiators can heat instantly, if we ever will be. That is to say, if you turn your thermostat way up to get a quick boost before turning it down to the actual desired temperature, you should know that you're not achieving much.
Regardless of where you set the temperature, your room will heat at the same pace, so go easy on the dial and only aim for the temperature you actually want and need. The human body isn't designed to notice a small difference in room temperature – so the only difference adding a few degrees will make is in your bank balance
6. The more control, the better
Finally, we're closing out our list of points with a reminder that when it comes to heating your home there's no such thing as too much control. This is, after all, the most complex system in your house, so why not embrace all the technology you can to keep it under control?
Whether you've got a smart meter, a smart thermostat, control over each radiator or just one central temperature that you can adjust, the more elements you can change, the more you'll be able to streamline your heating. And remember that modern controls have a host of automatic features that save you money without you realising it – maybe it's time to upgrade that thermostat that was put in when the house was built!
There's no sense heating a room you never use, so if you can cut it out of your normal heating schedule, you've just saved money and energy. With gradual steps like these, in no time you'll be living a better heating life.
Pocket-lint is teaming up with Resideo - the new home of Honeywell Home products - to plant trees in your name for free. We've already planted 1,000 trees in a sustainability drive, but we want to plant 3,000 more with your help and on your behalf. To find out more, click here.