The boiler tweak that can save on heating for families with small children

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Turn off the lights? Do the washing at 30°C? There are lots of common ways we save energy. But there’s a less well-known approach that is getting attention right now, and it could be particularly helpful for families with small children.

This winter, many people have started checking the “flow temperature” on their boilers. This is different from the temperature you set on the thermostat. Instead, it means the temperature which the boiler sends water out to your radiators.

Incredibly, many boilers heat radiators up much too hot. This not only makes them waste energy, but the radiators and pipes pose a risk of burns to little hands and feet. You’re also more likely to end up with overheating at times, which can make it hard for children and adults to sleep.

Turning down the flow temperature on your boiler can help it catch more of the energy from the burning gas, meaning you need less gas to heat your home. In fact, this simple tweak could save as much as 8% on your gas use — and therefore save money and carbon emissions too.

The important thing is that your actual room temperature doesn’t change. Your central heating still heats your home to 21°C or whatever you set it to — although it will take a bit longer. This last bit is why it is especially good for families with children.

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No longer burning, but still warm — and more efficient. Credit: Becky Stern

Homes with children are more likely to be heated constantly during the day. This means your home only has to heat up once, then your heating can tick over all day with its new more efficient way of running.

Not only that, but because your radiators are no longer scalding hot, there’s less of a chance for children to get burned.

There’s even another benefit. Because heat pumps operate with low flow temperatures, by turning down the flow temperature on your boiler you can get a sneak preview of what having a heat pump might feel like. The keen-eyed among you may notice we recommend this as part of the pump:chic Test Drive “feel” feature.

So how do you turn down your flow temperature? To find out, I recommend watching the below video from The Heating Hub, which talks you through the process really clearly. They also provide some written guidance, or read on for a brief intro.

First, a warning. This tweak only applies if you have a gas combi boiler. This means a boiler that does not have a hot water tank. Instead, it fires up every time you run your hot water. You should not turn down the flow temperature if you have a hot water tank because of the risk of Legionnella bacteria growing in it.

So, take a look at the front of your boiler. There should be at least one dial on it, with a radiator symbol next to it and numbers around it. You will need to check your manual (or search online) to find out what flow temperature each number means. When you know this, try turning it down to the number that means 55°C. Note that some boilers may use an alternative digital system, so do check your manual.

Remember, your heating will probably take longer than usual to heat up, so you may need to put it on a bit earlier. Give it a try and see how it works out. If it just isn’t reaching the temperature you want it to you may need to turn the flow temperature back up a bit. And be sure to monitor closely if anyone in the home has health conditions that make it important they stay warm.

Good luck and stay warm!

To write this article (a previous version of which was published at Medium) I drew on detailed guidance which is available from The Heating Hub — check it out! 

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