The great British Summer may be in full swing right now (according to the calendar at least – a peek out of the closest window may have you thinking otherwise), but what goes up must come down – including the temperature. The cold season is preparing its inevitable march, making this the ideal time to investigate how efficient the methods of heating the water supply in your home actually are.
Heating Hot Water Can Be Costly
No matter what you use as a primary source of energy, and which supplier currently powers your home, you can be sure that hot water accounts for at least 10% of your bill – possibly rising to as much as 25%.
Alas, as anybody that has lived through the harrowing experience of a broken boiler will be able to testify, losing access to hot water can cause all kinds of issues for a homeowner; especially seeing as Murphy’s Law dictates that it will always happen on the coldest day of the year.
This means that cutting corners on the practice of heating your home’s water supply is never a wise idea. However, it’s quite possible that by making a handful of changes, you’ll be able to improve your property’s energy efficiency – and, in turn, drive down your overall bills.
This will be more than welcome when the expenses associated with the festive season begin to bite harder than any Winter chill.
Is Central Heating An Energy Efficient Way To Heat Water?
Central heating is by far the most energy efficient manner of heating water for use within the home.
If you’re not already aware, central heating typically entails using your gas supply to heat a central resource of water in a boiler, which is then distributed all over your home through pipes and radiators. This is what allows you to stay toasty in the Winter, by perching beside the aforementioned radiator, in addition to running any hot water for bathing, showering and washing dishes.
If your boiler was installed or replaced with the last decade, it’s probably a combination model, which is the most energy efficient type of all. Combination boilers release hot water on demand whenever you happen to turn a tap or switch on the central heating, which means that while they remain in stand-by mode, no energy is being consumed.
Older models, however – which are typically referred to as regular or traditional boilers – operate differently, and require more notice to supply a home with hot water. Regular boilers await an instruction to release heat to a central cylinder located somewhere in the home (oftentimes an attic), where the hot water is stored until you need to make use of it.
One way of increasing the energy efficiency of your hot water supply if you run from a tank, is to insulate the supply lines. Contact a professional tradesperson, and look into having this done, as you will find that you could increase the temperature of your water by up to four degrees.
When it comes to discussing the merits of combination boilers against their older counterparts, information abounds. However, there is one, common consensus; if your home is running from a regular of traditional boiler, it may be a good time to start looking into replacing it with a combination model.
Not only will this improve your home’s energy efficiency (which is important for a variety of reasons beyond cost, including the impact you will be having on the environment), but the average boiler has a lifespan of around fifteen years.
Seeing as most installations since the year 2005 have been combination models in the UK, anybody running a regular will be looking at the end of their boiler’s useful life in the near future. This is a potentially costly process at the best of times, and doubly so when the job becomes urgent!
Are Storage Heaters Energy Efficient?
Unfortunately, storage heaters are amongst the least energy efficient methods of heating water in the UK. The preserve of homes that do not have access to central heating to warm up their radiators or water supplies, storage heaters take their power by ‘charging up’ through electricity overnight.
Much like a traditional or regular boiler, this heats up a supply of hot water kept in a cylinder until your family needs to use it.
In theory, this is perfectly fine, especially if you work nine-to-five, as it means that you won’t be at home to use up your entire water supply over the course of the day, before it replenishes while you sleep.
In reality, the situation is a little more complex. The use of storage heaters will typically mean that your supplier places you on a particular tariff that runs cheaper overnight, whilst loading up your heaters.
Usually referred to as an Economy 7, your supplier will offer this discounted rate for seven hours overnight – but then proceed to charge you a premium rate for your power during the remaining seventeen hours of the day.
The upshot of this is that all other appliances powered by electricity, such as your fridge-freezer, television or overhead lighting, will be running at high cost for the rest of the day.
If installing a gas boiler is not an option for you, and you have no choice but to power your hot water through electricity, look into the possibility of replacing your storage heaters with electrical radiators and an electric water heater.
Whether you’d like to continue on an Economy 7 tariff, or switch to a single rate in such an instance, is entirely up to you, but these are infinitely more energy efficient options; an electric water heater, for example, can be switched on and off on demand, leaving you able to fill your cylinder with as much heated water as you feel you may require and help you avoid wasting energy that you will not use.
Electricity remains the costliest method of heating water in the UK, is roughly half as energy efficient as using gas, and it’s also the most harmful to the environment.
It is strongly advisable to switch to an alternative method of heating water if that is at all an option, but if you do not have the capacity to make a decision (due to living in a rental property, or a home with no access to a mains gas supply), making some of the changes suggested above will assist you in improving the energy efficiency of your home.
Is Solar Power Energy Efficient for Heating Water?
If all the talk of environmental damage makes you wince, or indeed you are keen to find the most energy efficient solution for heating your home and water supply, installing a solar hot water system is a plausible option.
This solution isn’t for everybody, due to restrictions that may be placed on your home’s setup (you will need a large cistern somewhere in your home that draws energy from both a solar panel and a combination boiler in operation, for starters), but Home Logic offer all kinds of versatile installation options – contact these experts for a complimentary consultation.
If applicable, you will marvel at the benefits afforded to a home that draws energy efficiency from the UV rays of the sun (don’t panic, they still work on the regular cloudy days that you’ll be subjected to throughout the year).
In addition to heating water – which is done by a liquid that runs from the solar panel being warmed by the sun’s rays, and feeding straight into your home’s cistern – the installation of 4kW solar panels on your home will generate around 3,400kW of energy, throughout the course of a year.
This should be more than enough to meet the hot water demands of a family home, as well as providing substantial reductions in your energy bills overall. What’s more, solar panels have a typical life expectancy of at least twenty-five years, and often run for considerably longer, making them a cost-effective choice to consider.
Solar Isn’t An Option – Should I Change My Energy Supplier?
If the energy efficiency of your water supply depends on the use of gas or electricity, surely one way of saving money and is to change your supplier?
This may sound somewhat daunting on paper, but help is at hand from MyEnergy, who will do all the legwork for you. All you’ll need to do is enter your postal code, and answer a handful of questions about your current suppliers, and the team at MyEnergy will crunch the numbers for you, and recommend an alternative supplier who suits your needs, and saves you money.
Following the advice provided by the team will ensure that you have a supplier tailored to the specific requirements of your home and family, and will assist you in the ongoing quest for optimum energy efficiency in heating your water supply – giving you one less thing to think about while you hunker down and hibernate throughout the long Winter months.