In the first and second parts of our series on "Heating Cost Billing", we have shown you how to read the bill and how the readings are taken. This third part is all about how to cut heating costs with simple tips and tricks.
Sealing doors and windows
Draughts are a frequent problem, particularly in old buildings. Cold air continually enters the home through gaps between the doors and windows and their frames. In such cases, there are often easy ways to fix the problem. Normally you can feel the direction the draught is coming from. If not, a candle or tea-light can help: just light the candle and watch to see how the flame or the smoke from the candle moves, if at all. Once you have located where the draught is coming from, all you have to do is seal the gap.
Window gaps can easily be sealed with self-adhesive foam sealing tape that can be bought in any DIY store and is not expensive. To ensure that the sealing tape holds, you first have to clean the surfaces to which the tape is to be applied to remove any dust or grease. Then you measure the window frames and cut lengths of sealing tape to the right size. Now just peel off the protective strip from the adhesive layer and press the seal onto the window frame – all done! For slightly larger gaps of two to five millimetres, it is best to use rubber seals that can also be bought from a DIY store.
You can also get door seal rails, draught excluders and rubber seals for doors to stop draughts in the home. Once you have sealed your doors and windows, you will only be heating the areas you actually want to heat.
Insulating radiator niches
Radiators are normally installed under the window, often in niches – that means that the walls behind them are very thin. Insulation behind the radiator can considerably reduce heat loss. The right material for this work is special aluminium foil-laminated insulation board. Just cut the insulating material to size and fix it to the wall behind the radiator with polystyrene foam adhesive. Then the heat will stay where it belongs, that is to say in the home.
Insulating heating pipes
The greater the temperature difference between the heating pipe and the ambient air is, the higher the heat loss. Home owners can save a lot of money by insulating previously uninsulated heating pipes – and they don’t necessarily need a professional to do it. The insulating materials can be bought in any DIY store: plastic, rubber or mineral wool insulating materials, adhesive tape, a cutter knife and special insulation jacketing for valves and pumps.
Before you go shopping, you should measure exactly how many metres of pipe have to be insulated, what their diameter is and see what valves the system has. When selecting the materials, it helps to look for the German label “EnEV 100%“. All heating pipes in unheated rooms and cellars have to be insulated according to this minimum standard.
Insulating is basically very easy but you have to work very precisely: The pipe insulation jackets are cut to the necessary length and fit easily around the pipe. There must be no gaps between the individual lengths of jacketing otherwise valuable heat will escape. For the same reason, all fittings and valves have to be clad with special insulation jacketing. Finally all cut surfaces and transitions are sealed with insulating tape.
Electronic thermostatic radiator valves
Programmable electronic thermostatic radiator valves can make a key contribution to saving energy. They give users the ability to control the heat from the radiator individually according to their needs or according to the purpose of the room. You can set the time when the heat in the bathroom is to be turned on in the mornings. In Germany, heating systems already have an integrated temperature reduction at night so the radiators don’t keep heating the rooms to a high temperature throughout the night. Thanks to the thermostatic valve programming, bedrooms or the living room are not heated unnecessarily when nobody is at home and at night the smart thermostatic valves automatically reduce the temperature by another few degrees. Many of them also have a sensor to detect whether the window has been opened and automatically reduce the heat. There are systems with which the user can individually select and program the thermostatic valves for the whole house. More recent models can also be controlled remotely using an app.
Naturally, it is also possible to save energy with conventional valves if people remember to turn down the heating in good time. However, consumer studies have shown that – particularly in homes with several rooms and several residents – people often forget to turn down the radiators.
Before buying programmable thermostatic valves, you should think carefully about what programming options the thermostatic valves should have: is a standard program sufficient for your needs or does it make sense to have more individual settings? Talking with an energy consultant or reading test reports can give you valuable information and ideas.
The actual replacement of the valves is a simple procedure: you just have to unscrew the old valve and screw on the new thermostatic valve. Inside the thermostatic head, there is a temperature sensor that measures the room temperature and moves the valve into the necessary position for the desired temperature.
The ideal room temperature
For every degree you reduce your room temperature, you save costs. The Federal Environment Agency gives the following recommendation: the room temperature should, if possible, not be more than 20 °C in the living room, 18 °C in the kitchen and 17 °C in the bedrooms. When the windows and doors are properly sealed, these temperatures are generally enough for the room to feel cosy warm.
At night or during the day when the residents are out of the house for some hours, the room temperature should be reduced by some degrees to about 18 °C. If you are away for a few days, the temperature should be set to 15 °C and for longer absences even slightly lower. During the night, the room temperature in the living room and study can be reduced by 5 °C. With modern heating systems, it is possible to control reduction of the room temperature centrally, programmable thermostatic valves automate reduction of the temperature in the rooms.