The average room temperature in a UK home during the winter season is roughly 18°C, while central heating thermostats are generally set to around 20°C. Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how we heat our homes. In this guide we show you a quick graphical summary on how we heat our homes in the UK.
In the last 40 years, the average room temperature in the UK has risen considerably, largely due to the wide dispersion of central heating and improving insulation standards. Back in 1970, the average internal temperature of a home in the UK in the winter months was 12°C. Decades later this has risen to 18°C.
Although average internal temperatures have risen dramatically, the reality remains that some people keep their homes hot, some keep them cold and most of us are somewhere in the middle. In the chart below we can see the distribution of living room temperatures. Although the bulk of homes reside in the sensible 18-21°C range, there are a surprising number of homes with unnecessarily hot and cold living rooms.
The basic level of warmth required for a healthy and well-dressed person is 18°C. This standard is recognized by the World Health Organization and is the minimum standard in the latest UK cold weather plan.
Here are some basic benchmarks for indoor temperatures:
The average thermostat setting in the UK is 20.1°C Perhaps it’s a simple number to remember, or perhaps it just feels about right, but by far the most popular setting in a recent survey of homes was 20°C. In fact, looking at the distribution of set points below it seems clear we like round numbers, as both 15°C and 25°C seem to slightly buck the quite natural look bell curve. 30°C is also a remarkable outlier.
Although it’s quite normal for UK homes to set their thermostat at around 20°C, most households do not keep their heating on 24 hours a day – that would result in higher heat loss and hence much bigger bills. In fact on average, UK homes are heated for around eight hours per day in winter; ten hours per day for homes that just have one heating period and seven hours for the more typical two heatings. The graph below shows you a distribution of how many hours the heating is on in UK homes.
About 70% of UK homes with central heating heat their homes twice per day, and then occasionally boost the heating when required. This is a quite natural approach as it provides warmth when required, in the morning and evening, but limits heat loss during evenings and when people are at work. The graph below gives you an idea of when people generally have their heating on during the week. The peaks are around 7am and 7pm.
In recent years, a host of new technologies have been developed that have the potential to help you better control your heating, and perhaps save you some money. These include more sophisticated heat zoning systems and smart thermostats. A smart thermostat lets you control your heating and hot water with your smart phone, tablet or computer, at anytime, and anywhere. It gives you more flexibility and control over your energy use and can make your home more comfortable. Used well, they can also be a source of energy savings. You can read more in our smart thermostat pages.
The colder you keep your home, the lower your heating bill will be – simply because a cooler house loses less heat. Of course the better your insulation is, the more warmth you will get for your heating buck. And as we’ve seen already, living in a home with living areas colder than 18°C is not a good idea for your health. So is it possible to save money by tolerating a slightly cooler home? Very much so.
In the graph below we have provided some estimates for how much a typical home might save by pursuing simple energy-saving behaviours. Please note these are only estimates of pursuing each behaviour in isolation. The biggest estimated saving is £139 a year by reducing the thermostat setting from 20°C to 18°C. Of course that might be too much of a change for you, so we’ve included a few other ideas.
Ultimately, the purpose of your heating system is to keep you warm. And as we can see from the data, for most people this means having a temperature between 18-21°C. The key to doing this on a budget is creating warm spaces for when you’ll use them, like having the heating on in your living room when you plan to watch a movie – but not when you’re in bed or at the shops. This way you get comfort when you need it most, and minimize costs when you are away, sleeping or not using a room. It’s also worth checking, of course, that you aren’t paying too much for gas.
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