Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Keeping warm

It's a calm sunny morning today, but the past few days have been dull, wet and windy. And frankly rather chilly. Well, it is winter. If you don't go to work, and stay indoors at home for hours on end, it's necessary to keep the house reasonably warm. What's the best temperature?

I set my only thermostat (it's in the hall, on the wall, at chest height) so that the thermometer nearby (also in the hall, but at waist level) shows a constant 70 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) while the heating is on. There's another thermometer in my lounge (on the wall, at head height), and the same degree of heating makes that one show a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius). But the lounge temperature down at sitting level is probably the same as in the hall. It's a small bungalow; the hall is in the middle; and there are no closed doors. Every room will be the same - although when it's sunny, the south-west facing lounge gets distinctly warmer, even in winter. And the kitchen can be a little warmer too, when the boiler is active, or I'm cooking.

Is 70 degrees F (or 22 degrees C) warm enough?

Well, visitors to my home in winter never say they are too cold. I'm thinking that I keep my home warmer than most. I've certainly been in many homes where they clearly prefer a cooler environment - even draughts, which I can't stand. It's a very personal thing, of course. One person's fresh and stimulating temperature might make another shiver, and feel pretty uncomfortable.

The temperature I set for my own home is just warm enough if I'm on my feet and moving about. But it's not always so comfortable if I'm just sitting or reclining, when a cardigan or even a dressing gown might be needed. I used to set a higher indoor temperature, high enough to prance about in the nude if so inclined, even with a raging blizzard outside. But nowadays I try to tolerate cooler conditions. It saves gas: getting used to even one degree less seems to make a worthwhile difference to the cost of heating.

But the present setting is the lowest I'll be adopting. It's usually fine; but anything lower would have me wrapped up all the time, and feeling that self-denial was being carried too far!

Although the thermostat is set on the low side, I don't hesitate (if at home) to keep the central heating on all day in the winter, from 7.00am right through to 11.00pm. This maintains a constant cosiness without any break, and the boiler only has to fire up whenever the temperature happens to dip, which it will do after a predictable amount of time.

On the average winter day, if the heating is off, my house will lose slightly less than one degree Celsius for every hour that passes. So if I shut it off from 11.00am to 5.00pm - as I might if out all day - then I'd expect the house to lose 5 degrees C during that time - and the boiler would have to thrash away hard once it came on again at 5.00pm, until the temperature were up to normal.

I'm still undecided whether it's better to turn the heating off for a few daytime hours, and burn gas constantly until the normal temperature is restored, or to leave it on throughout the day, with the boiler topping up the temperature only now and then. I'll make a judgement on that when I get my next gas bill!

After 11.00pm, the heating goes off for the night. I generally don't get to bed before midnight, so in winter the house temperature will have dropped by nearly 1 degree C by the time I actually snuggle beneath the duvet. By dawn, the house might be 6 degrees C cooler. This isn't a huge temperature loss, and is one reason why I haven't rushed out to install extra loft insulation, although that will undoubtedly be a great idea at some future point. It does however mean that I must have a decent duvet over me, to stay warm through the night.

Last night I reverted to a 13.5 tog hollowfibre duvet I bought in December 2008. I had been using a 10.5 tog duck feather and down duvet bought in November 2013, but I just wasn't getting cosy enough, even with a standby 4.5 tog summer duvet spread on top of it. That's 15 togs, and my feet still cold! But I remembered that I never got cold feet under that older 13.5 tog duvet. Nor did I last night. I slept very well indeed, right through the night.

Well that's a bit curious. Hollowfibre is the cheap, unglamorous option. But it clearly works better as a cosy bed covering, and it's lighter too. The 'luxury' duck feather and down duvet doesn't deliver the same warmth. And it's heavy. And the feather-ends can prickle.

And look at the price difference! Both duvets were at sale price, both are king-sized. The Hollowfibre one cost only £13.59. The duck feather and down one cost £59.20. This appears to be an instance of getting poorer functionality with the more expensive product.

The warmth problem with the duck duvet may be down to the filling tending to shift and clump, creating spots over the body where the warming effect is low. Hollowfibre doesn't move about or gather into clumps (hot spots) and voids (cold spots): the warming effect is the same all over.

So, I feel rather conned by buying the posh product! Not again.


  1. It’s good to know that you have those thermometers around. That way, you can check the temperature, and decide whether to adjust or not to adjust the thermostat. It could also serve as a guide to see if the thermostat is working or giving you the wrong temperature. Anyway, thanks for sharing this with us. Have a great day!

    Randall Rogers @ R J Heating and Cooling

  2. I think there is logic in keeping the heating on throughout the day when you are at home. I am still struggling to get to grips with this idea, even though I've been told it is more economical. Currently, my home is either too hot or too cold with no compromise in-between. I think I need to take your advice!


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