Kirsty McLuckie: It’s all kicking off over the Big Switch-on

It is that time of year again when the thrifty among us dither about whether or not it is cold enough to turn on the central heating – exacerbated this time around by chilling news over gas shortages.

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The Big Switch-on is a subject most likely to cause household arguments, particularly between couples or among family members who seem to have totally different internal thermostats.

I have friends who habitually heat their home to the max, winter and summer, and wear flip flops and shorts inside at all times. In my head I may condemn such behaviour, but I must admit it is lovely to visit them during a cold snap.

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I’m the meanie in our house – which is easy to be, as no-one else can understand the complicated heating system – but at least I cave in to others’ demands to amend the timer when it gets really cold.

When I’m here on my own I rely on extra pairs of socks and several jumpers while working, a duvet to watch TV under and a variety of cats and dogs to pre-warm the bed. The Yorkshire side of me lives in fear of being considered nesh, a dialect insult meaning feeble – particularly for those who can’t stand the cold.

It is easy enough to be frugal if the whole family are out during the day but for many of us, post-Covid, we are at home for much longer and energy bills have soared accordingly.

The National House Building Council (NHBC) issued tips earlier this year to help homeowners save on bills and it is a good idea to go through its checklist now. They advise reducing drafts from doors, letterboxes and fireplaces, to bleed radiators, check loft insulation and get your boiler serviced.

But it isn’t just that we are spending more time in our homes, but our heating needs are changing. For many, there is only a requirement to heat one room during the day – the work space – so turning the heating on throughout seems a waste.

However, this could be counter-intuitive, depending on the type of heating you have. If there are thermostats on each radiator, for instance, you may think turning off the heat elsewhere and just heating one room is the best idea. However, that does depend on how well insulated the room is, and how often the door is opened.

It is often more economical to keep the heating on low throughout the rest of the house, and just turn it up in the one room. If you don’t have separate controls, you may consider a space heater but savings will depend on the size of your house.

Advice from uSwitch states that in smaller homes, it’s almost never worthwhile heating an individual room but better to heat the whole.

In larger homes, a small room may be worth heating individually if it’s less than a quarter of the size of the whole house, but space heaters and gas fires are so inefficient that you may be better off keeping the heating on for the house anyway.

Then you take into account other considerations – from a health and comfort standpoint it isn’t good to be to going from a warm room to a cold room constantly. Safety is another point, as anything with an open flame is a risk.

This winter, I am going to follow the HMBC advice and heat the house on a low level throughout. Fingerless gloves, to allow the typing of this column, are on standby.

- Kirsty McLuckie is Property Editor at The Scotsman