Earth Notes: On UK Central Heating Season (2022)

Updated 2024-02-26 09:20 GMT.
By Damon Hart-Davis ORCID logo.
Home heating dates.
barchart
Micro-polls on Twitter from 2017 to 2022, probing the UK central heating season. Mainly off in June and mainly on in December, but up to 10% of tweeps may be wasting energy on heating well away from the heating season!

2017-04: Heating Off in April and On in November?

According to a survey undertaken by BRE for DECC ~ [hulme2013EUFS]:

The majority of householders report that they start heating their home on a regular daily basis in October and finish sometime in March or April. The average (mean) length of the heating season is reported to be 5.6 months. These householder reported findings are supported by analysis of the temperature data.

Approximately 2% of households (the equivalent of 0.5 million households) report that they heat their homes daily throughout the year. A similar proportion report that they do not heat their homes at any time of the year.

Not a huge amount had changed by ~ [BEIS2021EUFS] eg Some 6% of homes were heated all year round ... .

UK Twitter followers' heating status was surveyed periodically from April 2017 to July 2022.

The poll question changed somewhat over time, but this review provides a summary of apparent intent.

It seems that ~10% of respondents leave their heating on year round! Relying purely on the thermostat like that will likely cause some demand for heat that there would not otherwise be, eg a fresh evening here or there, well away from the heating season.

At 16WW (EOU Towers) we usually turn the heating off at the end of March and back on some time in November. A cold night here or there in April or May does not warrant firing up the whole heating system in my opinion, at which point windows are probably open too, meaning that such heating would be especially inefficient or not improve comfort.

Public service announcement: if you have a gas combi condensing boiler, make sure that it is actually able to condense and save you up to 8% emissions and cash! Adjust your radiator flow temperature (not your room temperature) to be no higher than about 55°C (the lower the better). If you can get down well below 50°C and the house is still warm enough, even down to 35°C, then you should have no problem upgrading to a heat pump.

Summary of polls

UK Twitterati central heating state snapshots.
Start / LinkOn %Off %What's Off? %Other %Total VotesDuration (d)
2017-04-0316.775.08.312
2017-10-0333.366.70.06
2018-04-0958.022.316.13.6112
2018-06-215.378.915.80.019
2019-10-3187.512.50.016
2020-04-0175.716.28.1372
2020-10-1975.013.311.7602
2020-12-0188.51.99.6522
2021-03-2467.525.07.5402
2021-05-0569.226.93.8262
2021-08-0526.867.65.6712
2021-09-179.185.55.5552
2021-11-1365.728.65.7352
2022-01-1880.614.54.8622
2022-02-1575.016.78.3242
2022-07-0614.082.83.21572

A by-month view of definitely-off UK central heating...

UK Twitterati central heating percent off by month.
% Off
  • 15
  • 17
  • 25
  • 25
  • 27
  • 79
  • 83
  • 68
  • 85
  • 17
  • 29
15172525277983688517292
Votes62244016126191577155823552
Polls111311111311
Month123456789101112
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec

Individual Poll Results

2017-04: off?

20170403 Twitter poll final result UKCHOnOff

When I asked 2017-04-03 on Twitter who had turned off their heating (ie in/by April), a majority had, but not as big a majority as I'd hoped.

One person said "Heating on most of the year - that's what thermostats are for, surely?"

2017-10: on?

2017-10-03: @MyRadbot asked: Who has already turned their heating on, dear UK peeps?: (n=6) 1/3rd yes, 2/3rds no, and one from northern Scotland asking "What's off?"

2018-04: off?

2018-04-09: @EarthOrgUK asked: Time for THAT question again! Which UK peeps have turned OFF their central heating now?

  • Yes 22%
  • No 58%
  • What's off? 16%
  • Other 4%

Total vote count was 112.

(Thanks for all the votes! Looks like it was just too cold for most people to hit 'off'. We did, mainly, subject to our younger one turning up his own room @MyRadbot without prior consultation!)

2018-06: off?

2018-06-21: @EarthOrgUK asked: How many Tweeps (in the UK) still have their heating switched on June 21?

  • Yes 5%
  • No 79%
  • What's off again? 16%
  • Other 0%

Total vote count was 19.

@ed_davies (Caithness, Scotland) said: "Answered "what's off"? Oil boiler sort of died, removed the other day then found that replacement was wrong type. Using electric heater in living room pending new one, rest of house at 16 °C, kitchen extension at 14.5 °C."

@Zapaman said: "No heating since some time in April but temperature fine (well insulated house, sufficient thermal mass)," and attached a chart!

2019-11: on?

2019-10-31: @EarthOrgUK asked: We don't yet have our #heating on in London (#UK): what about you tweeps?

  • Our heating is off. 0%
  • Our heating is on. 100%
  • What's off? 0%

Total vote count was 11 by ~10pm on 1st November.

Quite a few votes then rolled in in the last half hour:

  • Our heating is off. 13%
  • Our heating is on. 88%
  • What's off? 0%

Final vote count was 16 by 10:30pm.

(Our heating went on the morning of 2019-11-10.)

2020-04: off?

2020-04-01: @EarthOrgUK asked (2 day poll, opened afternoon of the 1st): My seasonal pop quiz... Which of you in the UK have already turned your central heating off?

  • CH is now off. (16%)
  • CH is still on (76%)
  • Other / What's "off"? (8%)

Final vote count was 37 by ~6pm on the 3rd April; halfway through it was ~10% off.

(Note that the UK was just short of two weeks into the coronavirus lockdown at the time of this poll, which may have changed things somewhat.)

(Our heating went off during the day on the 1st.)

2020-10: on?

2020-10-19: @EarthOrgUK asked: Who has their central heating on in the UK already? (poll open for 2 days):

  • Our heating is on. (75%)
  • Our heating is off. (13.3%)
  • What's off? (11.7%)

Total vote count: 60.

20201021 16WWmultisensortemp

(Our bathroom MHRV went on as of the start of poll and we closed our windows, and with the heating still off we're at about 21°C inside (13°C out) as of the !)

When @SwitchedOnPorts (Switched On Portsmouth) asked on 8th October its poll got 2 votes either way. Maybe the 8th is indeed "the average big switch on day" as claimed.

2020-12: on?

This November has been the mildest for several years for 16WW, so our heating only went on for the morning of 1st December (~7am).

2020-12-01: @EarthOrgUK asked: SNAP POLL: Who has their central heating on in the UK already? (poll open for 2 days):

  • Our heating is on. (88.5%)
  • Our heating is off. (1.9%)
  • What's off? (9.6%)

Total vote count: 52.

So we have dropped from ~13% (1 in 8) off mid-October, to ~2% (1 in 50) still off by the start of December, even when relatively mild for many in the UK.

2021-03: off?

20210324 Twitter poll final result UKCHOnOff

2021-03-24: @EarthOrgUK asked: UK followers: which of you have already turned your central heating off? (poll open for 2 days):

(I added: All UK readers of this poll are welcome to vote in [this] poll, even if you don't currently plan to join my cult.)

  • Our heating is on. (67.5%)
  • Our heating is off. (25.0%)
  • What's off? (7.5%)

Total vote count: 40.

20210326 16WWbc

Alexandra D-S commented It's 16 indoors without the heating on so I'm still turning it on for parts of the day. to which I responded that Our normal off-day is 1st April, but I'm not sure how that'll work this year! It's only been coming on a bit anyway...

2021-05: off?

20210505 Twitter poll final result UKCHOnOff

2021-05-05: @EarthOrgUK asked: SNAP POLL: Who has their central heating on in the UK right now? (poll open for 2 days):

We just had a cold April (more heating degree days than March at 16WW). It's still quite chilly with daily highs ~12°C. So this May may not be typical...

  • Our heating is on. (69.2%)
  • Our heating is off. (26.9%)
  • What's off? (3.8%)

Total vote count: 26.

2021-08: off?

20210805 Twitter poll final result UKCHOnOff

2021-08-05: @EarthOrgUK asked: POLL: Who has their central heating on in the UK right now (ie controlled by the thermostat, so it'll come on if the house gets cold)? (poll open for 2 days):

We have had quite a rainy and overcast and windy couple of weeks in the UK. Some of the rest of the world has been having heatwaves and fires...

  • Our heating is on. (26.8%)
  • Our heating is off. (67.6%)
  • What's off? (5.6%)

Total vote count: 71.

There was an interesting comment from @MilitantHobo in London: We're required by either our mortgage or leasehold to leave it operational and set to at lowest 10 degrees C. It basically never comes on in summer but in theory there could be a cold snap capable of damaging pipes.

2021-09: off?

20210919 Twitter poll result notification UKCHOnOff 20210917 Twitter poll final result UKCHOnOff

2021-09-17: @EarthOrgUK said: It's a funny old September so far - POLL - Who has their central heating on in the UK right now (ie controlled by the thermostat, so it'll come on if the house gets cold)? (poll open for 2 days):

It's been warm and dull and rainy in turns this month so far!

  • Our heating is on. (9.1%)
  • Our heating is off. (85.5%)
  • What's off? (5.5%)

Total vote count: 55.

Interesting comment and engagement, thank you!

I am slightly concerned about people leaving their heating on the thermostat permanently, and thus using heating at either end of the season that they'd actually be fine without. But 'thermostat' may now be something less crude than the real-time behaviour of a bimetallic strip in a draughty corridor.

For example, @Zapaman said:

By your definition our heating is ON, but won't come ON until external temp definitely dips below 15C averaged over 24h. This unlikely for another couple of weeks at least. It has been "ON" like this all summer, but not coming ON at all.

2021-11-06: on for us

2021-11-06: central heating now on at times 06:30--11:00, 13:00--16:00, 19:00--21:45. This should help concentrate electrical demand to run the system away from 4pm--7pm peak grid times.

2021-11: on?

20211113 Twitter poll final result UKCHOnOff

2021-11-13: @EarthOrgUK said: UK Tweeps POLL: who has their central heating on in the UK right now (ie controlled by the thermostat, so it'll come on when the house gets cold)? (poll open for 2 days):

  • Our heating is on. (65.7%)
  • Our heating is off. (28.6%)
  • What's off? (5.7%)

Total vote count: 35.

Here's someone who does not just leave their heating on the stat year-round:

Both my systems are manually turned off. I normally keep an eye on the landing temperature reading and what the weather is doing for the next few days. Sunshine means the heating goes off because of thermal gain.

Thanks again for the votes and the feedback!

2022-01: on?

20220118 Twitter poll final result UKCHOnOff 2022-01-18: @EarthOrgUK said: UK Tweeps POLL: who has their central heating on in the UK right now (ie controlled by the thermostat, so it'll come on when the house gets cold)? (poll open for 2 days):
  • Our heating is on. (80.6%)
  • Our heating is off. (14.5%)
  • What's off? (4.8%)

Total vote count: 62.

Interesting comment and engagement again, thank you!

Here's a frugal version of "on" for example:

It's on at the mo but I turn it off at the switch on the boiler, I don't just leave it on controlled by thermostat
... I just turn it on manually in the evening when it's cold then turn it back off again before I go to bed

2022-02: on?

20220218 Twitter poll final result UKCHOnOff 2022-02-15: @EarthOrgUK said: UK Tweeps POLL: who has their central heating on in the UK right now (ie controlled by the thermostat, so it'll come on when the house gets cold)? (poll open for 2 days):
  • Our heating is on (75%)
  • Our heating is off (16.7%)
  • What's off? (8.3%)

Total vote count: 24.

The poll was open as storm Dudley rolled over the UK, with Eunice hard on its heels...

Our heating was turned off at 8pm on 2022-03-08 as a tiny contribution to reducing UK gas demand, given current circumstances...

2022-07: off?

20220709 Twitter poll final result UKCHOnOff 2022-07-06: @EarthOrgUK said: UK Tweeps POLL: who has their central heating on in the UK right now (ie controlled by the thermostat, so it'll come on when the house gets cold)? (poll open for 2 days):
  • Our heating is on (14%)
  • Our heating is off (82.8%)
  • What's off? (3.2%)

Total vote count: 157.

Lots of votes this time, and some interesting comments too, thank you!

Does frost protection count as 'on' or 'off': the latter I think.

There is now data for every month, with far more 'off's in months 6, 7, 8, 9.

Dataset

name
EOU UK central heating on/off date micro-survey result 2017 to 2022
description
UK central heating on/off/other status micro-survey results largely from @EarthOrgUK Twitter account 2017 to 2022
version
7
keywords
UK, heating, central heating, space heating, months, on, off, survey, micro, straw poll, social media, Twitter, on-line, self-reporting
measurement method
on-line poll
variable measured
UK central heating on/off status by month
date created
2017-04-03
date published
date modified
2022-07-06
temporal coverage
2017/2022
canonical URL
this descriptive text with markup
distribution
data content of HTML article
distribution
poll data CSV, one survey record per row, with fields: poll start date, duration (d), Twitter link, total count, on count, off count, what-is-off count, other count
distribution
directory
DOI
10.5061/dryad.wstqjq2t6 [hart-davis2023central]
licence
this dataset is licensed under CC0, ie it is effectively public domain; if you make use of this data, attribution is welcome but not obligatory
is accessible for free
true

References

(Count: 3)

~2272 words.