Off Grid Home Forums Technical Discussion An out-of place question on central heating

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    Nick Rosen

    As a renter, I’m not off the grid. But I don’t know of another forum specializing in reducing energy use. Perhaps you can help me or guide me to a better resource?

    I prefer using blankets and warm clothes, or a 250w heat lamp, to warm up at home. But a question I’ve had since before I was quite as energy-conscious still nags at me. When one is away at work, or on vacation, is it better to turn central heating off, or leave it on low? Again, I realize I should avoid central heating altogether, which I do, so I approach this as an interesting hypothetical. Energy companies always say to turn the heat down, rather than off. They say you’ll use more energy when you turn the heat back on when you get home, because the furnace will have to work more to get the house back up to the desired temperature. And it’s not just energy companies, but every single source I can find that says this. But none of them points to a study or explains itself well.

    From beneath my tinfoil hat, my brain thinks this doesn’t seem very sensical. If a house loses X amount of heat during the day, it would seem to need X amount of heat to get back to the desired temperature, whether that occurs in several short blasts all day, or in one long blast when one gets home. And if the indoor temperature would tend to fall all the way to the outdoor temperature during the day, then it seems it would save more money to just let it fall once and stay there all day, than to constantly try to keep it from reaching the outdoor temperature. This seems even more obvious during an extended period, such as a vacation.

    But again, every single source I’ve found says that even during vacations, one should only turn the furnace down, not off.

    So who’s right, me, or the entire developed world and all that history has taught it? I’m pretty sure it must be me.


    Sounds like it is an excuse to use more of the lovely power the energy companies are producing and so bolster their profits. I am sure there is a good logic here as it will take longer to reheat a house that has cooled excessively, but you should therefore be thinking of ways to insulate and preserve this heat. If the house is suitably insulated it will retain the heat in its structure for some time unless you live in a very cold climate, and even then adequate insulation is the preferred option. I suppose it would depend on the size of home you are heating, the structure of the building and the type of heating boiler/furnace as to the exact calculation but I like your tin foil hat and blanket theory. It would depend on when you took your vacation and for how long. If I go away in winter for a fortnight it is pretty damp and cold when I return. In summer this has no effect.

    Failing this do as I do, have a small living space with a decent wood burner and then even in the coldest of weather the internal temperature is suitable for me and my girlfriend to sit around in our underwear or less. Oh, and I live in a part caravan part shed in a hole in the ground so no luxury modern dwelling here.


    If you go away during the summer, I be inclined to turn off the furnace. During the winter, it would probably be better to leave it on low.

    I have a friend using an oil fired room heater. He used to turn it off during the winter when he wasn’t in. Now he leaves it on all the time on its lowest output. He found that his fuel consumption decreased, compared with turning it on and off as he wanted.

    I also have another friend in Norway who works away a lot. He once turned off his heating for 2 weeks one winter while he was away. When he came back his house was stone cold and it took ages to warm up the fabric of the house. he now leaves it minimum output when he’s away during winter periods.


    yes the best variant is to leave the heating at minimum. because if you turn it off completely it will be difficult to warm the house again



    In answer to the question of energy consumption. Heat loss from a house interior is directly related to the differential between temperature inside and outside the wall insulated or not. So if you attempt to maintain the whole interior at 72F the heat loss will be X value. Actually iit would be BTU/ Hour but I’m trying to simplefy.

    However if you lower the interior temperature to 55F the heat loss will be much lower compared to before.

    Forced air heating heats all of the interior and the furniture. Radiant heating directed towards occupants will only be percieved as heating the persons. In reality the occupants will not feel cold if they themselves are warm even if the furniturre is not at the high room temperature.

    From economic necessity we have had to cut off the heat in all but the kitchen /living room area of our mobile. To my surprise the rest of the interior dropped to around 55F – 60F and remained at that temperatuer all winter. We got into the habit of sitting with a snug fluffy blanket around us when sitting reading in the evening. During January when outside temps dropped to -35F for a week at a tie we did sleep in arctic sleeping bags.

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