Preparing for colder weather: what's the minimum house temperature in winter?

Here’s how to keep up a comfortable house temperature in winter while reducing your heating costs.

Updated

A boiler against a blue wall regulating the house temperature in winter

Key steps

To maintain a safe house temperature in winter:

  1. Bear in mind that the recommended minimum house temperature is 18°C, but adjust this based on individual needs.
  2. Upgrade inefficient old boilers.
  3. Replace single glazing with double.
  4. Draughtproof doors and windows.
  5. Insulate lofts.

After a warm summer, there’s a chill creeping into the air, and it might be time to think about the best way to heat your house. From the best setting for central heating to energy-saving tips, here’s some advice on staying warm as the temperature drops.

You may find yourself wondering whether to pick up some electric space heaters and skip the central heating, but it’s not the best way to heat a house. Heating a home with electricity will usually be significantly pricier than heating the same space with gas.

The best temperature for central heating

In its 2018 cold weather plan for England, the UK government recommends that the average house temperature in winter should be at least 18°C. The best temperature for central heating will probably be higher if any of the residents are older or unwell, though.

Making it easier to meet the minimum house temperature

There are steps you can take to keep up your house temperature in winter. By preventing heat from escaping, for example, you can make sure your home heats up more quickly and stays warm for longer, meaning you can spend less time running the central heating. Here are some things that might help:

  • Consider whether your boiler needs to be replaced. An old boiler will be more expensive and less efficient to run.
  • If you have any single-glazed windows, they’ll make your home harder to heat efficiently. It’s probably worth thinking about replacing them with double glazing.
  • Heat can escape around older doors and windows, or ones that aren’t fitted well. The government-endorsed Simple Energy Advice website has guidance on draughtproofing.
  • You can insulate your loft to prevent heat from escaping through the roof. Again, Simple Energy Advice has advice on insulation.
  • Most central heating systems, in addition to letting you choose the winter thermostat setting, will let you choose what times the heating is running. Rather than running it all night while everyone’s sleeping snugly in bed, for example, you could set it to turn on twenty minutes before people start getting up in the morning.
  • If you’re hesitant to turn the heating on for financial reasons, check whether you’re eligible for any heating benefits. The UK government offers the Cold Weather Payment, Warm Home Discount Scheme, Winter Fuel Payment  and National Concessionary Fuel Scheme. The government also has information about the Affordable Warmth Obligation, a scheme that may entitle you to boiler or insulation upgrades if you claim certain benefits.

Best way to heat a house: safety advice

There are a few safety tips to bear in mind when you’re trying to stay warm in winter:

  • Never heat your home with an oven or gas cooker. It won’t be very effective and, more importantly, it could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Don’t use an electric blanket and hot water bottle at the same time.
  • Only seal up unintentional gaps to combat draughts; don’t block off vents.

If your house is going to be empty for a few days, you obviously don’t need to worry about keeping it at a tolerable temperature for human beings, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about the heating completely. 12°C is a reasonable winter thermostat setting to prevent your pipes from freezing when you’re away. If, despite your best efforts, the pipes have frozen, take a look at our article on how to deal with frozen pipes in winter.

Originally published