To heat or not to heat: How much is too much central heating for student houses in winter

Nothing causes more arguments. So how much should you have the heating on?
  • @brushingboots

Heating is the archetypal student bugbear. Just when life seems to be looking up – nearly Christmas holidays – the weather turns and the temperature debate rears its ugly head again.

By and large, my out-of-halls experiences have been positive. There have been no dead mouse incidents, no frozen pipes and no major accidents involving windowpanes. We had some mould – like everyone in London – and then cleaned it up. And in this flat, we have, until this week, in times of chilliness, drawn the curtains, dug out hot water bottles and drank loads of tea. Anything but put the central heating on.

Winter warming is a universal nightmare. Whoever you live with, wherever you are, and however much you love your friends (and their direct debits), it’s always “a thing”.

So last week my flat did an experiment. We’d put the heating on, for a couple of hours. Mainly to check the boiler hadn’t gone on holiday. It turned out it had. Last year’s technique of just hitting it a bit having failed to work, the landlord was called to patch things up. His own “just give it a punch” formula, combined with a hot water tap, did the trick. Just 24 hours without hot water later, the temperature shot up again.

The heating debacle raises a number of questions. Now we’ve had it on once, we don’t want it off again. But when to have it on? And does the timer work? In fact, how does the timer work? Unfortunately it turns out that waking up in a cosy room because the early morning timer does work is very nice.

There are plenty of solutions to the cold student problem. My draughty, open-fires-only upbringing taught me that if in doubt put another jumper on. Get under a duvet. Find an animal and let it sleep on you. And a month ago, the Prime Minister suggested the same; cut energy bills with an extra layer. Oh, if only.

One could purchase a storage heater, but if you’re on dual fuel like we are then attempts to shirk responsibility fall flat. We pay in thirds, regardless. And I’m worried that having my laptop charger on my duvet will cause a fire, so portable heating is a no-go. Besides, how cold is cold? To some, it’s seeing your breath – the definition of winter – and to others, city folk and non-sportsman, I like to think, it’s sitting in a light knit with goosebumps. As with almost every other aspect of student co-habitation – acceptable occupation of washing machine, bathroom, and kitchen drying rack – heating is a subjective matter that changes home to home.

And with each inhabitant. Our cold room is warmer this year than last due to its resident’s Lancastrian tolerance to chillier climes. My room is ever a sauna and with no bathroom window, the whole hallway – I say that as if I can’t see every room from my bed – is at permanent swimming pool temperature.

I’m a little disappointed that so early in the cold season, my small flat – easy to regulate, for a “check the radiators” whip round takes thirty seconds – has bowed down to warmth this early. I am scared of my next gas bill.