About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Boiler settings: ideas to encourage action

The majority of gas boilers in the UK aren’t running as efficiently as they should. Our project is investigating how to encourage and support households to increase the efficiency of their existing gas boilers by lowering their flow temperature – the temperature at which the boiler sends water to the radiators. This could reduce household energy use by 6-8%.

To help households lower their flow temperature, we have created a beta web tool that gives tailored instructions on how to change boiler settings. Please help us by trying out our tool and providing feedback.

Where are we now?

Our research to date found that people were very open to lowering their flow temperature when informed of the benefits, and everyone in our 10-person pilot was able to lower their flow temperature in practice. However, our research also highlighted some key issues that would need to be addressed before encouraging households to make this change at scale.

We found there was a clear need for an intervention that increases confidence in changing boiler settings and that’s applicable for a wide range of boiler designs. The research also highlighted the need to raise awareness of, and effectively communicate, lowering flow temperatures with the public. Our interviews found that even those who were regularly looking for energy-saving tips hadn’t encountered this advice.

Finally, we found that it’s especially important that this advice comes from multiple trustworthy sources, otherwise households will be less likely to adopt it. That means consumer advice organisations, energy companies, the heating industry and other sources of energy information would need to feel confident in promoting this advice.

"The research also highlighted the need to raise awareness of lowering flow temperatures with the public."

What did we do?

To make sure any interventions would stand up to scrutiny and could be easily scaled, we ran an ideas workshop with industry stakeholders (including energy companies, consumer advice organisations, boiler manufacturers and heating engineer associations). This was vital in generating varied and practical ideas that have a higher chance of being promoted by organisations that households may find trustworthy.

The ideas generated from this workshop were consolidated into a longlist of more concrete and feasible interventions.

We found that ideas in this longlist of potential intervention ideas fell into one of four categories:

  1. Physical prompts to encourage households to change their boiler settings
  2. Digital prompts to to encourage households to change their boiler settings
  3. Practical advice to help households change their boiler settings
  4. Incorporating boiler efficiency into best practice for heating engineers

The first and second categories contain ideas that would address the issue of consumer awareness. For example, energy companies could send personalised energy-saving advice to customers through apps and emails, including a recommendation to lower flow temperatures.

A more novel approach could be to encourage heating engineers or landlords to place a thermochromic sticker on a prominent radiator. This would prompt households to lower their flow temperature as it would change colour when it’s too high. It was particularly encouraging that these ideas emerged from the very organisations that we would need to turn these ideas into action.

The third category contains ideas focused on making the practical task of changing boiler settings less intimidating and increasing confidence that people have made the correct changes. For example, a sticker could be placed around boiler dials to show where the efficiency “sweet spot” is. Alternatively, an app could connect households with people who are confident in changing boiler settings and can guide them through the process over a video call or in person.

The final category covers ideas around supporting heating engineers to optimise boiler settings and to educate households during routine visits or installation.

Try our new web tool that helps you lower your flow temperature

After reviewing the longlist of ideas, we decided to design and test a web tool that gives tailored instructions on how to change boiler settings (idea 7.1 from our longlist) as our first priority. You can try a beta version of this tool here. Please help us improve the tool by trying it out and providing feedback.

As tailored instructions are essential to a number of ideas on our longlist, generating a usable online tool is an important first step to take. Later in our project we’ll also be running a field trial, a lab experiment and conducting modelling to provide evidence of the extent to which lowering flow temperatures reduces energy consumption and bills.


Shaan Jindal

Shaan Jindal

Shaan Jindal

Analyst, sustainable future mission

Shaan joins Nesta as an analyst for the sustainable future team.

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Katy King

Katy King

Katy King

Deputy Director, sustainable future mission

Katy is deputy director on Nesta's mission to create a sustainable future, which focuses on decarbonisation and economic recovery.

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