With energy costs rising, many homeowners are looking for ways to reduce their heating bills this winter. Setting your thermostat to the optimal temperature can help maximize energy savings without sacrificing comfort. Here are some tips on how to set your thermostat to save money this heating season.
What is the recommended thermostat setting for winter?
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 68°F for most of the day during the winter. For maximum energy savings, you can turn the temperature down to 60°F-65°F at night or when you are away from home. Here are some general thermostat setting recommendations:
- 68°F – Recommended temperature for winter when home
- 65°F – Recommended temperature for winter when sleeping
- 60-65°F – Recommended temperature for winter when away
Turning your thermostat back 10-15°F for 8 hours per day can save approximately 5-15% a year on heating costs, according to the Department of Energy. Programmable or smart thermostats make it easy to keep these temperature schedules.
How low can you set the thermostat before freezing pipes?
Setting your thermostat too low comes with risks, especially the potential for frozen pipes. Here are some guidelines on how low you can safely set your thermostat before freezing becomes a concern:
- 55°F – Caution recommended as freezing becomes a risk
- 45-50°F – High risk of freezing pipes, especially in cold climates
- 40°F or below – Pipes will likely freeze
In cold climates, indoor temperatures should not drop below 55°F when no one is home. If pipes are located on exterior walls where temperatures are coldest, then the thermostat may need to be kept above 60°F to avoid freezing. Pay close attention to forecasts if setting the temperature below 60°F for an extended timeframe.
How do I choose the best temperature for comfort and savings?
Finding the right thermostat temperature involves balancing comfort and energy savings. Here are some tips for choosing a thermostat setting to optimize these factors:
- Test different temperatures to find your comfort zone – Start at 68°F and adjust up or down until you find your preferred setting.
- Lower temperatures at night – Turn down the thermostat about 5-10°F when sleeping. Use extra blankets if needed.
- Only heat occupied rooms – Close vents and doors to unused rooms.
- Use programmable thermostats – Set customized schedules for when you are home, away, and sleeping.
- Mind the extremes – Avoid drastic temperature swings that can waste energy.
Layering clothing and using extra blankets can expand your comfort zone at lower temperatures. Locating your thermostat on an interior wall and away from drafts can also help maintain comfort at a lower setpoint. Pay attention to your home’s hot or cold spots and adjust vent openings or run ceiling fans as needed.
Does a higher thermostat setting heat a house faster?
Setting your thermostat higher will not heat your home faster. Thermostats work by kicking the heating system on once the room temperature drops below the setpoint and turns it off once that temperature is reached. Here are some reasons why a higher thermostat setting does not warm a house faster:
- Heater can only work at maximum capacity – There is no higher output to reach the desired temperature faster.
- More energy is wasted reheating – Reheating to a higher point wastes energy your system already output.
- Spaces still heat at the same pace – Room-to-room heat distribution remains unchanged.
- Equipment risks getting overworked – Running at maximum output for longer strains the heater.
The only way to heat up a home faster is by properly using your thermostat’s hold or temporary setting functions. This allows you to temporarily adjust to a higher temperature before returning to your regular scheduled setpoint.
What temperature is too high in the winter?
Thermostat settings above 70°F in the winter generally use more energy than necessary without much added comfort benefit. Here are some downsides to maintaining excessively high indoor temperatures in the winter:
- Higher energy bills – Heating is one of the largest household energy expenses, so unnecessary heating directly raises costs.
- Can feel stuffy – Excessive dryness from overheated air can cause discomfort.
- Health risks – Hot and dry air can worsen certain medical conditions like colds or allergies.
- Safety hazards – Increased risk for flammable materials igniting and other fire dangers.
- Equipment wear – Forces your heating system to work harder than required.
The ideal thermostat setting for winter provides comfortable warmth without wasting energy or creating potential hazards. Unless you have special medical needs, thermostat settings above 72°F are generally considered too high for most homes.
How much can I save by lowering my thermostat in winter?
Lowering your thermostat just a few degrees can lead to significant heating savings over a winter. Here’s an estimate of potential savings from lowering your thermostat based on different home heating fuels:
|Heating Fuel||For Each 1° Lowered||For 5° Lowered|
|Natural Gas||1% savings||5% savings|
|Oil||0.5-1% savings||3-5% savings|
|Propane||1-1.5% savings||5-8% savings|
|Electric||1.5-2% savings||8-10% savings|
Based on average residential energy costs, this could equal $80-$250 in seasonal savings for many homes. Every home and heating system is different, but the percentage estimates provide a reasonable guideline for most.
Should I turn my thermostat down when leaving the house?
Turning down your thermostat 3-10°F when leaving your home for 4 hours or more can provide significant energy savings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save up to 10% annually on heating and cooling by properly setting back your thermostat when not occupying your home. Here are some benefits of turning your thermostat down when leaving:
- Saves energy by minimizing unnecessary heating
- Avoids energy waste from heating an empty house
- Lowers risk of freezing pipes in cold weather
- Provides added savings to balance times you forget
- Prolongs life of furnace or heating system
The specific amount you should turn your thermostat down depends on factors like climate and how long you will be away. Anywhere from 60-68°F is generally recommended. Use smart or programmable thermostats to easily automate temperature schedules for when you are home and away.
Should I completely turn my heat off when away for several days?
Turning your thermostat completely off or below 55°F when away for several days in the winter brings risks. Unless you take preventive measures, frigid temperatures could lead to frozen pipes and other problems. Here are some factors to consider before turning the heat off for an extended absence:
- Drain pipes and shut off water if below freezing temps expected – This prevents burst pipes.
- Never turn heat fully off if away less than 3-4 days – Gradual cooling wastes less energy.
- Run heat at 55-60°F in cold climates if away 4+ days – Prevents freezing.
- Ask a trusted person to check on your home if away for a week or more.
- Ensure plants and pets can toler te reduced temperatures or make other plans.
Leaving your heat on a lowered setting around 60°F when gone for a week or more still provides energy savings over normal occupied temperatures. Unless you take precautions like draining pipes, do not turn your thermostat completely off in the winter if away for less than a week.
Finding your optimal thermostat setting for winter requires balancing comfort and savings. The recommended range falls between 60-68°F for most homes, with lower temperatures when sleeping or away. While small thermostat adjustments of just a few degrees can lead to noticeable energy savings, dropping too low brings freezing risks. Use programmable thermostats to easily maintain customized heating schedules. Being smart about your thermostat settings allows you to maximize savings this winter without sacrificing the warm indoor environment we all prefer during the coldest months.