What Temperature Should You Set Your Thermostat To During Winter?

thermostatWhen temperatures start to dip, your first instinct might be to reach for the thermostat. While blasting warm air through your home can feel toasty and relaxing, it also comes with some potential problems. Your heater can be one of the biggest consumers of electricity or gas in your home. If you keep your house at sauna-like temperatures all the time, you can expect to pay a big bill. To keep your utility bills at a lower level, you need to be careful with your heating and air conditioning settings. Here are some tips for finding the most comfortable and money-saving options for your heat system.

Don’t Set Your HVAC Higher Than This Temperature

What setting should you pick? The short answer is 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The United States Department of Energy recommends that homeowners don’t set their thermostats any higher than this setting during the winter. You can set it lower if you prefer, but try to avoid putting it above 68 degrees. There are several different factors that go into selecting this temperature.

One of the main reasons that the Department of Energy recommends this temperature is because it’s reasonably comfortable. Most people will feel slightly chilly, but wearing sweatpants or a light jacket will be enough to counteract the temperature. Of course, everyone has slightly different preferences, but 68 degrees is usually a universally comfortable environment for most people.

Another advantage is that it is efficient. When your home is very warm, it takes more energy to maintain your heat. This happens because a warm object loses heat at a faster rate when there is a huge gap between the object’s heat and the exterior heat. So if your home is at 78 degrees when it’s 50 degrees outside, you’ll be losing heat rapidly. Temperatures below 70 degrees reduce expedited thermal loss, so there is less heat transfer overall.

In addition to being comfortable and efficient, 68 degrees is also a great temperature for saving money. The Department of Energy estimates that you can save 1 percent on your heating bills for each degree you lower your temperatures for eight hours. This can result in hundreds of dollars in savings for you.

Designate a Time to Use Lower Temperatures

For even more savings, the Department of Energy suggests further reducing the temperature in your home for a few hours each day. Try to find times when you can lower your heat past your base temperature of around 78 degrees. You can get the most savings by turning your settings 7 to 10 degrees lower for eight hours each day, but every little bit of reduction still provides savings.

It can be especially smart to lower your heat when you are sleeping. Since you are under blankets, you have plenty of trapped body heat to keep you warm. A lower setting ensures you aren’t wasting a lot of money to warm a whole house you aren’t using. It can also help you sleep a little better. Sleep scientists report that people sleep most soundly when their heating’ system is set somewhere between 60 to 67 degrees.

Another good time to reduce heater usage is when you are away. Any time you go to work or step out to run an errand, it can be helpful to drop your settings a little. Though some people worry that their heating system will have to use more energy to warm the house back up later, it still saves money. The energy you conserve by not running your heat always outweighs the energy it needs to warm up your home later.

People can also creatively save money by adjusting their thermostats during times when other sources of heat are warming the house. If you have bright sun streaming through windows, an oven running for a few hours, or several people taking hot showers, you can bump down your heater a notch without noticing much of a difference.

How Low Can You Set Your Heater?

Theoretically, the lower you go, the more energy you save. However, this doesn’t mean you should set your heating system to 40 degrees every day. There are some potential dangers associated with lower heat. First of all, there is a bit of a risk to your household’s health. Very low temperatures can cause hypothermia, and moderately low temperatures can trigger other illnesses. Especially if you have babies, seniors, or chronically ill household members, low temperatures can be risky.

According to the World Health Organization, temperatures below 61 degrees can increase the risks of respiratory issues. Especially when humidity is high, these chilly temperatures can cause people to have worsened allergies and increased chances of catching colds. If you have children, seniors, or delicate pets, make sure to keep temperatures higher. Anything below 65 degrees can be unsafe for those with weakened health.

Another problem to be aware of is damage to your home. If your system isn’t keeping your house warm enough, you can end up with frozen pipes that burst and flood the home. Lower temperatures can also damage certain household belongings like wooden furniture, metal fixtures, houseplants, or electronics.

Therefore, even if no one is going to be in the house, you don’t want to keep your heater off. Instead, you should set your thermostat so it turns on occasionally to warm up your home a little bit. Most housing experts recommend that people set their thermostats to no lower than 55 degrees. This avoids unnecessary energy usage while you’re away but keeps your house from suffering any damage.

Tips for Reducing Temperatures While Staying Comfortable

  • Lowered thermostats save money, but they aren’t necessarily cozy. If you’re sensitive to the cold, it can be a difficult adjustment. Here are some ways you can ensure everyone stays comfortable even when your heating settings are much lower.
  • Open your blinds and curtains on sunny days and close them when it’s dark.
  • Use insulating strips or rolled towels to block drafts around doors and windows.
  • Wear socks and a hat to keep warmth from leaving the body.
  • Use a small space heater or an electric blanket for particularly chilly household members.
  • Turn down temperatures gradually instead of hiking temperatures down drastically.
  • Get a programmable thermostat that makes it easy to adjust temperatures on a schedule.
  • Upgrade your bedroom with flannel sheets and thicker quilts.
  • Make sure furniture doesn’t block any of your heating and air conditioning vents.
  • Adjust your ceiling fans to rotate clockwise and push warm air toward ground level.
  • Run a humidifier because humid air helps to retain heat more efficiently than dry air does.

Keep in mind that adjusting your thermostat is just one of the many ways to lower heating bills during the winter. Regular system maintenance and more efficient ducts can reduce energy consumption greatly. For more tips on making your heater more affordable, turn to Mister Greenway. Our talented technicians are happy to provide advice on everything from duct insulation to energy-efficient heater systems. Give us a call today to schedule your next service visit.