Your heating system primarily exists to keep you comfortable during the cold season (it also keeps the pipes from freezing), so the best temperature for your heater in the winter is the one that keeps you feeling cozy. If you're looking for the best blend of comfort and energy efficiency, however, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends a temperature setting of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can, of course, bump up the temperature a bit if you need to do so. The Department of Energy's official position is that Americans should set their thermostats wherever they must to be comfortable in their home. Start at 68 and gradually work your way up until you find your personal sweet spot between energy savings and comfort.
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What Should I Set My Heater To?
Generally, the best temperature for your heater in winter is around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. If this seems chilly to you, try setting the thermostat where you're comfortable and then drop the temperature by 1 degree each week. Sometimes, slowly acclimating yourself to a cooler temperature can help reduce your energy bill without making you feel uncomfortable. Blankets and throws can help you feel a bit cozier, as can a hot drink, like coffee or tea.
The greater the distance between your thermostat setting and the outdoor temperature, the harder your heating system will have to work. The lower you can keep the temperature inside, the less energy your heating system will use. There are a few instances where you don't want to go too low, however. If you live with an infant, make sure you don't let your home temperature dip below 65 degrees. Older occupants may also be uncomfortably chilly at lower temperatures.
The Importance of Thermostat Location
It's good to know what temperature is best for your heater in winter, but that knowledge won't do you any good if your thermostat is in the wrong place. A thermostat mounted in direct sunlight will think your home is warmer than it is, possibly leaving you feeling cold no matter where you set the temperature. A thermostat mounted in a drafty area, like just inside an exterior door, will read cold and may run your furnace unnecessarily.
To stay as comfortable as possible without wasting energy, make sure you mount your thermostat well away from windows, doors, and air vents. Keep it out of the kitchen as well, as the warmth generated by cooking can cause the thermostat to detect a false high temperature in the same way direct sunlight can. Avoid mounting thermostats in hallways too. If you supplement your home heating system with a space heater, make sure you keep it well away from the thermostat as well.
What's the Best Temperature for the Heater in Winter at Night?
Winter nights are cold, so it may seem that turning your thermostat up at night makes sense, but winter nights are actually a great time to turn down the thermostat. Most people sleep better in a cooler room, and flannel pajamas and a thick comforter can go a long way toward keeping you warm. As such, many people find that the best temperature for the heater in winter at night is around 65 degrees.
If this is just too cold for you, keep your thermostat higher at night. Don't try to save money on your energy bill by lowering the thermostat and then heating just the bedroom with a space heater. Space heaters should never be left unattended or used while you are sleeping at night. If you can't sleep at 65 degrees, turn the thermostat back up a bit.
What's the Best Temperature for Energy Saving?
Sixty-eight degrees is the ideal temperature for energy savings and comfort, but comfort is only a factor when you're physically present in the home. If everyone is at work and school all day, you can save energy by lowering the temperature 7 to 10 degrees while everyone is away. Doing this for eight hours a day can save you up to 10 percent a year on your energy costs. A programmable thermostat or smart thermostat makes it super easy to make this daily adjustment and can turn the heat back up before you get home so you're not walking into a cold house.
Although temperature adjustments are a great way to save energy, remember that they're not the only way. Upgrade your insulation if necessary, keep a clear space around baseboards and radiators, and replace the air filter on your furnace as recommended by the manufacturer. You can also save some energy by opening the curtains and blinds on south-facing windows to let the sun warm the room. Make sure you turn off kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans once they've done their job of getting rid of water vapor, smoke, and odors. Fans also remove lots of heated room air, so you don't want them running unnecessarily.
What's the Best Temperature to Set a Thermostat in Winter While Away?
If you plan on traveling throughout the winter months and will be away for a few days or longer, your primary concern is keeping the house warm enough to make sure the pipes don't freeze. You can generally set your thermostat temperature to 50 degrees Fahrenheit while you're out of town. There are a few exceptions to this rule, though. One is houseplants. While every plant species is unique, most houseplants like a temperature of at least 60 degrees.
During extreme cold weather, you may need to keep the heat set higher to compensate for the low outdoor temperature and prevent freezing pipes.
If you will be leaving your pets in the home while you're gone, you should probably keep the thermostat set to at least 64 degrees. This assumes, of course, that a pet sitter will be stopping by rather than staying in the home. Anyone house- or pet-sitting who plans to stay in the home will likely want the house temperature to stay closer to the ideal 68 degrees. If you have reptiles or other cold-blooded pets, make sure they have the necessary heat rocks or lamps to keep them at a comfortable temperature, whether you're going out of town or just lowering the thermostat a few degrees while you're at work.
What's the Minimum Heater Temperature in the Winter?
The World Health Organization suggests a minimum indoor temperature of 64 degrees when a room is in use. Going lower than that increases the risk of respiratory problems and illnesses, particularly in areas where the humidity is high. This may be the best temperature for your heater in winter if you want to go as low as you can and still stay safe, but it's too cold for infants, many older adults, and those prone to illness for one reason or another.