“I’m too cold!” “But, I’m too hot!” Does this sound familiar? You see your co-workers fight for control of the thermostat every winter. The last thing you want is that same battle for temperature control in your own home!
It makes you wonder: Wouldn’t it be great if there was one temperature setting that would please everyone?” Additionally, if there is indeed an ideal thermostat setting out there, would it help you to save energy while still feeling warm and comfortable during winter? So what is the best temperature to set the thermostat in winter?
Keep reading to find the key information every homeowner needs about the thermostat.
What is the Best Thermostat Temperature in Winter?
The Department of Energy (DOE) strongly recommends the ideal thermostat temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit in winter during the daytime.
You can save up to 10% on your energy consumption if you follow these practical tips with your thermostat:
- If you find 68 degrees to be too punishing for you, try to set your thermostat 7-10 degrees lower than what you normally set it to during winter for at least 8 hours a day. The closer your indoor temperature to the outside temperature, the less energy you consume with your heating system.
- Reset your thermostat in the PM when you are already asleep or if you are not home by using an automatic setback installation.
- Don’t blast your furnace to a higher setting when you turn it on thinking it would warm up the room faster. It is a huge energy waster and it does absolutely nothing about the speed of the heating process.
- If you are still using a manual thermostat, consider switching to a programmable thermostat where you can save multiple temperature settings. The information stored in your programmable thermostat makes it easier for you to repeat such settings, yet you can still manually override it depending on the circumstances.
- You can also upgrade to a smart thermostat where you can regulate your thermostat settings through your smartphone, review your energy consumption, and make adjustments based on your review of the findings.
How cozy you feel in your living space and how productive you are throughout the day are directly affected by the room temperature in your home. A thermostat is a great device to control the level of temperature in your environment. When operating correctly you may not even notice it. That means it’s doing its job.
The challenges may begin when more than one person is living in the house. Each person means another set of HVAC setting preferences.
We are here to help you end the “cold war” between you and your housemates over what the ideal temperature is to set your thermostat. We will also find out how your choice of thermostat can help you achieve maximum comfort and, as a bonus, give you substantial savings.
But before that, we need more information to get to the bottom of the problem.
Why People Have Different Optimal Heater Settings
It is a natural need for people to seek refuge from harsh weather conditions such as the scorching summers and coldest of winters in order to survive.
Adult humans’ core body temperature is averaging between 97 degrees F to 99 degrees F (equivalent to 36 degrees to 37 degrees Celsius). While babies have a body temperature of 97.9 degrees F to 100.4 degrees F. We need to keep such a level of temperature if we want to stay alive and well.
Besides age, other various factors make “normal” body temperature unique for each individual, such as your day-to-day activities, what you eat or drink during the day, your health conditions, your body weight, your gender, and (for the ladies) if it is the time of the month or menstruation period.
True, as warm-blooded creatures, humans can regulate their body temperature despite the heat or coldness in their environment. Like a furnace that provides heating to a house, human bodies have a natural way to keep our internal temperature balanced.
But the surrounding temperature, such as in your house or workplace, can definitely impact how hard your body will work to maintain its core temperature at the right level.
So there’s no surprise that people have various preferences regarding thermostat settings. Whether in the office or at home, there has always been this prevailing “battle of the thermostat” going on.
See for example how men and women have distinct temperature settings they feel comfortable in.
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, specialists who treat patients by taking their lifestyle and environment into account, say that although men and women maintain the same internal body temperature of 98.6 degrees, their metabolic rates are distinctly different.
“Men typically have more muscle mass and generate more heat by using more calories to fuel those extra muscles,” the medical website states. “When that heat evaporates, it warms up their skin, their clothes, and the air just above the surface of their skin.”
On the other hand, women have generally lesser muscle mass than men and evaporate less heat through the pores in their skin.
The magazine Awake!, regarded as the second most widely distributed magazine in the world and which features health and science innovations, supported this statement by reporting that women burn only about 72% as many calories as men.
This disparity in metabolic rates and heat production of men and women becomes even more apparent when both sexes share a temperature-controlled space like a house or an office.
A 2015 study entitled Energy Consumption in Buildings and Female Thermal Demand revealed that the formula for thermostat setting in most modern residential and office buildings is founded on an empirical thermal comfort model, developed in the 1960s, and based on the anatomy of a 40-year-old man weighing at 154 pounds.
The research goes on to say that this timeworn formula of thermostat setting has been overestimating the metabolic rate of women by up to 35%.
This finding about the settings of the thermostat was put to the test by another set of researchers. Economics specialists, Tom Chang and Dr. Agne Kajackaite teamed up in an experiment to measure the productivity of men and women when put in varying temperature levels.
Five hundred participants were asked to take a series of math, verbal, and logic problems in a room with temperatures between 61 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Results revealed that when temperatures in the room were lower, men performed much better than women. But when the temperature started to rise, the women outdid the men on the verbal tests. Women’s math scores also soared by 1.76% when the heat increased by 1.8 degrees.
When the temperature is below 70 degrees, women solved 8.31 tasks correctly without the help of a calculator. But when the temperature was turned up above 80 degrees, females solved an amazing 10.56 tasks without errors.
The New York Times which published the results of this research aptly concluded that cold rooms may hurt women’s productivity. By extension, men perform poorly if they are in a work environment that is too hot for their comfort.
The complexity of setting the thermostat to a fixed level is heightened if you factor in age and body size differences.
Awake! mentioned that as we grow older, our metabolism, the key to keeping warm, slows down. “At 70 years of age, a person is burning 30 percent fewer calories than he did at 35. So, because of producing less heat inside their bodies, older people need a warmer room.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed geriatricians and other medical doctors who treat older adults about why elderly people prefer higher temperatures.
An expert suggested that older people react differently to heat because their hypothalamus is not working as well as it used to. The hypothalamus is the section of our brain that regulates our body temperature. Besides the signal from the brain getting weak, the skin of older people becomes thinner over time and may not react as quickly to initiate sweating.
This explains why thinner people tend to get cold more easily, while those who are heavier are more comfortable with lower temperatures. “Compared with a slender individual, a person who is overweight generates more heat in relation to the area of skin by which he dissipates it,” Awake! concludes.
If your family living at home is a combination of all these different preferences of room temperature, DON’T PANIC. A small, yet efficient device could help you settle these differences inside the house.
Thermostat: Your Comfort Compass in Winter
The book Engineering Principles for Electrical Technicians describes a thermostat as “an instrument allowing the temperature to be maintained within given limits by the use of a device which cuts off the supply of heat when the required temperature is exceeded and automatically restores the supply when the temperature falls below that required.”
There are four easy-to-remember words to describe the thermostat: “KEEPS HEAT (thermo) THE SAME (statos).”
If the device senses that the room is too cold during the winter, it will trigger the heating system to increase the temperature. If the thermostat detects that the room is too hot, it will signal the AC system to release colder air through the pipes to lower the temperature or for the furnace to stop running until there’s a need for heating again. It’s that simple.
There are three types of thermostats: manual, programmable, and smart. Choosing the best kind for your family’s needs can help you maintain comfort (and peace) in your home.
What Kind of Thermostat is Best For You
Don’t let the size of the thermostat fool you. Even though it is relatively small and basic compared to the other components of your precious HVAC system that are more complex and intimidating such as the heat exchanger, burner, ductwork, and ventilation pipes, the thermostat is very vital to the heating process.
So it is critical to pick the most suitable type of thermostat for your home’s heating needs.
Because of their low purchase price and installation cost, the manual thermostat is a popular choice for many homeowners. Manual or analog thermostats are also simple to operate which appeals to those who are not technologically savvy.
However, the limitations of the analog thermostat may cost you more than you realize. To set the desired temperature, you have to change the dials to initiate a temperature change manually.
It is the most energy efficient to turn it on when you get home and turn it off when you leave. If you forget your heating or air conditioning system ends up running when no one is at home which is a common cause of high electric bills and fuel costs.
The accuracy of the manual thermostat’s reading of room temperature is also suspect. If your thermostat is not sensing the heat of the room correctly, then you are sacrificing comfort while simultaneously paying more than you have to.
Though a bit costlier than manual thermostats, programmable thermostats remove the hassle of changing the setting several times a day. A homeowner can set it in a way that fits their daily or weekly schedules. Another special feature of a programmable thermostat is its eight different climate control zones.
There is one potential drawback. If your family’s activities change often, you either have to re-program your thermostat repeatedly or manually change the temperature.
We definitely saved the best for last. These limitations mentioned one may find in a manual thermostat or a programmable thermostat are no match for the boss of all thermostats: the “smart” thermostat.
The “smart” thermostat takes the best features of a programmable thermostat and takes it to another level.
Because it is connected to your smartphone, you can control the temperature of your home even while you are away. You can set it to your desired level before you come home so it feels comfortable as soon as you come through the front door.
Even among “smart” thermostats, some are better than others. One excellent choice is the Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat with Apple HomeKit which can be installed in different rooms and will control the temperature based on the average readings of the rooms.
An optional addition to this Ecobee3 is a motion sensor that can detect which rooms are occupied and which rooms are not. It can then automatically adjust the temperature based on the reading of the room where you are and ignore the readings of rooms that are not being used. Genius!
To offset the price, the Ecobee3 promises an average of 23% savings on your utility bills.
Since it is a “smart” thermostat, it also helps you become a “smart” user by providing reports on how much energy you use. This allows you to make changes to optimize your energy usage.
Keep Within the Ideal Temperature, Save Energy
If the winter reaches its peak, you may think you may die from hypothermia if you don’t set your thermostat to lower than 78 degrees. The same goes when the summer really starts heating up it could be tempting to crank the AC to 60 to 65 degrees.
But taking into account potentially soaring electric bills and keeping in mind the members of your family—the women, the elderly, and slightly slender—that like it a bit warmer – here’s a bit of advice:
The U.S. Department of Energy highly suggests setting your thermostat to 68 degrees F for a minimum of 8 hours each day in the winter. The main idea is to set the temperature as close to the chilly temperature outside but without the risk of getting frostbitten.
For starters, you can lower the temperature of your furnace by at least 7 to 10 degrees from your normal room temperature. Once your body gets used to such a level, you can slowly go even lower closing it to 68 degrees F.
As for the summer, the recommended thermostat settings according to reputable sources are between 74 to 78 degrees to save money.
If these levels seem too warm initially, try gradually increasing the temperature on your thermostat one to two degrees at a time and try switching to more lightweight clothes. You can also drink water more frequently to freshen yourself up. You will be surprised at how your body will naturally get accustomed to the change.
How to Save Money with the Recommended Thermostat Settings
While staying cozy and snug in winter is very important to our health and general well-being, we should also never forget to try to save as much energy as we can without jeopardizing our comfort.
Here are five tips you can abide by in managing the thermostat temperature settings in your home to save money:
- Seriously consider setting your thermostat to what the Department of Energy’s ideal home temperature is, which is 68 degrees F. Should you find it to be too challenging, start by adjusting the thermostat 7-10 degrees lower until it is close enough to the outdoor air’s temperature.
- Before you sleep at night, use the automatic setback installation to reset your thermostat. Do the same when you are away from home for several hours.
- NEVER turn your furnace or air conditioner higher than you normally would when you first turn it on. If you think you need to do this step because your HVAC systems have been sleeping on the job for a while and it would hasten the heating or cooling processes, you’re wrong. You will just be expending a lot of energy without the desired result.
- Don’t be afraid to leave the comfort zone of using the manual thermostat because it is uncomplicated. Try the programmable thermostat if you easily forget to reset your thermostat while you are away. The benefit of switching from a manual to a programmable thermostat is you can store multiple preferred settings and easily repeat them during the week.
- The drawback of using a programmable thermostat is if your family’s daily or weekly activities keep on changing. Then you would have to keep manually overriding it which is added work.
In this case, it would be better to invest in a smart thermostat. The beauty of this modern thermostat design is you can manage your home’s indoor temperature settings through your smartphone. There is also a periodic report of the heating patterns in your home which can greatly help you to review how much energy you spend so you can make changes to save more energy and lower your electric and fuel costs.