Like a lot of people, I leave the house in the morning and don’t come back after work. In general, I try to keep the heat in my house set on the lower end to save money. My house is usually set around 66-68 degrees when I’m at home, and I knock that down to 64 when I leave the house. But am I leaving money on the table by not turning the heat down more?
Is it more expensive to have to re-heat the home?
One common statement that I’ve heard repeatedly is that if you drop the temperature in your house, the cost to raise the heat back up to a comfortable level negates any savings that you may have gotten from dropping the temperature.
This isn’t true, but there is a cost to raising and lowering the temperature. When you keep your house at a steady level, your furnace only has to work to keep the temperature at that level. When the temps in your house are allowed to drop and then you increase the temperature on the thermostat, your furnace has to work to get that temperature back up. The added wear and tear can require earlier repairs or replacement.
How much should I drop my thermostat?
You absolutely shouldn’t turn off your heat when you aren’t in the house. Doing that just risks damage to your house. I didn’t realize it, but if your home drops to below 50 degrees indoors, you’re risking frozen pipes, and that’s a very expensive proposition. The service company I have used for furnace repairs recommends keeping the thermostat around 58 degrees when the house is empty.
What about my pets?
Of course, my house is never empty, and 58 degrees sounds pretty cold, doesn’t it? I have two senior cats and they don’t like to be cold. My vet generally recommends an indoor temperature of 60-68 degrees for cats during the day, and older cats tend to like to be warmer. The ideal temperature for dogs varies significantly, depending on the size of dog and the thickness of their fur. (I’m sure we’ve all seen pictures of huskies laying out in a pile of snow, refusing to come inside.)
Birds, reptiles, and other pets have different temperature requirements, so be sure to do your research before lowering your thermostat too far.
How much can I save?
If you drop your thermostat 7-10 degrees for 8 hours each day, you can save 10% off your annual bill, according to This Old House. Even a few degrees change will save you money.
But there are other ways to save. Check your drafty windows and doors. Look into weather stripping, rope caulk, and plastic shrink film. I have one drafty window that I have sealed up with rope caulk and it’s amazing how much less cold sneaks in. Yes, ideally I would replace the window, but that’s a much bigger financial project that I will be getting to in the next year or so.
You don’t need a super fancy thermostat to make these changes – you can always do them manually, but you can also get an inexpensive programmable thermostat. Mine doesn’t have wifi, it doesn’t “learn” or do anything fancy, it just follows the schedule I program in, and that works for me. Yes, it means that on a weekday when I happen to be at home, I have to manually adjust the thermostat, but that’s not such a hassle that I’ve felt the need to upgrade.
Consider dropping your indoor temps a few degrees for the rest of the winter and see if you notice a change in your heating bill. Every few dollars helps!