Recommended thermostat settings for Winter and Summer 2021 (Filled or Vacant)

Let’s save on energy costs this year with these recommended thermostat settings for winter and summer!

Is the temperature of your home a good predictor of the temperature of your bank account? You’d be surprised by how many people are letting money escape through their vents. It’s only a matter of a single degree in some cases.

Let’s keep in mind that your heating and cooling costs alone account for half of your total energy costs

So today we’ll learn:

  • The exact temperatures you should keep your house as you move through the year
  • How much money you’ll be saving
  • How to make the switch completely painless

While you’ll barely feel the difference that turning your heat or air conditioning down just a smidge makes, the impact of leaving your settings too high is going to make your finances noticeably frostier. This is precisely why I want to talk about finding the best temperature setting for your home.

Mr.FIREescape Story Time

After Christmas, I bought a smart thermostat. The thing took less than two hours to buy and install in total. My first heating bill after the fact was down 10%! 

What’s better than saving money? Making it automated! I literally set it and forget it. (If you’re curious, I got this one from Ecobee but honestly, they’re all good.)

I expect to save about $200 in total over the course of the full year when factoring in heating and cooling combined. No, that’s not a life-changing number, but it’s still free money.

Let’s look at it another way. Just $100 of that extra money can pay for a deep-clean of my house by someone other than me while I took my kids skating for the afternoon. I just saved myself two weekends of work AND gained some brownie points with the kids by making this relatively cheap one-time purchase. The second $100 is my “bonus” money to spend however I want.

You don’t have to spend the money on anything else. After three years, I will have saved at least $600. That’s a free plane ticket! Maybe my nickname for my smart thermostat should be “the travel agent.”

My personal formula for recommended thermostat settings:  

  • Winter: Set my home for 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day before letting it drift down 66 at night.
  • Summer: 78 degrees during the day with nights at 72 degrees. 

My family finds it very comfy.

Also, as a rule, I don’t argue with my wife if she changes the temperature. While savings are great, being cheap can also backfire if you’re letting things in your home fall to pieces due to extreme temperatures.

In any case, our smart thermostat will adjust it back to where it belongs (heheheh.) A smart temperature sensor is going to pay for itself almost instantly even if you just follow my rules. 

How Much Would You Save by Lowering Your Thermostat?

Obviously, this is subjective based on your local climate and energy costs. But let’s look at a few estimates from the Department of Energy.

You’ll save roughly 1% for each degree reduction per eight hours. You might get as much as 3% per degree if your system is ultra-efficient. Adjusting your temps by 10 degrees for 8 hours per day will easily put you on the road to maxing out at savings of 5% to 15% annually.

If you’re an average Minnesotan, you’re likely spending around $200/month – or $2000/year just on heating. 

  • If you drop the temperature in your house by just a degree for the 8 hours you’re at home – you’ll save $20! (For each degree you drop, add another $20 to your savings!)
  • If you drop the temperature by 10 degrees for the 8 hours you’re at work – you’ll save up to an extra $300 per year!
  • If you buy a good blanket and drop the temperature 5 degrees for the 8 hours you’re asleep, that’s another $100!

So that’s up to $420, or 21% of your heating bill – and you won’t even notice the difference if you’re gone for work for a big chunk of the day! It might be a pain if you’re adjusting your settings manually, but you’ll never have to think about it again if you get a smart sensor that’s programmed to make the changes for you like I did.

Best Temperature to Set Your Thermostat in Summer

Let’s talk seasons. For summer, learning to get comfortable at 78 degrees Fahrenheit is going to put you in the optimal zone for savings and efficiency. Don’t forget that you can customize your settings to begin cooling the house to your ideal temp just before you get home!

Don’t think you can “trick” the system by cranking your air conditioning all the way up to try to cool your home faster. This doesn’t make your home cooler faster. It just wastes money and exhausts your system.

Best Temperature to Set Your Thermostat in Winter

The general consensus is that 68 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Spend a few dollars from that pile of money you’re going to save to get a warm hat and cozy fleet top to wear around the house. If you’re used to 70 degrees, you probably won’t even notice that small difference after a day if you’re properly dressed.

Day and Night Air Conditioner Temps: What’s the Best AC Temperature for Sleeping?

You have a little range for what you can do with nighttime cooling temps. You’ve bought yourself some wiggle room if you’ve been stingy about the air conditioner during the daytime. Anywhere from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 72 degrees Fahrenheit is considered optimal.

Minimum House Temperature for Vacant Homes

How low is too low when you’re not home? While turning off your heat may seem like the fast ticket to energy savings, it’s important to not take this to the extreme. Here are the guidelines depending on what’s going on in your home when you’re not there:

  • Nobody Is Home: Don’t let things dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s better if you stay at 50 degrees Fahrenheit and above. You also don’t want to let things “boil up” in the summer because excessive heat can actually mess around with wall compounds. This is where being cheap can backfire. Aim for 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • You Want Your Plants to Survive: Try to keep it between 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t go beyond the range of 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit if you want those potted beauties to survive.
  • You Have Pets at Home: Keep it between 64 degrees Fahrenheit to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have exotic pets, make sure you’re meeting their unique temperature needs.

Programmable Thermostats are Worth It. 

All of these little calculations and fluctuations would be super annoying if you had to do it manually every time you got home or went to bed. Plus, you’d be stressing all day if you made an adjustment right before leaving for work and forgot to switch it back. 

But all that pain disappears with the right thermostat. 

  • Spouse messed with your settings? It adjusts back in no time!
  • Unexpected full-day outing? Adjust the temperature on your phone. 
  • Can’t keep track of which temperature to have when? Program it once for the rest of your life! 

The amount of mental space it clears is worth it on its own, but if you’re saving $400 or more on heating and cooling – this gadget will pay for itself pretty fast. 

Don’t Play Games With Your Settings

The big benefit of using a smart sensor is that you’re maximizing efficiency automatically. Getting too crazy with stopping and starting is actually counterproductive. While you think you’re outsmarting the system, it’s a bad gamble.

Micromanaging your indoor temps by stopping and starting your air conditioner and furnace is going to cause them to run inefficiently. Longer, steadier temps are better because your appliances aren’t working as hard. This is a “long game” with consistent periods of higher and lower temps based on your personal habits.

As I touched on earlier, you can’t game the system by suddenly cranking up your air conditioning or heat. Turning your settings all the way up doesn’t change the temperature any faster. What’s more likely to happen is that you will forget to turn the setting back down until your home is either frigid or boiling a few hours later. By then, you will have undone all of your savings for the month.

TL;DR – Recommended Thermostat Settings

  • This is a long game instead of a shortcut. If you do it right, you’re not even going to be thinking about how and when your temperatures adjust.
  • I don’t necessarily want to see you wearing a parka in your home just to save $100 a year. Adjusting by just a degree is going to give you savings without any drastic changes in living conditions.
  • All of my suggestions are super-annoying if you don’t have a smart, programmable thermostat to keep you on track. Honestly, they’ll pay for themselves. 

Read on to get more money!

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Frequently Asked Questions About the Recommended Thermostat Settings

What’s the recommended temperature for a vacant home in the winter?

The larger window is 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you’ll need to adjust that if you have pets (64 degrees Fahrenheit to 78 degrees Fahrenheit) or plants (60 degrees Fahrenheit and 75 degrees Fahrenheit) in the house.

What’s the recommended temperature for a vacant home in the summer?

If you can get comfortable at 78 degrees, you’ll see good savings.

Is 72 degrees a good temperature for air conditioning?

Yes, aiming for 72 degrees still puts you in the efficiency zone. Many people go warmer during the day before turning settings down to 72 degrees to sleep. If you can be comfortable with temps creeping just a little big higher to something like 75 degrees, the savings grow.

Is it cheaper to leave the air conditioner on all day?

Yes, this is the better option during hot days as long as you’re adjusting the setting lower for the long chunks of the day when you’re not home.

What temperature should I set my air conditioner in the summer?

65 degrees Fahrenheit to 78 degrees Fahrenheit is a good range to work in.

What temperature should I set my thermostat in the winter?

This depends on your climate. However, the ideal indoor temperature for winter in an occupied home is 68 degrees Fahrenheit.


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