Being a homeowner means juggling a few concerns in the winter. You want to be comfortable and not waste money, especially since heating costs this winter could be up to 30% more than usual. But could pipes freeze on freezing days if you set your thermostat low to save money? Let’s review the answers to help you stay cozy this winter without busting your budget.
Is 72 Too High for a Thermostat in Winter?
While 72 degrees is an adequate thermostat setting during the winter, you don’t want to go higher than that. Temperatures higher than 72 degrees mean spending more money on fuel than necessary.
The other complication with temperatures greater than 72 degrees is that it can deplete your home’s relative humidity (RH). Humidity tends to be lower in the winter anyway so excessive heat will reduce your home’s humidity level even more. Indoor temperatures greater than 75 degrees in the winter are discouraged.
Indoor humidity should ideally be within a range of 30-60%. Low humidity indoors in the winter will affect your skin, making it itchy and uncomfortable, dry out your nose, throat, and eyes, making them more susceptible to germs, and drying out the wood in your home. It can even increase the odds of a fire in your home.
Does Turning Down the Thermostat Save Money?
Yes, setting your thermostat to a lower temperature will save money on your energy bills, but going too low can also be an issue. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, homeowners can save up to 10% a year on their energy bills by lowering the thermostat 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day. If you turn down the thermostat when you’re not home and while sleeping, you’ll save even more. It also notes that savings are more substantial in milder climates than in the coldest areas.
Some people mistakenly believe that if a 7-10 degree change can save that much, a more significant drop in temperature would be even better. However, going too cold can lead to other complications because pipes can freeze at higher temperatures than you might expect.
Will Pipes Freeze at 55 Degrees?
People commonly think that since water freezes at 32 degrees, any interior temperature higher than 35 degrees should be warm enough to keep indoor pipes from freezing, but that’s not true. Homeowners should insulate pipes to prevent freezing as an unfinished basement can get quite cold. Insulation can deplete over time due to age, being eaten by rodents and other pests, or accidentally removing it. Any of those circumstances could lead to pipes freezing – especially when the outside temperature is 20 degrees or colder. Generally, keeping your home at 55 degrees or warmer will prevent pipes from freezing.
What Temperature Should I Keep My House So the Pipes Don’t Freeze?
As explained, 55 degrees is usually considered the lowest thermostat setting to avoid frozen pipes. If temperatures outside are 20 degrees or lower for a sustained period and you have pipes without insulation in a crawl space or unfinished basement, or if you believe insulation in areas through which the pipes run could be insufficient, a thermostat setting in the 60s may be safer.
Another reason for setting a minimum temperature in the 60s is that homes with temperatures colder than 62 degrees are usually damp, promoting the growth of mold and mildew. That can contribute to allergies and asthma attacks. Cold indoor temperatures can even cause blood pressure problems for some residents. Blood vessels narrow when temperatures are too cold, forcing higher blood pressure.
What Is a Reasonable Temperature for a House in Winter?
Experts recommend a temperature between 68 and 72 degrees when residents are home and active. It’s an acceptable range to avoid problems with a house being too hot or cold in the winter.
When away from home or sleeping, the recommendation is to lower the temperature by a few degrees, with 62 degrees being the lowest recommended thermostat setting for the reasons cited above. Research by the Mayo Clinic and other sources indicate that cooler temperatures while in bed can improve sleep.
Can I Save Money Setting My Thermostat to 68?
Compared to 70-72 degrees, thermostats set to 68 degrees will save money. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory performed a study that showed that people prefer a winter thermostat setting of 67-70 degrees. That pairs well with the 68-degree recommendation from the Department of Energy.
Should You Keep Your Thermostat at a Constant Temperature in Winter?
It is a fallacy that keeping the thermostat at a consistent temperature will use less fuel. A single, constant temperature uses more energy than lowering the thermostat when out or sleeping and raising it again when active.
When Should I Turn on My Heat?
Turn on your heating system when your home’s indoor temperature is below 64 degrees. That will maintain comfort and avoid the resulting dampness from too cold temperatures. Depending upon your personal preferences and the medical needs of those in your home, a 64-68 degrees threshold might be viable.
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