Best Thermostat Settings for Summer and Winter

By Jennifer Merrigan | Advertiser Disclosure

Your thermostat settings, be it during the summer or winter, can have a drastic effect on both your energy bill and the overall comfort level of your home. The key is to determine the sweet spot between being energy efficient and feeling comfortable during extreme weather conditions.

With your heating and cooling being the biggest factors in your electric bill, energy efficiency tends to start with your thermostat. Here are a few tips and tricks to staying comfortable and saving energy, no matter the season.

Thermostat settings based on seasonality

It’s recommended that you change your thermostat settings based on seasonality to help save you money on your energy bill and keep your home running efficiently. For example, during the warmer months of the summer, you may find yourself wanting to stay cooler but not nearly as cool as it would be outside during the winter months.

Best temperature settings for summer

During the warm summer months, you want to enjoy a comfortable temperature in your home, but you also want to make sure you’re being efficient and keeping your electricity bill low. The best way to do this is to adjust your thermostat based on the time of day and when you’re actually in your home.

The ideal thermostat temperature during the summer is 78 degrees while you’re at home. When you’re at work, on vacation, or out of the house, raise your thermostat closer to 82 degrees.

Best temperature settings for winter

The energy savings don’t need to end once summer comes to a close. The best temperature for the winter months is 68 degrees while you’re home and 55 degrees when you’re sleeping or not at home.

Thermostat settings based on lifestyle

There will never be a set rule for the best temperature while you’re at home, regardless of the season, because it all depends on your personal preferences. The key is to know how much you generally spend on your electric bill, how efficient you are with your heating and cooling, and knowing when to compromise between efficiency and comfort.

Best temperature for when you’re home

The Department of Energy recommends setting your indoor temperature between 70 and 78 degrees when you’re home. During the hottest months of the year, keeping your home at 78 degrees will allow you to stay cool and maximize energy efficiency. During the winter, keep your home at 68 degrees. Though this temperature may seem low, you can adjust your attire (think: bundling up in a cozy sweater during the winter) to be more comfortable.

Best temperature for when you’re away

Set the temperature of your home slightly higher while you’re away to save on energy costs. Don’t shut your air conditioner off completely, but don’t have your system cooling your home if no one will be there to enjoy it. Consider turning your thermostat to 82 degrees on cooling in the summer and 55 degrees on heating in the winter when you’re away.

Best temperature for sleeping

The ideal environment for sleeping is similar to if you were sleeping in a cave—cold and dark. Your body temperature begins to decrease as it gets ready for sleep, which requires a cooler external temperature to compensate. That being said, the ideal temperature for your home or room while sleeping is between 60 and 70 degrees.

Best temperature for infants

Many think that keeping babies warm is an essential part of caring for a baby, but it’s actually the contrary. While babies do need to stay warm to be comfortable, the bigger issue is a baby’s risk of overheating. To keep infants at an ideal comfort level, keep your home between 68 and 72 degrees.

Best temperature for pets

The ideal temperature for your pets is contingent on the type of animal you have, their size, and their coat (fur) type. For example, a small dog with a thick coat of fur may feel more comfortable in a warmer home as opposed to a large dog with a thick coat of fur. A good reference point for keeping your pets comfortable while you aren’t home is to keep your home’s temperature no warmer than 80 degrees.

Read our comprehensive guide for other pet safety tips.

Types of thermostats and their benefits

Now more than ever, there are a variety of different thermostats that you can install in your home to keep your indoor environment comfortable. Here are some of the more popular types of thermostats available:

  • Smart thermostat—Smart thermostats are easy to use, convenient, and can be integrated into the rest of your home systems. These thermostats offer the easiest ways to save on your energy bill by controlling your home’s temperature remotely, adhering to a schedule set by you, and picking up on thermostat settings that you enjoy.
  • Programmable thermostat—While not considered a “smart thermostat,” programmable thermostats can still help you save money on your home’s energy bill by automatically adjusting your home’s temperature depending on the season or time of day.
  • Non-programmable digital thermostat—A digital thermostat offers an efficient way to cool your home to a specific temperature but does not offer the capability to set your home to temperatures automatically during specific times of the day.
  • Mechanical thermostat—These manual thermostats are easy to install and can be typically found in older homes. These thermostats are the least efficient models for your heating and cooling system because they don’t allow for any automatic programming and typically take longer to heat and cool your home.

Tips for maximizing energy efficiency in your home

The ideal way to keep your home cool and comfortable is to be able to keep your home at the perfect temperature without having to crank up the air conditioning. Here are a few tips to help you stay efficient and comfortable in your home:

  • Keep your blinds closed during the dayClosing your blinds or keeping your curtains drawn will keep the hot sun from warming your home faster and will prevent your AC system from constantly running.
  • Open your windows at night and when the temperature is cooler—Not only will this keep your home cool without having to adjust your thermostat, it will improve indoor air circulation.
  • Consider skipping the oven or stove and grill out more—Cooking in your kitchen is a sure-fire way to heat up your home and tire out your air conditioning. It the weather permits, have an alfresco dinner and grill outside.
  • Change your AC filters regularly—It’s recommended that you change your air filter at least twice a year; however, for maximum safety, plan to replace monthly. Even if you opt to purchase filters that can be changed every 90 days instead of every 30 days, check on your filter regularly to determine if you need to switch it out early.
  • Use your ceiling fans whenever possible—Your ceiling fans can make your home feel up to three degrees cooler in the warmer months, so take advantage of them whenever you can.
  • Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances—If you have old appliances or they’re breaking down, look for Energy Star products that can save you energy and keep you comfortable in the home.

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