Best Temperatures To Stay Comfortable and Save Energy in Cold Weather

woman adjusting heat in a house

Winter in Sacramento is nothing like Buffalo or Chicago. It’s not usually that cold, but it’s certainly still cold enough. Like so much else in life, finding a balance between comfort and energy savings can seem precarious. It doesn’t have to be. These tips, drawn from equal parts science, common sense, and years’ worth of experience as Sacramento HVAC installers, will help you stay comfy without breaking the bank.

Hot Water Heater Settings

Most hot water heaters are set to 140 degrees by default. There’s a scientific reason for this: some bacteria, like Legionella (the bacterium that causes Legionnaires disease) thrive at temperatures that are warm, but not too hot. However, water that’s too hot can pose a scalding risk for those with nerve damage, and for elderly and very young family members. Lowering the temperature to a bit over 120 degrees ensures that the water is hot enough, but not too hot — while also saving you energy and money in the process.

Heat Settings

Setting your heat isn’t as simple as “set it and forget it.” There are a few considerations for your temperature settings, involving comfort, economics, and occupancy.

Temperatures During Off Hours

Your home isn’t usually occupied around the clock. You may be at work, and the kids may be off at school, during the day. During those times, there’s no sense keeping the house toasty. Contrary to myth, your heater doesn’t have to work harder to bring the house back up to a warmer temperature; it just needs enough time to heat to the desired temperature. Turn the thermostat down to 64 degrees on your way out, and back up to about 68 degrees upon returning.

Temperatures During an Extended Absence

What if you’re going out of town for an extended period of time? In that case, all you need to worry about is ensuring it’s warm enough that your pipes won’t freeze. You can set the heat in an empty house as low as 55 degrees without worrying about your pipes freezing in conditioned spaces like your kitchen and bathrooms. We do, however, suggest a dry run during which you watch the temperature in unconditioned spaces where pipes may also run (e.g., your garage and basement) and running the temperature a bit higher if you’re noticing a significant temperature difference.

When to Ignore the Guidelines

Low temperatures may save you money on your energy bill, but there are times when the money spent helps to ensure peace of mind. The elderly and the very young don’t tolerate cold nearly as well. Lower temperatures can also cause flare-ups of arthritis and certain circulatory problems. When in doubt, speak to a medical professional and err on the side of health and safety.

Getting a Helping Hand with Energy Savings

There are a few other things you can do to stay warm and save money.

  • Invest in a smart thermostat, which allows you to program settings based on usage and occupancy patterns, but to override when needed
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated
  • Ensure your furnace is in a good state of repair
  • If your system is older and you notice energy bills climbing, consider a new heater installation
  • Avoid the use of space heaters, which are energy-hungry and often unsafe

For more help with your Sacramento home heating needs, reach out to Ace Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning!