Stop Adjusting the Thermostat: Why I Don’t Turn Down The Heat at Night

adjusting the thermostat

I tend to be a bit bullheaded at times. Well, maybe more than a bit, but just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do. This is my opinion from my own experience and I suggest you do your own research to find out what works best for you and how your heating bill reacts to different adjustments.

Take the advice that you hear everywhere about turning down your thermostat. Many people turn down the thermostat when they leave for work or are away from home for a day. No one will be there to get cold, so why leave the heater running? It doesn’t make sense to heat an empty house. That’s where I say they’re wrong. It does make sense to heat an empty house because it’s easier for your heater to maintain a certain temperature than to spend an hour or more trying to bring the heat up to a comfortable level. Making your heater work so hard will wear it out much quicker than letting it do its job and maintain the heat in your house.

I’ve often heard people say they turn the heat down at night. Why? Don’t people get cold at night too? Isn’t night often the coldest time? If you are turning the heat down for your own personal comfort then that’s a personal preference, but if you are turning it down to save money, then I must ask, why? Why suffer being cold for the first hour you are up and about every morning? Why make your heater work so hard to heat up your house? Why not just set the thermostat at a comfortable level and leave it there?

In the winter time, our thermostat is set at 68 degrees. That is our comfort level. Yours may be more or less. If we get chilled, we snuggle under blankets or put on a sweater. If we get hot, we strip down to t-shirts. We have hard wood floors that tend to be cold, so we wear socks and slippers. We also have numerous throw rugs that help to keep our feet warmer.

I’m not saying to put your thermostat at 80 degrees. I know some cold-natured folks that would still feel chilly at 80 degrees. I’m saying that if you set your thermostat to a reasonable temperature, and leave it there, then you can regulate your own body heat by adding or subtracting clothing. By the way, some experts say that 72 degrees is the optimum ambient room temperature in both winter and summer. This philosophy works in the summer too. We set our air conditioner at 78 degrees and leave it there.

Our heating and air conditioning bills are usually less than our neighbors who have houses that are very similar in size and construction to ours. They, like so many people, adjust the thermostat several times a day according to how they might feel at any given minute. Here’s a novel idea, stop adjusting your environment to fit you and allow your body to adjust to your environment. The human body is a marvelous piece of machinery, it adapts quite well to temperature changes.

No one person is the same when it comes to comfort levels. In an average family of four, at any given time, one will be hot, one will be cold, one will be comfortable and the last one won’t notice the temperature. By setting the thermostat to a reasonable level and leaving it there, each person can adapt by adding or subtracting clothing. Your heater will thank you and perform its job longer and more efficiently because you are letting it do what it is designed to do, maintain a certain temperature.

If you are concerned with your heating bill, try setting the temp just a few degrees less than you would normally set it. Allow your body time to get used to the new setting. Leave the thermostat alone and you might be surprised at your savings.

(Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Fairchild)

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63 Responses to Stop Adjusting the Thermostat: Why I Don’t Turn Down The Heat at Night

  1. Joyce says:

    I was told by heating tech yesterday that whether I set thermoset in cold weather to 68 or 75 degrees, it would cost the same. He claims as long as I leave it to maintain my comfort level then it will work the exact same and cost the exact same on my Natural Gas bill. I never heard of such and didn’t really believe him. That is what ended me to this web site. I’ve always read and heard that in cold months keep themostat set no higher than 68, and in warmer months set thermostat to 78 degrees, and with proper installation, all things being equal your bill will be at it lowest price.

  2. ames says:

    Maybe thats why you are so broke. 72 damn you gotta be MADE of money to have heat that high! lol

  3. Ryan says:

    I really like your article, I have lived in my current home for about 12 years and its an older home, built in 1921, I have replaced all my appliances as well as my heating and Ac system. I have newer windows/doors and have insulated the spaces that I could. I learned many many years ago that it was cheaper for me to leave my heat turned up rather then play with it up and down like most say to do. Like you I leave mine on 68 at night and usually put it up to around 69 or 70 when I am home on the weekends and evenings. The lowest I turn it down to is 68, or 67 if its a little bit milder outside. I spent more money years ago when I would have it go way down at night and during the day then I do now.

    Thanks again for the article, a great read

  4. science says:

    heating the house to 68 most certainly costs more than heating it to 60, are you serious?

  5. Gralph Hendrickson says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Ryan and the OP. Don’t let these Trolls stop you from spreading the good word.

  6. Kurt says:

    Plus if you have an oil furnace, the starting and stopping of the furnace adds up to a lot of ELECTRICITY. Those transformers are 10000+ volts to ignite the fuel.
    Get a programmable thermostat and figure out what works for you. I personally set my thermostat to 62 degrees from 6am to 6pm, from 6pm til 9pm 70 and from 9pm to 6am to 67 degrees all week. During the day I don’t need it that warm, just as long as the pipes don’t freeze I am fine. I personally like it warmer at night and hate it when my head is cold, I find I don’t get sick like I use to turning it down low at night. Plus I hate getting up and it being cold!!!!

  7. Jamaul says:

    We left a house with gas heat for a house with an electric heat pump. With gas heat , it’s a no brainer. Turn it down or even off at night. It actually was a lot cheaper to warm up the house an hour before I wake up with a programmable thermostat. Now with a electric heat pump we are all confused. When we turn the heat off at night, the unit will kick into aux mode for the hour to catch up in the morning Mainely because it’s below freezing in the morning and/or it has to increase the temp. more than two degrees. The other problem is that electric heat never catches the house back up in an hour the way a gas furnace does. As a matter of fact, when it’s below freezing and you try to warm up your house more than 2 or three degrees, a heat pump will actually temporarily make your house colder. Don’t believe me , try it and watch your thermostat. It will actually drop a degree or even two while the heat is running before it starts to increase. So with a heat pump, the catch up hour sometimes takes two hours depending on how cold it is. This is all debatable but what isn’t debatable is that it cost you way more when your heat is in aux mode. One to two hours of aux mode is almost the equivalent of having it run in normal mode , on and off all night. Also if it’s been running on and off throughout the night it’s only in aux mode for short periods of time in the morning and does a better job maintaining heat. Now with that said, my wife loves it cold at night so we have actually been cutting it off at night because it’s better and cheaper to cut it off than it is to say drop it from 68 to 60 and back up to 65. The reason being is that once again the aux heat comes on to keep it at 60 for half the night and then goes crazy to get it back up to 65. So as you can see it’s really confusing, keeping it at 66 all the time seems to be better and cheaper but I’m not quite sure why. Not sure why the aux heat doesn’t come on in that situation but it doesn’t unless it’s extremely cold at night.

  8. J says:

    ^ Listen to this guy

    Too much information out there is opinion that somehow turned into fact.
    Fact: heat loss is proportional to temperature differential, your house loses more heat when the temperature is kept up at all times.

  9. DDC controls salesman says:

    It is so simple. Anytime that the outside temp is lower than inside it is going to some type of energy to change it raise to interior temp. Crazy to leave the temp at 68 all day long while nobody is home. Where is the controversy here. I leave at 7 and get home at 6 that is 11 hours. It will get the temp to 68 in under an hour. I have made a living selling and installing DDC controls (DDC is for a simple term for a programmable thermostat on steroids) it looks at a whole system. Curious how I sell them ????? Very simple payback period. A ton of office buildings had t-stats controlled by by employees aka woman Secretary etc. I ask an owner if he is setting these back at night he says no. I say why…… Because the ladies like it nice and warm in the morning. We all like it warm in the morning. I install and program the system. Give the owner a PC so he can control the temps it is never more than a 5 year payback. Please turn down your tstat at night and work I have young babies that will live in this world for. Many years after we are gone. Why don’t you leave your car on when you are at work and it is 0 outside ??

  10. Landlord Mike says:

    A lot of people are criticize this guys post, they shouldn’t be. It all depends on your furnace. I recently bought a 3 story apartment building in the Bronx. It has 19 units I’m responsible to heat on an old 1970’s oil furnace. I was talking to the old landlord and he was showing me around, telling me how he much heat and hot water he gives the tenants, and how to maintain the same profit margins he was making on the building. Basically it makes $26,000 before expenses the biggest (besides taxes) is heating the building all winter. I use the same amount of oil in a month as I do all summer for water. I decided to see if there was a more efficient way so I could increase my profit margin. Turns out on my model fernus it’s more efficient to run it all winter then shut it off at night like the previous landlord did. I’ve saved about $7,500 on oil and it’s only January. Granted its much different heating a massive building vs a house and my fernus is about 30 times larger and uses 20 times the enegery to even start up. Anyway I do want to say I’ve increased the value of my property and it’s revenue because every fernus is different and my predecessor did not know older fernaces are not energy efficient like the new one I’m going to put In with the money I save. The next furnace may be more efficient to turn off at night. when I have it installed this summer i will find out. But my point put simple is Oil and gas for major heating like I’m doing is like having to make a 6 stops where your running in and out of the store real quick it wastes more gas and battery power to turn your car on and off 6 times then to leave it running 2-5 minutes while your double parked.

  11. tinbender says:

    Although I agree the night setbacks do save $ in some cases,the author is not completely incorrect. There are many different sources of heat. It does save money to set your temp back on single stage gas furnaces and resistive heat sources. What about air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, and in some cases boiler systems? Most heat pumps these days have at least 2 stages of compressor heat and at least 1 stage of resistive heat. also nearly all boilers of 90% and above efficiency rating have modulating gas valves. If you leave the tstat at a reasonable temp and not use night time set backs you will be running in first stage for heat pumps and a lower percentage of modulation for boilers most of the time depending on outdoor conditions. If night time set backs are use, during recovery the system will kick into second stage compressor as well as 3rd stage resistive heat for heat pumps and 100% modulation for boilers depending on setback differential, outdoor temp lockouts, and tstat model . So you cant just use run time to determine usage. It is much like cruise control vs stopping and starting full throttle in a car. I could go on for days, there are some many different scenarios that you should not generalize. name calling is not nice. if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all. 15yr hvac tech Montana

  12. Keith says:

    This is WRONG advice! You do save energy and therefore money by turning the heat down when you are not there or asleep! Seems pretty obvious to me!

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