Finding the perfect temperature for your house can be a bit of a guessing game. The ideal setting changes from season to season, person to person, and even day to day. If it’s too humid or too dry, it can feel uncomfortable inside. And if you turn the heat up too high on a cold winter’s day, you’ll find yourself uncomfortable when your energy bill comes. So we asked our resident expert – Keith Hill – what temperature should I set my thermostat?
Your Comfort’s Hero: Perfect Humidity Levels
Keith, the technical support manager for Minnesota Air, says that everyone is different when it comes to temperature. In fact, what you perceive as a comfortable temperature may not feel that great in reality.
“Sometimes a preconceived idea of what a comfortable temperature is – is not (comfortable),” he says. “Keep in mind that humidity plays a role. You may be comfortable at 70 degrees with 40 percent relative humidity, but feel cool at 72 degrees with a 20 percent humidity level.”
Because humidity can affect your skin, air quality, woodwork, and furnishings – it’s important to keep it in check. Less humidity in your home in the summer months is great for your body’s comfort. In fact, a big part of your air conditioner’s job is to remove humidity from the air. Drier air inside during the summer means less of that soggy, sticky feeling on your skin.
“Dry air makes us feel cooler as it evaporates the moisture on our skin, making our skin temperature cooler,” says Keith.
But in the winter months, if humidity is too low – meaning the air in your home is dry – you can get dry, cracked skin, itchy eyes, scratchy throats, and chapped lips. Those are all signs you have low humidity issues in your home and need to add moisture before it leads to colds, viruses, and other infections. In our homes, low humidity can lead to creaky floors, warped doors, peeling wallpaper, split furniture, and lots of little shocks from static electricity in your house.
Never fear, however, humidity levels can be helped by using your AC and dehumidifiers in the summer, and using a humidifier in the winter. To find your ideal humidity, check out the chart of recommended humidity levels for houses based on the outside temperature that the University of Minnesota put together.
Personal Preference: Setting Your Thermostat
Once you have your home’s humidity figured out, then you’ll want to play around with your temperature settings. This is where personal preference comes in. Are you a person who wants to save all you can on your energy bill? Or are you a person who doesn’t care how much it costs just as long as you stay toasty warm in the winter?
Your setting is dependent on your lifestyle and body type. For example, a person who wears shorts in the winter will have a drastically different comfort level than a person who turns up the heat so it feels like a sauna – or grandma’s house.
The majority of people need to find a common ground, because they don’t want an ongoing battle over who controls the thermostat with their spouse, kids, or roommate. Keith says try to find “comfort within reason.”
“What I mean by that is providing you’re dressed for the conditions – not wearing short pants and a t-shirt in January – set the thermostat where you feel cozy. Realize, of course, that the warmer you set it, the more energy will be used to heat the home,” he says.
Keith reminds homeowners that the greater the difference between outdoor and indoor, the more heat is lost through the building envelope and must be replaced to maintain temperature. Basically, the colder it is outside, the harder your furnace will need to work to maintain a warm indoor temperature.
“If you are heating with an expensive fuel, propane or fuel oil, then you may want to sacrifice a little comfort for fuel savings, but it’s your choice.”
Remember temperature and comfort are all relative. In winter, the ideal home setting for comfort and efficiency will be somewhere between 68-70 degrees, because you are coming in from the cold. In the summer, you can have your air conditioner set between 74-78 degrees and feel comfortable, because your body is getting relief from the heat and humidity.
“Also, thermostats are not all the same,” says Keith. “Some inexpensive ones may not be calibrated properly, so you may think it’s set at 70 degrees, but it’s actually 68. Verify with a thermometer, or better yet, buy a quality digital thermostat.”