Whenever you will be away from home for an extended period of time, you should adjust the temperature to save money. During the winter months you want to minimize the heating cost while at the same time preventing water pipes from bursting and avoiding any damage to household appliances. Don’t worry! I will go over what you should do before you leave the house and what temperature you should set the house at while you are away.
1. What’s the Recommended Temperature for Vacant Home in Winter?
Each house is different and the optimal thermostat setting depends on the level of insulation in the house, pipe layout, exterior temperature, and location. You should set the temperature around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (℉).
Most of the time, dropping the thermostat to 50 °F to save some heating bill is fine. You don’t need to set your thermostat too high if your plumbing runs within the interior walls. You should have no issues by leaving the thermostat at 50 °F.
If you have pipes in exterior walls you want to set the thermostat higher, such as 55 ℉ or 60 ℉, to warm the house enough that the pipes in the wall are above freezing. Also, if you live in a humid climate, setting the thermostat at a higher temperature to avoid getting musty as the furnace heats the air and lowers the relative humidity. Also, If you live in expose area then set it on the high side around 55 ℉ or higher to keep pipes from freezing.
2. What’s the Lowest Temperature to Set the Thermostat in Winter?
You should not set it lower than 40 ℉ when you leave a vacant house. The temperatures for the whole house are not homogenous as some parts of the house will be even colder than the lowest temperature setting on the thermostat. The money saved on lowering the thermostat further would be minimal compared to the damage if something happens.
Even though the recommended temperature setting is around 50 ℉ to 60 ℉, you can go lower to 45 ℉ and everything should be fine if your property is winterized properly. The goal is to minimize the heating bills but at the same time you don’t want any burst pipes or a flooded house when you arrive home. Please keep in mind that at a lower temperature setting, you have a higher risk of pipe freezing and material shrinkage. There’s a big difference between homes that are left at 55 ℉ and those left at 45 ℉ after years of leaving the house vacant.
3. What Temperature Should You Set the Thermostat in Summer?
Working in reverse for hot weather, you should set your thermostat higher while you are on summer vacation to save money on electricity bill. According to the Department of Energy, for every degree you raise the set temperature of your central air, you’ll save about three percent on your utility bill.
The optimum setting for your air conditioner is 4 ℉ or 5 ℉ higher than what you normally set at. So, if you normally set your house at 72 ℉, crank it up to 77 ℉ or 78 ℉ before you leave the house. Also, don’t forget to check your air conditioner filter and close the blinds before leaving your house.
Setting the thermostat too high might not save you any extra money as the air conditioner works harder to cool the house’s temperature back down. Beware of leaving your house too warm if you decide to shut off the air conditioner completely. You could damage wall structure and household items if the inside is too hot and humid. Set your thermostat higher by 4 ℉ or 5 ℉ is better than full shutdown. For through-the-wall air conditioner, you can safely shut it down when you are away.
4. What To Do Before You Leave The House?
First, if you are leaving a house for a couple months in the winter you should turn off the water. Then open the faucets to drain every plumbing you can. Depending on how long you will be away, turning off the main water supply line where it comes into the house is highly recommended.
Pipes with water in them have a high risk of busting during a long cold spell. By draining all the water lines and turning off the water, if the pipes freeze while the furnace dies it’s not the end of the world. Any sections of pipe that happened to be drained won’t be damaged, and you won’t have to tear the walls containing them apart to fix the damage. Nobody wants to come home after a vacation to a foot of water in the basement as well as numerous ruptures in pipes within the walls.
If you are away for a short period of time and don’t want to shut off the main water, then set the faucet for water to slightly drip out, especially with pipes on an exterior wall exposed to cold weather. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
In addition, keep the cabinet doors under the sinks open to prevent cold pockets from forming. Air circulates from the outside room temperature will keep the pipes below the sinks from freezing while you are away.
Don’t forget the water heater. You probably don’t want to drain the water heater, but it’s a good idea to turn it off if it’s electric or to shut off the gas supply. If a pipe bursts or water leaks out, an electric water heater could overheat and short out the heating elements, and a gas heater could do even worse. If you don’t want to turn off the water heater, make sure to turn it to low or vacation mode.
5. The Best Smart Thermostat
A smart thermostat is an app-enabled device that does more than manage your home’s heating and cooling system. You can adjust your thermostat remotely anywhere your phone has a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. That way, you can manage your heat and AC whether you’re at the grocery store, at work, on vacation, or just hanging out at home. Many models can also be controlled via Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands.
The Google Nest Learning Thermostat is the best smart thermostat because it manages your home with the least amount of input, it’s simple to use, and it has the best design of all the thermostats on the market.
The second best smart thermostat is Ecobee’s SmartThermostat. With a simple Alexa voice command, Ecobee’s SmartThermostat with Voice Control can play music, relay the news, and control your home’s smart lights—along with adjusting the heat and air conditioning. It also works with remote sensors, which you can place in rooms that are too hot or cold. The temperature and occupancy detectors in the sensors let the Ecobee tweak its settings to ensure that every location throughout your home is comfy, rather than just the spot where the thermostat is installed.
Very good information. Thank you.
M. Blanding says
Wish I had read this a year ago. Frozen pipe running through attic caused over $60,000 in damage taking down three ceilings and some walls. Temperature was set at 55 degrees; not good for exposed attic.
Thanks for sharing your real-life story M. Blanding! Hope your home repairs all went well.
Elizabeth Agnew says
what about washing machines with their water seals and refrigerators ??
We have a Viessmann hot water heating system. Will it need a water supply if we turn off the water when leaving a New Hampshire house for the winter?
Please remove me from this app.all text and messages!
D K says
Beware of simple advice.
Thick insulation in the attic floor leaves the attic contents (pipes, water tanks, water heaters) exposed to the external temperature with little heat from the house below.
Last year New Hampshire saw many ruptured pipes that destroyed ceilings and houses. Too much insulation.
I saw a $400K disaster.
We had a water meter rupture on the external side of the meter.
Use an infrared thermometer to check for cold spots on cold nights.
Map your pipes and water tanks.
Be sure there is warm air flow near water.
On very cold nights, water flow must be more than a trickle.
Note the maximum volume of water is at 38 degrees F, not 32.
So heating frozen pipes too fast can split them