Simple Steps – Turn Down Your Thermostat

We’re having our first big snowfall today, and it is hitting me – not the snow – but the fact that it’s officially winter.  I’m not a total winter hater, I love sipping mugs of hot drinks, cozying up with a blanket and a good book in front of a fire (oh, how I wish we had a working fireplace!), warm sweaters, wool socks and snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes.  Okay, maybe not that last one, I’ve just heard The Sound of Music soundtrack a few too many times over the past few weeks.

Anyway, I don’t mind winter, the trees do look really pretty covered with freshly fallen snow, but I really don’t like being cold. I would much, much rather be hot than cold. And so, this simple step is not one that I am jumping up and down to do, but just like saving energy by turning off your lights which we talked about last month, turning down your thermostat, even by just a few degrees can make a big impact on the amount of energy you use, as well as on your heating bill.

This month’s Simple Step is to turn down your thermostat at least 2 degrees during the day and 5 or more degrees at night.

And, if you want to take it a step further, you can install a programmable thermostat, if you don’t have one already, which will make this step even easier, because you can program your thermostat to turn down automatically when you are away from home and while you are sleeping.

We installed a programmable thermostat this past year, and programmed it for the first time this fall when we turned on our heat.  We are keeping our house at the lowest temperature we’ve ever had it, 62 degrees overnight, 66 degrees for a few hours in the morning, 64 degrees for most of the day, and then 66 again for a few hours in the evening before we go to bed. I know some of my friends keep their houses even colder than that, so if you can go lower – more power to you! (Or less, depending on how you look at it! Ha!)

I’ve found different statistics online, but basically for every degree that you turn your thermostat down, you will use 3-5% less energy and could save anywhere from 2-10% on your heating bill, depending on how much you turn it down and for how long.

From what I’ve read, the savings are most significant if you can keep your heat turned down for at least 8 hours in a row. That’s why we turn our heat up for a few hours in the morning, just to start off the day a little warmer, and then again before bed.  But we’re at 64 degrees for 8 hours during the day, and 60 for 8 hours at night.

This is a big change for us, as previously we would usually keep our home heated to 70 degrees, 68 degrees at the lowest, during the day, and maybe 65 degrees overnight – like I said, I don’t like being cold.

Photo by kenna takahashi

But, I am adjusting to the cooler temperatures in our home and realizing there are lots of things that I can do if I am cold besides just turning up the thermostat.

  • Make a mug of a hot, steaming drink. I’m working on coming up with more options than just coffee for this, because I don’t want to be drinking caffeine all day.
  • Put on extra layers. There are days already that I’ve had on a short sleeve shirt, two long sleeve shirts, and a sweatshirt or sweater on top.  I think my next step is to invest in some long underwear that will help keep me warmer.
  • Wear wool socks and slippers around the house. I always like to have something on my feet anyway, but wearing wool socks and slippers on our hard wood floors definitely helps my feet to stay warm and cozy.
  • Wrap up in a blanket. Often when I’m working at the computer, I have a blanket wrapped around me, or when I sit and read books with my kiddos or watch a movie with my hubby, I use a blanket to snuggle and keep warm.
  • Eat lots of warm, yummy soup. We have soup at least once a week now for dinner, and I love to make enough so I have leftovers to eat throughout the week.
  • Bake or cook from scratch. Working the kitchen means that I am staying warm when I’m making food, and also means more yummy homemade snacks and food for my family.
  • Put on a scarf, and maybe even a hat. It’s amazing how just having an extra layer around my neck can help keep me warm. I haven’t worn a hat inside yet, but I’m definitely not opposed to the idea.
  • Use a space heater. There are times when we use one of our small space heaters to warm up a space, like our bedroom or bathroom, for a little while when we’re feeling really cold first thing in the morning or right before bed.

I’m interested to see over the next few months how our gas bills compare to last year.  It’s also important to remember to winterize around your house, and we’ll be covering some creative ways to do that next week.

What do you normally keep your thermostat set to in the winter time?  Are you willing to turn it down a few degrees this winter to save both energy and money? How do you stay warm and cozy in a cooler house?

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the great ideas!
    We have a programmable thermsostat, but I have to say, we don’t go that cold at night! We have a very old, drafty home – we are 64 all the time, but I might try and sneak it down a few at night and then have it kick on before hubby gets up for work :) We do have a woodburner, so there is at least one place you can go to get warm in our house! We also tried a space heater in the baby’s room last winter (it is on a cement slap and gets really chilly), but that spiked our electric bill! So we just add an extra blanket to her before we go to bed – even though she never stays covered up!

    • Emily says

      I know how you feel, our home is older and very drafty, sometimes I feel like the windows are actually blowing cold air into our house! Our kids room is freezing because it’s upstairs and doesn’t have very good vents or insulation, so we keep a space heater on low at night and definitely notice it on our electric bill, but it’s a compromise we make because otherwise I think their room would be like 50 degrees if we didn’t – that is just too cold! My son wears a sleep blanket to bed, even though he’s almost 18 months, and that really helps because he never keeps his covers on!

    • says

      We keep ours at 64 all the time too. I’ve been wanting to lower it at night, but we don’t have a programmable thermostat yet, and I refuse to get out of bed when it’s that cold, LOL! My 15 mo, doesn’t like sleep blankets and kicks off her other blankets, so I think it will have to wait until she’s in with her sisters because their room is actually the warmest in the house since it’s upstairs and has two vents.

      • Emily says

        Last winter we put my daughter in double pjs at night, the two piece tighter cotton jammies and then the warm fleece footie jammies on top, because her room was so cold and she was too big for sleep blankets. Now that she’s three, she does better because she can keep her blankets on and even pull up more blankets if she’s too cold.
        I hate getting out of bed in the morning when it’s cold too! Even 66 still feels cold to me!

  2. Ashley says

    Great ideas! It’s usually pretty cold in our place, and my favourite warm-up-your-belly-and-hands drink is just a mug of plain hot water from the kettle – it’s surprisingly good! Hot water with a lemon wedge is also delightful. I also like to throw on a vest over top of my sweater for extra warmth.

    • Emily says

      Thanks Ashley! I’ll definitely have to try just drinking hot water, or water with lemon – thanks for the suggestions!

  3. says

    Great post! This is our first winter in our new house and it has a programmable thermostat. For the last week it has been 63 when we wake up until we both leave for work, 53 when we are not home (7 hours), 63 when we get home from work until midnight (6 hours), and then 53 all night long. We don’t have any bills to compare it to, and we have oil heat on a payment plan, but hopefully this will adjust next years payments significantly. I appreciate the keep-warm tips… It is REALLY COLD in our house!

  4. says

    our is at 60 at night too. the benefit? no kids get up to bother us at night because it is so cold, they don’t want to get out of their beds!!! :) i wear a coat/sweater around most of the time. being cold makes me more thankful for the summer and spring.

  5. says

    I can’t remember what we keep our temps at..but I know I’m always chilly. Like you, I hate to be cold! Therefore, the husband is in charge of the thermostat because he knows if I was in charge..it would be warmer inside year round. lol! Ours is programmable and we follow pretty much the same thing you do. It goes way down at night…warms up a bit in the morning for while we get ready for work, goes down while we aren’t home but not as cold as nighttime since the dog is inside with no blankets to curl up on, and then warmer in the evening when we are home from work. We also have a space heater for the bedroom that we use during the night so that we can keep the house temps way down but not be too cold in the bedroom where we are.

    I got up and went running this morning at 5:30 am…oh man was it freaking cold out! It was below 20 and I felt like Frankenstein…felt like it was hard to move my muscles because they were stiff and cold.

  6. says

    I don’t have the luxury of turning down the thermostat, as our heat is apparently controlled by the office. Luckily we don’t pay for it… unluckily they also don’t know how to keep it above 20 degrees (celcius). We are definitely using some of your keep warm tips, so thank you for that! I look forward to having a place with a thermostat I control, because then at least when I’m freezing my buns it will be my choice! :D

  7. says

    I was going to suggest just drinking hot water too – it is surprisingly good.It is the warmth I love! We don’t do as cold as you – 65 at night, 68 when most everyone is home and then 65 again when it is just me. My husband works out in the cold and is freezing all the time.. This is as low as he is willing to go! It definitely makes a difference in the bill.

  8. says

    I’m a big fan of hot drinks, especially rooibos a/k/a red tea, which is caffeine-free with lots of antioxidants.

    I like to take a hot-water bottle to bed to make me especially cozy while I’m falling asleep, since that’s a time when I tend to feel especially chilled. I also keep a small fleece blanket within reach so that if I need to, I can put it over my head like a hood; it’s more comfortable than a hat and doesn’t impede my breathing like putting my head under the regular covers.

    Silk underlayers are wonderful for keeping warm without a lot of bulk.

  9. says

    we live in a 2 story house with seperate thermastats – the upstairs is sleeping only and stays at a constant 60.

    downstairs my hubby puts on 60 and i’ll sneak it up to 62 or 63. he builds lots of fires in the fireplace though, so sometimes our free energy takes the downstairs up to a toasty 78!

  10. Molly S says

    We rarely set our thermostat above 60 degrees. Sometimes we’ll dip it lower at night. I just wear lots of clothing throughout the day and look forward to going to work where it is warm :)

  11. Molly S says

    Just thought of another tip. I warm my clothes in the dryer for a few minutes before I have to change. It makes all the difference in the world!

  12. Sandy says

    One of my favorite winter drinks for warming up is hot water with honey and lemon. Essentially a hot lemonade, but maybe a bit weaker.

    I’m actually hitting menopause so I have been sleeping much warmer. Except my feet. My feet still freeze. I made microwaveable rice bags a few years ago. They are great for warming cold tootsies, especially at bedtime.

    We used to have an electric blanket which we would turn on 1/2 hour before bed and then switch off when we climbed in bed. Somehow lying down on prewarmed sheets made the lowered thermostat a little easier to bear.

  13. aj says

    We have been keeping our temp at 60 during the day and 68 at night for the first two hours and then 68 when we wake up . I like it warmer at night for some odd reason

  14. says

    Yeah, we keep our thermostat at about that temperature, and we keep a space heater in the baby’s room. Also: fleece blankets are KEY.

    Question though: does it use up more energy/gas to turn up the heat during the day, or does it not matter if it’s only a few degrees?

  15. says

    My husband and I go back and forth with the heat. I like a cooler house and he likes it warmer. I turn the thermostat to 68 and he insists that is too cold and moves it to 70, so I set it at 69 as a compromise and tell he to put on a sweatshirt. He would never let me set the temp lower than 69 and it just isn’t worth the argument.

  16. says

    Please take care with space heaters. Never use them in a child’s room. All heat producing appliances are higher voltage and you need to take care not to overload your circuits. There are a lot of safety precautions to take and never consider a space heater safe just because a manufacturer says it is. Always check online to make sure your space heater has not been recalled by checking it every year.

    Curtains can help protect from the elements. Someone I knew that had an expensive custom home took store-purchased quilts and turned them into window coverings. There are other ways to do the same thing, but you can be creative. Lots of quilts on beds etc. do help.

    I have gone two years without heat before, so there are a lot of things you can do, but there are a lot more precautions to take.

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