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Lower Your Heating Bills by Setting Your Thermostat to This Temperature

Adjust your thermostat to save money heading into fall and winter.

Mounted Wyze Thermostat set to 72 degrees Fahrenheit
It's easy to lower your energy usage during the winter, especially by setting your thermostat to the right temperature.
Chris Monroe/CNET

This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

After a summer that saw temperatures climb to scorching highs, the cooler temperatures of fall and winter may be more welcome than normal across the northern hemisphere this year. With cooler temperatures also come heating bills, which could be higher this year as energy prices climb. Before you crank up your furnace (or heat pump), a quick adjustment to your thermostat can keep your utility bill lower through the winter months.

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We'll explain the best setting for your smart thermostat to save energy this winter, why it works and what else you can do to heat your home efficiently. If you're looking for more energy savings this winter, check out how your ceiling fan can keep you warm and save you money and how weatherstripping can keep out the cold.

Read more: Best Smart Thermostats for 2022

Here's the best thermostat temperature for winter

According to the US Department of Energy, it's best to keep your thermostat at 68 F for most of the day during the winter season. For maximum efficiency, you should also designate eight hours per day during which you turn the temperature down by between 7 and 10 degrees. By following this routine, you may again be able to reduce your yearly energy costs by up to 10%.

Depending on your schedule and comfort preferences, you can decide whether you'd prefer to keep your home cooler during the day or at night. Some people prefer turning the heat down at night when they can cozy up under blankets and won't notice the colder conditions. Plus, sleeping in chillier temperatures may be linked with getting more restful sleep.

For others, it might make more sense to turn the thermostat down during the daytime when they're at work. Once you're home, you can crank up the temperature to a more comfortable level.

Read more: You Can Actually Save Money by Using Electricity at These Specific Times

And the best temperature for summer

According to the US Department of Energy, the best technique for staying cool yet minimizing utility costs in summer is to keep your home warmer than usual when no one is home and then setting the temperature as high as comfortably possible when home. Energy Star, a program of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy, suggested that homes be kept at 78 degrees Fahrenheit when home during the day. 

It also suggests that the thermostat be set to 82 F when sleeping and 85 F when out of the house for maximum savings -- recommendations that were met with scorn and disbelief on social media

If setting your thermostat to somewhere in the 80s sounds too warm, then a good rule of thumb to follow is to turn your thermostat up 7 to 10 degrees from your normal setting for eight hours a day, so you can save up to 10% a year.

Read more: Best Window AC Units of 2022

Why your thermostat setting matters

In winter

What makes 68 F the best temperature for winter? It's on the lower end of comfortable indoor temperatures for some people, but there's a good reason to keep your home cooler during winter. When your home is set to a lower temperature, it will lose heat more slowly than if the temperature were higher. In other words, keeping your home at a cooler indoor temperature will help it retain heat longer and reduce the amount of energy required to keep the house comfortable. As a result, you'll save energy and money.

In summer

A common misconception is that setting your air conditioner to a lower-than-normal temperature will cool your home faster. But actually, an air conditioner will only really cool your home 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the outdoors; any other setting will not cool your home more and will result in unnecessarily high expenses. 

Plus, a higher interior temperature setting in the summer will actually slow the flow of heat into your home, which results in energy and money savings. 

Positioning your thermostat for maximum efficiency

In addition to following these temperature recommendations, you can maximize your energy efficiency by installing your thermostat in the right place. It's best to position your thermostat away from drafty areas (near vents, doors or windows) and away from places that receive direct sunlight, as these factors could activate your thermostat unnecessarily. Instead, place it on an interior wall in a well-used area of your home.

Have a heat pump? Keep this in mind

Fiddling with your thermostat multiple times per day isn't ideal, so it's best to have a smart thermostat or programmable thermostat that lets you set a schedule and automate temperature changes.

Unfortunately, some smart and programmable thermostats don't work well with heat pumps -- a furnace and AC alternative. If you have a heat pump system, ask your HVAC specialist about buying a special type of thermostat that's designed for use with your system.

Other ways to reduce energy costs

If you're frustrated with high utility bills, you might be interested in switching to green energy such as solar power. With solar panels, you can generate power yourself, reducing energy costs and your reliance on the public grid. They're an eco-friendly alternative to traditional energy sources, providing clean power all year long (including in winter) for your home, business or vehicle .

The bottom line

Being smart about your thermostat settings can make a real difference to your energy consumption year around. By reducing your home's temperature to 68 F and under during winter and about 78 F during summer, you can conserve energy and cut down your energy bills for good.

More ways to save money around the home

There's many expenses you have to worry about from monthly bills to rent and grocery budgets. These tips can help you save big money: