This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
Cold weather and winter storms are hitting much of the US, and that means higher heating bills that could cost 17% more than last year. But before you crank up your furnace (or heat pump), you can try making a quick adjustment to your thermostat that will help keep your utility bill lower all winter long.
Here, we'll explain the best setting for your smart thermostat to help you 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. You can also check out how to prepare your home for winter.
This is actually the best thermostat temperature for winter
According to the US Department of Energy, it's best to keep your thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit 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 degrees Fahrenheit when sleeping and 85 degrees Fahrenheit 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.
Why your thermostat setting matters
What makes 68 degrees Fahrenheit 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.
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.
How to position 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 degrees Fahrenheit and under during winter and about 78 degrees Fahrenheit during summer, you can conserve energy and cut down your energy bills for good.
Here Are 23 Ways to Save On Your Electric Bills Right NowSee all photos
More ways to save energy and money
There are many expenses you have to worry about, from monthly bills to rent and grocery budgets. These tips can help you save big money:
- You Can Save $100 a Year Just by Unplugging These Appliances
- Here's How Much Energy a Microwave Uses Compared to an Oven
- One Simple Ceiling Fan Hack That Can Save You Money and Energy This Summer
- How to Lower Your Air Conditioning Bill While You're Away on Vacation
- Do Energy Star Appliances Actually Save You Money?
- Make the Most of Your Smart Thermostat to Save Money and Energy Now
- How to Save Money on Your Gas, Electric and Water Bills: 7 Easy and Free Ways
- Cut Costs Around the House Now. Here's How
- Unplug Your 'Energy Vampires' to Save on Electric Bills: TVs, Computers and More
- Cooking With an Air Fryer Really Can Save You Money