What’s the ideal thermostat setting in the winter?

The ideal thermostat setting in the winter for your home is really subjective. Every person or family has a temperature setting that is comfortable to them, much like every person has their own unique taste in food or clothing.  When it comes to being comfortable, every household is going to be a little different.

That said, we find that most of our customers are most comfortable when their home is around 70 degrees. However, there's no reason for your home to be 70 degrees all day long if no one is home. Even though it's 2020, and everyone is home all the time, let's assume that it's a "normal" year. During a normal year, your family would be away from home during the day. The kids are physically in school and adults are at work. Rather than tinker with your thermostat every day multiple times a day, you can use a programmable thermostat to achieve your ideal thermostat setting during these winter months.

How does a programmable thermostat work to achieve your ideal thermostat setting during the winter?

There are a number of programmable thermostats to choose from, but most of them have four basic settings.


"Wake" is the temperature setting you want when you wake up in the morning. While most of us prefer to sleep in a cooler room, no one wants to wake up cold. Plan for your thermostat to adjust to your ideal temperature 30 minutes before you normally wake up.


"Leave" is the temperature setting that you want for your home once the last family member leaves for the day. If your leave time is relatively close to your  "wake" time, you may choose not to make an adjustment until you return. However, if you want to use this setting, have your thermostat start working towards your "leave" setting 30 minutes prior to your departure.


"Return" is the temperature setting that you want for your home when the first person from your family returns home for the day.  For example, if your kids return home from school around 3:30 pm, then you'll want your thermostat to adjust to your desired temperature around 3 pm.


"Sleep" is the temperature setting that you want for your home once everyone has gone to sleep. Depending on your comfort level, you may choose to adjust to your "sleep setting" when the first family member goes to bed rather than the last. For example, the kids go to bed around 8 pm, but the rest of the family doesn't go to sleep until closer to midnight. If Mom and Dad can tolerate a cooler setting (while wrapped in a blanket or adding an evening fire) for a few hours, it may make sense for your family to adjust to your "sleep" settings earlier in the evening.

One thing you should note if you plan to use your programmable thermostat is that while they are great for saving money, be careful not to overdo it. Adjusting the temperature a few degrees while you're away is useful, but be careful not to lower it too much unless your goal is to "winterize your home."

Having the Right-Sized HVAC Unit makes a HUGE difference in achieving your ideal thermostat setting in the winter!

Using a programmable thermostat can help with getting your ideal thermostat setting in the winter, but what makes an even bigger difference is having the right-sized HVAC Unit. In fact, it's quite possible that your HVAC is actually TOO BIG for your home. A system that is too large will cost more to run. It's also often quite difficult to control the humidity level in your home.

Using your programmable thermostat, you may try to save money by turning off your unit completely while you're away from home, but when it's not running, it's also not dehumidifying and can cause your home to feel warmer (during the summer) or cooler (during the winter) than it really is.

If you're finding that regardless of what you do, that you're having trouble achieving your ideal thermostat setting in the winter, you may have a size problem. If you'd like, we can evaluate your home to determine the next steps. If we find that your unit is too big, you may choose to install a smaller unit that is more appropriately sized. A smaller unit will use less energy, which means it will run more often and be able to better control the humidity level.

What is the best temperature to set your thermostat to during the winter then? 

If we go back to the beginning of this article, it really depends on what your normal ideal temperature is. If you prefer it to be 70 degrees, then you should not go higher or lower than 8 degrees from that point, whether you're at home or away. As such, you can set your thermostat no lower than 62 degrees while you're away from home or asleep, and no higher than 78 degrees.

Furthermore, if you have a multi-level home, remember that heat rises. It's not necessary to set all of your thermostats to the same temperature. If you want your home to be 70 degrees, set your downstairs thermostat to 70 and your upstairs unit 2-3 degrees cooler (68 degrees) and your home will be at the appropriate comfort level.

If you're interested in learning more about how to achieve your ideal thermostat setting during the winter, give Choice HVAC a call at 919-435-2711. 

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