What Should the Temperature Difference Be From Indoor to Outdoor?

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Everyone feels temperature a little bit differently. If you're constantly having arguments with your family about what the temperature of the house should be, or if you're worried about heating and cooling bills or where to set the thermostat when you have guests, weighing a key few factors should help you make an informed decision. Remember: The longer the indoor temperature is kept closer to the outdoor temperature, the more energy you will save.

Myths About Heating and Cooling

  • One common misconception about indoor temperature is that if you raise or lower it substantially -- for example, turning the thermostat down at night in the winter -- the system will take lots of fuel to get the temperature back up or down later, eliminating any energy savings. That's simply not the case.

    Another myth: Setting the thermostat far beyond the desired temperature -- for example, turning the heat up to 85 degrees in the winter -- will help the house reach the target faster. The heating or AC is either on or off; it doesn't work like the gas pedal of your car. Set the thermostat to the temperature you want. Setting it excessively high or low wastes energy.

Indoor Temperature: Winter

  • The standard indoor temperature for winter, regardless of the outside temperature, is 68 degrees. Many families, however, go lower -- in the 60 to 66 degree range -- to save energy and money. Choose a temperature you are comfortable with and can afford while you are awake and at home, and go considerably lower while you sleep or out of the house. For example, you could choose 67 degrees while you're awake at home, and 55 while you're sleeping or at work. If you go away on vacation set it even lower. However, never turn the heat off completely in winter to avoid any danger of your pipes freezing.

Indoor Temperature: Summer

  • Standard summer indoor air temperature settings generally are 76 to 78 degrees. Opt for higher, perhaps 85 degrees, when you are out of the house or sleeping. Your body temperature drops when you are still; that's why we use blankets.

Programmable Thermostats

  • Programmable or automatic setback thermostats are a convenient way to save money. These devices automatically lower energy usage when you're sleeping or not at home. For example, you can program the thermostat to raise the AC while you're at work, then have the house cool again by the time you arrive home. Units typically have daily and weekly settings with manual override.

Health Considerations

  • Healthy children over 2 weeks old can regulate their body temperatures as well as adults can, so thermostats do not have to be specially set for children or babies, except newborns. If children complain of being cold at night in winter, put them in two pairs of footie pajamas or a sleeping bag. Frail or elderly people may need special temperature considerations and should consult their doctors about what is best for them.

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