Is 72 too high for thermostat in winter?

Setting the thermostat to 72 degrees Fahrenheit in winter is a common practice for many homeowners trying to balance comfort and energy efficiency. However, 72 degrees may be higher than necessary for some situations. Here are a few quick answers about whether 72 is too high for a thermostat setting in winter:

Quick Answers

– The Department of Energy recommends setting thermostats to 68 degrees Fahrenheit or lower during winter for optimal energy savings.

– settinging the thermostat lower than 72, down to around 65-68 degrees, can reduce heating costs by up to 10% per degree lowered.

– 72 degrees may feel uncomfortably warm for sedentary activities. Lower temperatures around 68-70 degrees are often preferred.

– Certain groups like infants, elderly, or those with medical conditions may require temperatures closer to 72 for health reasons.

– Programmable thermostats allow customizing temperature settings for daytime, nighttime, and away periods to balance comfort and savings.

– Other methods like caulking, weatherstripping, adding insulation, using blankets, or installing storm windows can also help reduce heat loss and allow lower thermostat settings.

– Ultimately personal preference should be balanced with energy and cost savings when selecting an appropriate winter thermostat temperature.

What do the experts recommend?

Energy and HVAC experts generally recommend keeping winter thermostats at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that every degree lower than 72 can save up to 5% on heating costs. So lowering the thermostat from 72 to 68 could reduce bills by up to 10%.

Many utilities and energy efficiency programs advise customers to use the 68 degree guideline for winter settings. For every degree lower, energy savings will be achieved. But going below 68 is not necessary for most people from a comfort standpoint.

However, some specialists argue that air temperature alone is not the best measure for comfort. Factors like humidity, air circulation, clothing/activity level, and personal preference also impact how warm we feel. So optimal thermostat settings ultimately depend on the situation.

How much can you save by lowering the thermostat?

Lowering the thermostat can provide measurable savings on heating bills. Here are some estimates for potential savings by reducing the thermostat to 68 or lower:

  • 1 degree lower: up to 5% savings
  • 3 degrees lower: up to 10% savings
  • 5 degrees lower: up to 15% savings
  • 10 degrees lower: up to 30% savings

However, savings will vary based on climate, heating fuel type, home insulation, and other factors. The relative savings may be higher for electric heat than natural gas, for example.

How cool is too cool?

Thermostat settings below 68 degrees may feel uncomfortably cool for sedentary activities like reading or watching TV. And dressing in heavier clothing indoors is not always preferable. Here are some guidelines for lower temperature limits:

  • 65 degrees – Recommended minimum for most sedentary activity
  • 63 degrees – Can feel chilly with light clothing
  • 60 degrees – Uncomfortably cold for prolonged periods

In bedrooms, temperatures around 65 degrees are typically recommended for sleeping comfort. Elderly people, infants, and those with certain medical conditions may require higher minimum temperatures around 70 degrees.

When can 72 degrees be appropriate?

While 72 degrees may be higher than recommended for general winter use, there are some situations where this setting is reasonable:

  • Infants, young children, and elderly family members have specific temperature needs
  • Recovering from illness or having certain health conditions
  • Sedentary activities with limited clothing and blankets
  • During extremely cold outdoor conditions like subzero temperatures
  • Large, poorly insulated spaces that are drafty and harder to heat
  • Willing to pay for extra comfort and can afford higher energy bills

Programmable thermostats make it easy to customize the temperature for different times of day. For example, 72 degrees during waking hours and 68 while sleeping and away.

Tips for reducing heating costs

Beyond adjusting the thermostat lower, here are some other ways to reduce energy costs in winter:

  • Add insulation in attics, basements and walls to reduce heat loss
  • Install storm windows or plastic film kits for added insulation
  • Use caulking and weatherstripping to fill air leaks
  • Wear extra layers like sweaters and socks to stay warm
  • Use electric blankets and heated mattress pads to stay warm in bed
  • Open curtains during sunny days to utilize solar heat gains
  • Close vent registers and doors in unused rooms
  • Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and radiators

Combining these tactics with an appropriate thermostat setting can help minimize heating expenses each winter.

Programmable thermostats

One of the best ways to balance comfort, convenience, and energy savings is to install a programmable or smart thermostat. These allow you to customize temperature settings for:

  • When you are home awake and active
  • When you are sleeping
  • When you are away at work or on vacation

Most models allow you to set different target temperatures for each time period. For example, you could have it set for:

  • 72 degrees from 6 AM – 8 AM (getting ready for work)
  • 68 degrees from 8 AM – 6 PM (work hours)
  • 65 degrees from 6 PM – 10 PM (relaxing at home)
  • 60 degrees from 10 PM – 6 AM (sleeping)

This balance of comfort and efficiency over the entire day can help maximize savings. Smart thermostats take this customization even further by sensing occupancy and learning from usage patterns.

Average winter thermostat settings

According to Energy Star, here are some average thermostat settings over the winter heating season:

When home and awake 68-72 degrees F
Sleeping 60-66 degrees F
Away from home 55-60 degrees F

However, regional differences and personal comfort preferences can vary these numbers significantly. Warmer climates like Florida see average winter settings of 73 degrees F or higher. Colder Midwest and Northeast homes may be set warmer at 70-74 degrees when occupied.

Alternatives to raising the thermostat

If you feel chilly at a lower thermostat setting, there are ways to warm up besides cranking up the heat. Consider the following alternatives to raising the temperature:

  • Put on extra layers of clothing
  • Use blankets while sitting and watching TV
  • Drink hot beverages like coffee, tea or soup
  • Take a hot bath or shower to warm up
  • Use portable heaters to target specific rooms
  • Install ceiling fans to circulate warm air around a room
  • Opt for vigorous house cleaning or exercise to raise body temperature
  • Use electric heating pads, blankets or slippers
  • Cook meals using the oven to add warmth
  • Sit near sunny windows to utilize radiant heat

Combining additional clothing, localized heating devices, and activity can allow you to feel comfortable while keeping the main thermostat lower.

Health considerations for thermostat settings

Indoor air temperature can impact health. Here are some considerations for vulnerable groups:

  • Infants – Ideal temperature is 68-72 degrees according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Elderly – Recommended minimum temperatures are 62 degrees (day) and 59 degrees (night) according to research.
  • Chronic illnesses – Individual conditions may require maintaining warmer temperatures.
  • Respiratory diseases – Keeping indoor air around 70 degrees helps prevent irritation.
  • Arthritis – Warmer settings around 70 degrees can ease joint pain.
  • Raynaud’s disease – 72-77 degrees helps prevent reduced blood flow in extremities.

Checking with a doctor for optimal temperature guidelines is advised for anyone with specialized health needs. Programmable thermostats can accommodate different settings as needed.

How insulating factors affect comfort

External variables beyond just air temperature affect perceptions of warmth. Here are some factors that influence indoor comfort:

  • Insulation – Well insulated homes retain heat better and prevent drafts.
  • Windows – Single pane windows lose more heat resulting in cooler feels.
  • Humidity – Drier air feels cooler than humid air at the same temperature.
  • Radiant heat – Sitting near heat sources warms localized zones.
  • Clothing – More clothing insulation allows lower thermostat settings.
  • Activity level – Sedentary people may prefer warmer temperatures.
  • Sunlight – South facing rooms receive more radiant winter heat.

Adjusting these other factors can allow lower thermostat settings while maintaining comfort. But in some cases, structural improvements may be needed, like replacing single pane windows or adding insulation.


Overall, 72 degrees is often higher than required for thermal comfort in winter. Lower thermostat settings around 65-68 degrees are preferable for most situations from both a cost savings and typical comfort perspective. However, special circumstances like medical needs, poorly insulated homes, or personal preference may justify maintaining 72 or higher. Utilizing programmable schedules, supplemental heating devices, activity, and proper clothing allow reducing waste while still feeling comfortable.

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