According to ENERGY STAR, a homeowner can save as much as 10% a year in heating and cooling costs by turning back thermostats 7 - 10 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours a day. Though you can manually set your thermostat daily, automated thermostats that are programmable or “smart” help you achieve greater energy savings, especially if you’re away from home.
The options for automated thermostat energy-savings are seemingly endless. Ready to learn how to save energy and money with your thermostat? Click on each button to discover thermostat types and ideal home temperature settings:
Thermostats control the temperature in your house. But is it really that simple? If your thermostat breaks and you find yourself looking for a new one, you’ll probably learn quickly that there isn’t just one run-of-the-mill thermostat. There are many thermostat options— and cool options at that!
So how are you to know which thermostat best suits your needs? You’ve started in the right place. To help you navigate the different thermostat types, we’ve listed the three most common thermostats and their features, from least to most technologically advanced:
Manual thermostats allow you to change the current temperature from each wall unit in your house— there are usually one or two in a home. It’s pretty uncomplicated, and the temperature you set it at is what it’s left as. No hassle, no change.
Benefits of Manual Thermostats
To some more technologically savvy folks, manual thermostats may seem like they’re from the days of yore, but many households still use manual thermostats and are content with them. Here are some benefits of using manual thermostats:
They are the most commonly used thermostat model in homes.
Manual thermostats are inherently user friendly, and are easy to maneuver for those who are not tech-savvy.
LUX Manual Thermostat - This LUX thermostat is easy to program and easy to use. If you need just one schedule during the weekdays and a different schedule for the weekend, this thermostat option is ideal.
Honeywell Aube Manual Thermostat - This compact non-programmable thermostat is the perfect replacement for your old mechanical thermostat. This model is ideal for tight spaces.
If you haven’t put a lot of thought into how you control the temperature in your home, but want to, you can move forward in your search and compare the benefits of a smart thermostat or programmable thermostat options on this page.
Want to make a change that can quickly lower your home heating and cooling costs? Consider installing a programmable thermostat. Before we look at the programmable thermostat savings, it’s important to understand the different types. Consumer Reports describes the benefits of programmable thermostat varieties this way:
7-day models offer the most flexibility by allowing homeowners to set different programs (usually with four different temperature periods per day) for each day of the week.
5+2 models allow homeowners to have one set schedule for Monday-Friday and one schedule for weekends.
5-1-1 models are good for homeowners who want to set one temperature schedule for Monday-Friday and then a different schedule for each day of the weekend.
Benefits of programmable thermostats
The potential benefits of programmable thermostats depend upon lifestyle to some extent, but here are some ways to find programmable thermostat savings opportunities:
They work for both heating and cooling.
Instead of having to manually change settings multiple times a day, a homeowner can set the automated thermostat once for the household’s daily or weekly needs.
Programmable thermostats eliminate guesswork. No more worrying about remembering to turn down that heat or air conditioning before you walk out the door. And, if you’ve opted for a smart vs. programmable thermostat, you can always make changes from afar by overriding the set temperature plan.
A programmable thermostat can offer as many as eight different climate control zones. This means that you can heat or cool specific rooms whenever you want to, and choose individual temperature settings: no more family “thermostat wars”!
Honeywell 5-1-1 Day Programmable Thermostat - Honeywell's 5-1-1 Day Programmable Thermostat is a very easy-to-use programmable thermostat with intuitive logic that responds to your choices and schedule for optimal comfort and energy savings.
Honeywell 7 Day Programmable Thermostat - This thermostat is effortless to use. Its Smart Response Technology continually adjusts the pre-heating/cooling of your home so you are comfortable at your programmed times.
If you’re looking to achieve maximum programmable thermostat savings, you might want to consider investing in programmable communicating thermostats (aka “smart” thermostats) that are connected to a home’s wifi.
3. Smart and Wifi-Enabled Thermostats
You probably have heard about smartwatches and smartphones, but now “smart” devices are entering your home, too. They are electronics that are connected, either to each other through a home hub like Constellation Connect, or to separate devices that have software and networks that allow these items to function by communicating with other devices rather than directly with humans.
When you install a smart thermostat, you’re able to control the temperature settings from your smartphone or other connected device. But, the technology doesn’t end there. You have a choice between a smart thermostat vs. wifi-enabled thermostat. A wireless — or wifi — thermostat is one that has a sensor to control your heating and cooling on its own.
Benefits of a wifi-enabled thermostat
Smart thermostat vs. wifi-enabled thermostat are terms that are often used interchangeably but there are several things that your wifi-enabled thermostat can do that even the best smart thermostat options cannot.
Wifi-enabled thermostats have sensors, so the partner app on your phone can let you know if your house gets too hot or too cold. If you live in a hot, humid place like Texas, this could be extremely helpful.
A wifi-enabled thermostat can ping your connected device if the temperature dips below the number of degrees you specify, preventing frozen pipes in a cold snap. And, you can either control the thermostat from your device, or manage the settings so that it happens without your intervention.
Some wifi-enabled thermostat models are connected to outdoor sensors, so they can detect the temperature and humidity of the outdoor climate. This can be a good indicator as to how to set temperature indoors, especially when you’re away from home.
If you’re away and can’t “communicate” with your wifi-enabled thermostat, that could be indicative of a power outage (or that your wifi is down), which is also useful information if you’re maintaining the temperature of your house!
Benefits of a smart thermostat
The benefits of a smart thermostat are primarily in making your life easier and your home more energy efficient. Smart thermostat energy efficiency is effective because it takes the guesswork out of programming an automated thermostat or having to manually adjust temperature on a daily basis. Other benefits of smart thermostats are:
When you set up your smart thermostat, you can program it so that it will adjust the temperature before you arrive home on a daily basis, once you’ve gone to bed, when you wake up, and so on — no more having to climb out of bed because you forgot to adjust the thermostat!
If you use a smart thermostat, energy efficiency can happen even if you are on the go, travel frequently, or live in an extreme climate.
You don’t have to worry about your house being too warm or too cold during the hours you’re at work. You can set it to be the optimal temperature for saving money on energy costs, but still be perfectly comfortable when you arrive home.
It can provide you with information about how you use energy, and how you could potentially use less. Some models connect to apps that offer data that indicates your usage per month, how many units of energy are being spent on heating or air conditioning, and how your month compares against prior time periods.
How to choose the best smart thermostat
So you’ve decided to start looking for a smart thermostat: now what? Like with any electronic device, you might have certain features in mind as you search for the best smart thermostat. Whether you’re debating between a smart vs. wifi enabled thermostat, or you’re looking for the best smart thermostat for multiple zones, consider how each type of thermostat fits into your lifestyle and energy needs.
Nest Learning Thermostat: This smart thermostat is called a “learning” thermostat because it tracks your manual or remote temperature adjustments in order to “learn” your habits and preferences over time. And, there’s another perk; if your temperature gets to a certain number of degrees, a green leaf will appear on the display to let you know that you’re in a smart thermostat energy efficiency state.
Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat: Honeywell's reliable and highly-rated app allows you to program your thermostat from your computer, tablet and smartphone, whether you're across the room or around the world. It offers flexible programming options for business and residential needs, and also learns your heating and cooling cycle times to deliver just the right temperature.
ecobee4: The ecobee line of smart thermostats works with room sensors in order to maintain your desired environment. Using the sensors, the ecobee detects where you need warm or cool air based on motion detection, humidity and other factors. This ecobee thermostat can connect with Alexa voice assistance and Apple Homekit.
As is the case with any technology, even the best smart thermostats are going to evolve rapidly. With any electronics, it’s important to compare features before purchasing so that you are buying the model or style that will be most compatible with your needs.
Best smart thermostat for multiple zones
If you’re looking for the best thermostat for multiple zones, then that can add another set of challenges. “Multiple zones” means that you might have more than one unit that controls the HVAC in your home. For example, the needs might be different for separate areas of the house — your upstairs might get significantly warmer than your downstairs because of heat from the roof, window exposure, lack of shade, or due to other factors. Currently, ecobee and eversense models support multiple zones, but that will likely change as other brands’ best smart thermostats are updated over time.
When it comes to thermostat temperature settings, people fall into one of two overarching categories: those who set the thermostat at one temperature and leave it there, and those who don’t. From there, each side usually has a number of often logical and/or emotional reasons why theirs is the ideal thermostat temperature. And so the battle of the thermostat begins.
To help encourage home peace, we’re going to take a look at what some of the experts have to say about recommended thermostat settings. The information might not end the thermostat skirmishes in your home, but at least you’ll be armed with accurate information about thermostat temperature settings. Figuring out the ideal home temperature often starts with trying to answer these overarching questions:
What temperature should my house be?
Does energy-efficient thermostat settings differ from season to season?
Where should I place my thermostat in my home to achieve maximum energy-efficiency?
Or better yet, “What is the most energy saving temperature to set my thermostat at?” According to ENERGYSTAR.gov, the ideal home temperature should be in between 70 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. To maximize energy efficiency, turning your thermostat up or down by 8 degrees while you’re away from your home can help reduce your heating and cooling costs.
What is the best temperature for an empty house?
If you’re leaving the house for a long period of time, it’s best to either turn off your heat/cooling system. You should only turn your system off if you don’t have anything currently living in your home that would be at risk of freezing or overheating (pets or plants). Keep in mind, any technology or temperature-sensitive belongings you own might be affected by a steep drop or rise in home temperature. If you live in a climate with severe hot or cold weather, consider setting it to a reasonable temperature to prevent damage to your belongings.
Will turning my thermostat down & up while I’m away from home make it work harder once I’m back?
It’s a logical argument: if your home temperature is much lower or higher to save energy while you’re gone, does it make it less energy efficient to make it go back to its original temperature when you come back? The answer is: no! According to the Department of Energy, your cooling or heating appliance will work just the same amount to bring it back to its original temperature once you’re home again.
For winter, the ideal thermostat temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re at home. Energy.gov suggests setting the thermostat to this suggested temperature at home while you’re awake and lowering it while you’re asleep or away. Lowering your thermostat 10-15 degrees for eight hours can reduce your heating bill by 5-15%. That’s a potential savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the period of the setback is at least eight hours. The Consumer Energy Center says that for each degree you lower your heat in the 60- to 70-degree range, you can save up to 5% on heating costs. In addition to echoing Energy.gov’s 68 degrees as the ideal thermostat temperature setting, the non-profit suggests layering clothing as a way to stay warm in the cooler house temperature.
What thermostat temperature is best for my houseplants?
According to House Plants Expert, the ideal temperature for maintaining house plants is around 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep most houseplants alive, try not going below around 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
What temperature should your thermostat be set at in the summer?
For summer, the ideal thermostat temperature is 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re at home. Energy.gov also suggests raising your thermostat or turning it off entirely when you are away, because why cool an empty house? Programmable thermostats can help make this monitoring easy and human error-free. The thermostat can be set to start cooling your home shortly before you arrive, so it’s the ideal home temperature when you walk in the door.
Whatever temperature you, your family, or your partner decide is the ideal home temperature, do not try to cool your home faster by setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. Energy.gov says this strategy does not, in fact, cool a home any faster and ultimately can lower the temperature too much and therefore create an unnecessary expense.
What temperature should I keep my house with pets at home?
Keeping your home at the recommended energy-saving temperatures of 64 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit will usually work just fine with your pets. In fact, Consumer Watchblog points out that most pets have natural coping mechanisms for slightly hotter or chillier weather (think fur for cold, panting for heat!). If you have more unconventional pets, like tropical amphibians, fish, or arachnids, be sure not to drop the temperature too low, or perhaps install a heat lamp if lower temperatures cannot be avoided.
What is the best temperature to set your thermostat at for an infant?
Setting the ideal temperature for your infant may take some trial and error, depending on your baby’s mood, health, age, etc. However, it’s recommended that room temperatures do not go below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, nor above 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
The ideal home temperature for sleeping is generally between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit -- and you might even sleep better because of it. When you sleep, the set point for your body temperature drops, WebMD says. If it’s too cold or too hot, it throws off your internal temperature, which in turn can make your sleep more fitful.
However, there is one caveat: Everyone’s body temperature is different, and what he or she requires for comfort during the day might be different during the night. If you live with someone who loves to sleep in Arctic-like temperatures, or someone who likes to feel as if she is in the Tropics, well, that’s one thermostat debate we can’t help you win!
Where in my home should the thermostat be installed?
Being proactive with your thermostat settings can help you achieve energy-efficiency, but you won’t realize the potential benefits of programmable thermostats, however, if you don’t pay attention to thermostat location.
The ideal thermostat location is an interior wall, ideally near the center of the house. When considering your thermostat location, it’s also smart to keep in mind which rooms people use most since these are the rooms where you want the temperature to be the most comfortable.
Locations to avoid placing your thermostat
Where you place a thermostat is critical to achieving maximum smart or programmable thermostat savings. Placing a thermostat too close to a heat source, for instance, will likely make your heating less efficient.
With that in mind, experts advise keeping your thermostat location away from the following: