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Recommended Thermostat Settings for Every Appliance in Your Home

If you’re concerned about balancing energy consumption and comfort or convenience, this guide will help you choose the best thermostat settings for every device in your home.

A wall with a thermostat on it, next to a door to a child’s room. Nat Rea

Many devices in your home rely on a thermostat to tell them when to run and when to go into standby mode. And while these thermostats do provide ultimate control over the devices’ temperatures, knowing the best thermostat settings for each is important. After all, if you program them to be too cold or too hot, you’ll be pouring money down the drain.

Recommended Thermostat Settings for HVAC in the Home

Your home relies on a thermostat to control the temperature within its four walls, and it’s this thermostat with which homeowners are most familiar. In the summer, we’ll often set it low in the evening and higher during the day, if the house is unoccupied. In the winter, people often set it higher in the evening but allow it to drop a few degrees during the day to save energy. But, what’s the ideal setting for each of these seasons?

According to energy.gov, you can save around 10% on heating and cooling by turning your thermostat back 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day. A winter daytime thermostat setting around 68°F is ideal. But it’s also a good idea to turn it down a few degrees at night while you sleep. Considering most folks do their best sleeping between 60 and 70 degrees, it’s possible to save money without losing sleep.

During the summer, a daytime temperature setting of around 78°F should keep you comfortable without excessive energy consumption. Most nights are a little cooler, so it’s likely fine to leave the thermostat set to 78°F all summer, day and night. If your climate is hotter at night, consider bumping the temperature up a few degrees to save money, but only if you’re able to sleep in such conditions.

If your HVAC system is zoned (meaning it has more than one thermostat, each controlling a different area of the home), and you have spaces in the home you don’t use, you can set those thermostats lower in the winter. In general, 50°F is fine, as it should protect the pipes in the coldest corners of the space from freezing. The same setting applies for unoccupied vacation homes or full-time homes before going out of town.

Don’t forget that insulating the home, sealing cracks and gaps, and installing new weather stripping around doors can help reduce the amount of heat and cooling loss. This alone may allow you to lower the thermostat a degree or two in winter without feeling any less comfortable.

Recommended Thermostat Settings for Refrigerators

Your refrigerator (and freezer, most likely) utilize thermostat settings to tell them when to generate cold temperatures. While it’s rare that either of these appliances will provide an exact temperature to set the thermostat to, there are still ideal settings.

When it comes to keeping your food fresh, 37°F is ideal. This temperature will keep food fresh, prevent bacteria growth, and keep ice from forming. When it comes to freezers, 0°F is ideal.

But fridges and freezers sometimes only have five or so settings, none of them 37°F or 0°F. In this case, the best way to determine which setting is appropriate is to start at the lowest temperature setting and place a thermometer inside the refrigerator or freezer for a day to two. If it’s too cold after a day or two, adjust the setting up a notch and repeat the process until both appliances maintain the appropriate temperature.

Recommended Thermostat Settings for Water Heaters

A hand adjusts a thermostat on a hot water heater iStock

Water heater thermostat settings are incredibly important, as they can result in injury or disease if not set correctly.

Most water heaters come set at 140°F, which is the OSHA recommended setting. (At 140°F, the water heater will create very hot water while being unlikely to cause an injury.) However, the EPA begs to differ, recommending that homeowners set their water heater temperatures to 120°F to save energy.

Tank water heaters have the bad rap of running when it’s not necessary, and many folks might consider turning their gas or electric water heater thermostat down. But it’s important to understand that you should avoid setting your hot water heater thermostat any lower than 120°F for safety’s sake. Legionella, the dangerous bacteria that causes legionnaires’ disease, thrives in temperatures below 113°F.

Thermostat Settings Are About Striking a Balance

Ultimately, deciding on the best thermostat setting is a balancing act. You need to stay safe and comfortable while also reducing energy consumption as much as possible. The guidelines above should help you dial in the appropriate temperature to keep you cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and safe from temperature-related bacteria and injury all year long.