Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, January 03, 2011

A Question of Warmth

There are more substantive topics I should doubtless start a new year out with, but a quick practical question for those with more experience living in the frozen north than I (Californian turned Texan turned Ohioan that I am.) What do you consider a frugal thermostat setting during the winter? What is a normal one? What is a self indulgent one?

I'm much more used to managing cooling on a budget -- in relation to which I always thought of frugality being setting the thermostat to 80 or a little above. Normal as 78. And self indulgence as starting somewhere below 76. (The which could, in 100+ degree weather, result in electric bills somewhere between "wow" and "boig!")

When we moved into out glorious, rambling old pile the friendly lady as Columbia Gas helpfully informed me that our house had previously been set up as a commercial account because the owners used so much gas during the winter. (Said old pile is heated via a natural gas boiler powering hot water radiators.) This has, of course, had me watching the thermostat with the fascination which only a dedicated numbers guy can muster. Indeed, I'm thinking of installing one of those nifty digital thermostats simply for to satisfy my desire for more precise temperature metrics than those provided by the old mercury dial termostat.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

As someone who can't stand the cold, I set mine at 68 (or thereabouts). I bump it up on days when it's particularly cold.

A digital thermostat is useful in that you can lower the temperature at night automatically which can have dramatic savings.

Anna said...

Having lived all my life in the frozen North, ie. Ontario, Canada, I would say that a frugal setting would be 60 to 65. Although keeping the temperature there requires an investment in warm clothing and bed covers. A normal one would be about 70. Getting over 76 would be getting into the indulgence level.

Sallyt said...

We don't have central heat (my husband took out the thermostats during a remodeling project eight years ago and we never bothered to put them back in) so we heat our house with a woodstove and a pellet stove. So we don't keep things at a constant temperature everywhere...but the bedrooms are usually in the 50's, and the main living area is usually low 60's but gets up towards mid-60's if I'm baking. We are so used to it that we find "normal" home temps of 68-70 to be stiflingly hot. The kids wear fleece pajamas and if it's really cold out (single digits or below zero) I throw an extra comforter on their beds. I love the challenge of heating with a woodstove. It seems unnatural to be warm all the time in winter. We're plenty warm while we are moving around, and there are shawls and throws for when we sit down and feel a little chilly.

Anonymous said...

I'm another Ontarian; at our house, in the winter, we keep our thermostat set to 17 at night, which Google tells me converts to 62.6 Fahrenheit. During the day we usually bump it up to 20 (68 F, says Google), which I actually find is a bit *too* hot what with winter sweaters and stuff.

jenniferfitz said...

We're with Anna - frugal setting is 60, with a peak of 65 when you want it most. Down to 55 at night. We use a space heater in the bathroom during showers for those who like it a bit warmer.

But funny story: batteries in the programmable thermostat went out the other night. I replaced them, and told the spouse he'd need to re-program the thing, and until then it was on the default settings. He has utterly forgotten. And I am totally loving the not-frugal temp settings. Wow. So pleasant.

(Yes, I know. Bad behavior. But I can type! No more measuring internet time by how long until I start shivering from being too still! Practically tropical! I promise to act like a grown-up soon. But not yet.)

Jamie said...

I keep our programmable thermostat at 60 overnight, 68 in the morning and afternoon/evening when my husband and school-aged kids are home, 62 during weekdays when it's just me and the toddler.

Our old pile has beautiful original windows which I refuse to replace but which are total heat sinks. I use that hair-dry-in-place plastic film on them during the winter. It is un-beautiful but it makes a substantial difference in our heating bills and in the amount that a person shivers while sitting on the couch.

Melanie B said...

We have a programable thermostat and I consider it a great investment. It's set to 62 at night. It jumps up to 68 for morning when everyone is getting out of bed. During the day it's 65 or 66. I also use a space heater to warm up the bathroom during showers and baths because it does get cold in there.

I feel like we're actually keeping the house a bit on the warm side for frugality. Our previous apartment was much colder when our budget was tighter (and it had poorer insulation, being in an older house). To me these temps feel luxuriously warm. I do wear a light sweater or jacket during the say and socks and slippers. The kids don't seem to notice as much. They sometimes put on socks or jackets but they are often moving around so much they don't need them.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

We heat with little space heaters, and have a toddler, so we keep currently-inhabited areas to about 68 and Kit's bedroom at 68-70. Our bedroom is more like 62-65 when we're there, frost forms the rest of the time.

Lots of blankets over the windows and drapes across obvious heat-escapes. (the hallway from our livingroom opens into a HUGE and lovely two-story-tall entry way that sucks heat out of the place, given a chance. Right now, it's about 45*, and won't get much warmer until the outside does)

There's a fad for blackout drapes in a wide range of colors for fairly inexpensive prices; they'd probably make great heat-stoppers.

My folks swear by this: Electric Radiator

Their side of the mountains is much colder, and their main heat is fire and one gas monitor stove.

If you can get a thermostat you can program, it's great-- set the house's heat to 45 or so at 7 or 8 (depending on when you go to bed-- let the temp drop so it's cool by the time you do) then have it warm up to 68 an hour before you get up.

Darwin said...

For the record: We've currently got the thermostat set to 62 -- though I have no idea what the temperature in the house is as I'm not sure whether to rely on the old thermostat's temperature reading. The house is comfy if you wear long sleeves or a sweater. (We have old fashioned windows, but we also have tight-fitting storm windows on nearly all of them, which seems to provide very good insulation.)

Suburbanbanshee said...

Oh, man. I'm glad I don't live in any of your houses. My place was at 60-62 for a few days, and that's when I caught bronchitis. But my apartment is heated by a radiator, and it's fatal to move the thermostat. The building controls how much the radiators put out, anyway.

That said, my brother keeps his place at 58, and my parents like 65; but when we were growing up, it was usually 65 or lower at night and 68 in the daytime.

Barb said...

I live in Buffalo. We keep our thermostat at 66 which seems frugal enough for me, as I am always cold. My DH and DS's walk around in Tshirts and sometimes shorts while I wear warm slippers and sweaters.
At night I love, love, love my heated mattress pad (with dual settings) and down comforter.
When I was a kid and heat was cheaper (at least I wasn't paying the bills!) we kept our house at 72. I think I would find that too warm now.

Barb said...

I must admit that we keep ours at 71 or 72 but then we have a geothermal system which is much cheaper to run.
I did remember thinking that when Mrs. Darwin was here for lunch and showed me pictures, my first thought was about your future heating bills....

JMB said...

We have gas with forced hot air heating, our house was built in 1940.

We keep the temp at 62 from 10pm -5am, 65 from 5 to 8am back to 62 until 5pm, up to 65 to 10pm. We replaced our windows a few years ago and that made somewhat of a difference in our heating bills.

I don't mind the cooler temperatures in the house. I would die if the heat was up to 70, that's when I'd flip on the AC!

Jordana said...

Being the owners of another old pile, as you know, we find ourselves on the freezing side out of economic necessity. Perhaps they put insulation in houses up in the frozen north earlier on, but ours only has insulation in the attic. The outer walls have none and we haven't yet managed to get around to storm windows. Thus we keep our thermostat somewhere between 58 and 60 depending upon how cold I'm willing to feel.

We do have a lovely fireplace that heats at least 3 square feet of the living room.

I like to pretend I'm very green and speak in holier-than-thou terms to my liberal friends about my "seasonal living." At least the hot air keeps me warmish.

RL said...

I'm impressed that s many folks can actually function with the temperature in the low 60's in their house. I'm a native northerner and could never do that. I wouldn't go below 69, but find I can be somewhat comfortable at 71.

I will however caution against the prevailing wisdom of programmable settings. I don't have any hard data on this, but from experience it seems like it's not a real money saver and only serves to make you less comfortable. Here's why. You have extreme temperatures outside and a very inefficient house. If the temperature in your house is 70 and you find it comfortable, then turn the thermostat down to 62 at 10 PM, it will only take a few hours for the air in your house to get to 62. Within a couple more hours every fixture and object in your house is 62 degrees. When your thermostat kicks up to 70 at 6AM it has to bust ass for hours to get the air to 70 and it has to keep running hard to get the entire interior to 70. Not much money savings in the long run, but you'll always feeling cold and drafty because the floor and even the furniture is cold or cooler than the air.

YMMV, but I consider it a lesson learned to not lower than more than 2 degrees at night. the real money saved is where set your baseline and that's pretty much just a comfort trade-off.

Rebekka said...

I'm not in your frozen north but our temperatures have been everything between 0 to -20 C +/- wind this winter, which the internet tubes tell me is 32 F to -4. Though mostly -5 to -10 C, so more a range of 15-25 F. I don't know how that compares to where you are. Incidentally, I too am originally from California, although I come from the northern foothills, so we had Winter.

Anyhoo, we have an apartment so we get the shared wall effect (and shared noise) and we have double-paned windows. We have radiators. The living room is 21 C or just under 70 F. The rest of the apartment is progressively cooler the closer you get to the bedroom, which we only heat when it is really, really cold, because we only sleep there. We wear slippers all the time and sweatshirts if we are sitting around.

We don't have AC so in the summer it can actually get up to (calculates...) just about 90 F inside on the warmest days because of heat trapping. Ugh. I would love me a ceiling fan, but with only 3 months of warmish weather and a week or two of truly hot weather a year, it just isn't economical.

Kelly said...

We keep ours between 64 and 68, depending on various factors.

hricco said...

I have to agree with your other commentors. We currently have it set to 68 degrees at times when we're home, and 64 degrees when we're not at home (or during the night when we're sleeping). I love programmable thermostats.=-)

Joy said...

wow, y'all have some tolerances for cold. We have usually mild winters here so I don't feel too bad keeping the therm. btwn 68-70 and it kicks on mostly at night. It's easier to have it cooler during the day while we're moving around.
Also, my husband spent his formative years in northern MN living in a converted, drafty schoolhouse and now likes it *warm* at night.

JMB said...

I hate to out myself as an "older lady" but once you hit a certain age, you have a much higher tolerance for cooler temps.

Kari A said...

We live in MN and I second what most people are saying. 62 at night, 68 during morning/evening hours and 65 during the day as we are homeschoolers. During the cold time in the afternooners, I schedule our read-aloud items so we can all snuggle under blankets. We also use a heater in the bathroom.

I also second the digital thermostats. I'd get a small thermometer that you can place in different rooms to check what the actual air temp is though compared to what your thermostat thinks it is. We had to do an adjustment on ours when we first got it; not because the temp was off, but the plaster walls insulated the wiring detecting the temp so well it was about 3 degrees cooler than what the thermostat was reading. Also, it is good to note which rooms heat better. Make sure to bleed your radiators regularly to have them work at their peak.

One last thing on radiators and digital thermostats. If you haven't noticed already, your radiators take longer to adjust the temp then forced air. Most new digital thermostats now have a setting which controls what temp ranges they click on and off for. Factory setting is +/- 3 degrees. Do the temp has to fall/raise 3 degrees from your setting before the heat/air kicks on. We found with our radiators that it was better for us to change the range to +/- 1 degree as by the time the furnace and radiators kicked in, the air temp had dropped at least one degree already. As the radiators also take longer to cool down, they will heat another degree after the thermostat has turned off as well.

TS said...

We have a programmable thermostat; 62 when we're not home or while sleeping, 68 when we're home. Bump it to 70 on really cold days. Not frugal enough given our gas bills!