How Low Can A Home Thermostat Safely Go During Winter?

When Old Man Winter goes cold this winter, don’t go colder, or you might find yourself unexpectedly living in a frozen Arendelle that Queen Elsa can’t even break you out of.

When we get that first costly home heating bill of the winter, the natural reaction of any homeowner – especially those with older homes – is to dial down the thermostat. The rational thinking for any homeowner going on vacation for extended period of time is to turn off their home’s furnace entirely to save George Washingtons. Who can blame them?

But as Arnold Schwazzenger told the bad guys who harmed his favorite second cousin Frank in “Last Action Hero,” that’s a“big mistake.”

A cold house greatly increases the chances of cold pipes freezing. Trust us, folks, you don’t want to roll the dice with your pipes freezing. State Farm Insurance pegs the average 2019 insurance claim for frozen pipes at $15,000. Repair bills for burst pipes can cost $5,000-$7,000.

AfterDistaster.com estimates an average of 250,000 homes each year will suffer damage from frozen and burst pipes. That bitter fact comes with a $400-500 million repairs price tag.

So much for saving all those George Washingtons by dialing down the thermostat. 

“(Burst pipes) are almost always temperature-related,” Michael Mccann, a plumbing manager at Michael & Son Services in Alexandria, Va., told the Washington Post. “Any water line that goes below 32 degrees can freeze.”

As Farmers Insurance Claims Director Paul Quinn tells U.S. News & World Report, the magic low number that any heater should be set to is 55 degrees Fahrenheit and not a degree lower. Home energy experts recommend 60-65 degrees as the ideal temperature range for your thermostat during winter. 

“In an unoccupied house we recommend keeping your home above at least 60 degrees,” Mccann stresses. 

For energy bill-weary homeowners wondering, “What temperature can I set it to without my January heating bill giving me a heart attack?” we recommend setting your thermostat to the lowest temperature you can comfortably stand.

As Living With Energy In Iowa advises, “Let comfort dictate how low you initially set the thermostat.”

As a friendly reminder, here are less chilly and dangerous ways to save money on your home energy costs this winter:

  1. Inspect and regularly replace filters.
  2. Get an inspection and furnace tune up before the arrival of winter to get the furnace ready for the season.
  3. Inspect the home for drafts and leaks. Seal up any cracks, holes or gaps in the home’s entryways, walls, and foundation to prevent thermal energy from escaping.
  4. Use weather stripping on doors and windows that are used frequently.
  5. Caulk or seal the windows and any unused exterior doors.
  6. Set the water tank temperature to 120 degrees to reduce thermal energy costs.
  7. Open the curtains or blinds to let the sunlight in to help heat the home.
  8. Rearrange furniture so that no one has to sit where there may be drafts coming in.
  9. Check all pipes and faucets for leaks. Insulate the pipes by covering them with a blanket.

Remember, the last thing you want during this unpredictable Iowa winter of 2019-20 is your home’s pipes to develop fatal frostbite during an Iowa Artic Wave.

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