Living Smart: What temperature should you set the thermostat to while on vacation?

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Before you leave on your last, late-summer vacation, donít forget to give your HVAC system a break too.

Turning your thermostat up a few degrees while youíre gone in the summer will surely save you some dollars from not running your air conditioner, but is there an ideal temperature for your home while youíre away?

Yes, according to Wesley Brookover, service manager at McClintock Heating, Cooling and Electrical in Charlotte, North Carolina.


His suggestion for your air conditioning needs: Add four degrees to the temperature you normally set for your house while youíre on summer vacation. So, if you normally set it to 73, bump it up to 77 degrees.

But donít get greedy. If you set the thermostat too high, you might find your own temperature rising when you see your next electricity bill.

"Four degrees is the sweet spot," Brookover says. "More than that and you may spend what you save trying to cool it back down."

Brookover cautions thereís an even bigger threat from leaving your house too warm. "You could damage wall compounds in Sheetrock if itís too hot and humid in the house," he says.

Excessive humidity also could lead to mildew in the house, and Brookover says heís even seen refrigerators sweating when the house is too hot and humid. So you do want to keep your A/C running at a reasonable pace.


A similar rule applies in reverse for cold weather, with one exception.

Take four degrees off your normal home temperature when you leave for a few days on winter vacation, Brookover says.

Avoid the temptation to shut the whole system down while youíre gone: Any more than four degrees, and your heat pump or heater has to work too hard to get things toasty again when you return from out of town.

The exception: If you have a gas furnace, which requires less work to heat homes, you can set the temperature six to eight degrees lower.


Want to save even more money? Talk to an HVAC company about upgrading your thermostat.

Newer thermostat systems give you the power to change your homeís temperature remotely with smartphone apps, allowing you to adjust based on changing temps outside. At the least, you can enter a new setting as you head back from vacation, so you donít walk into an uncomfortably muggy or chilly home. Instead, your A/C or heater will be busily plugging away to get to the new temperature while you travel back.

"Thatís the best thing," Brookover says. "Many people are going to systems like that."

Even without an app, many programmable thermostats have hold settings or day and time selections that will allow you to begin the cooling process again a few hours before you return.