During the summer, most of us keep indoor temperatures in the mid-70s. But that’s only when there are people inside the house. What about when you’re on vacation for a week? Nobody is home, so is it ok to bump the thermostat up a notch?

Oh, and let’s not forget the winter holidays. Do you really need to keep indoor temps in the high 60s when nobody is in your house?

Let’s consider a few simple tips for out-of-town thermostat settings. Doing what we suggest on this page will help lower your energy bill while you’re away without creating any problems inside your home.

Best vacation thermostat settings

Ok, so you normally keep your thermostat set to 75 during the summer. You’re heading to the beach for a week and nobody will be at home. Should you change the thermostat setting? Here are a few possibilities and their consequences:

Leaving the thermostat alone

If you do this, your AC will continue cooling your home to 75 degrees. It’s fine if that’s what you want, but you will have to pay to cool a whole bunch of spaces with no people in them. Seems a bit wasteful.

Turning the AC or heat off

If you do this, you’ll definitely lower your energy bill for the week you’re gone! But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Let’s start with your air conditioner. You’ll want to leave it running while you’re out of town. The reason? Humidity. Here in the American South, outdoor relative humidity commonly reaches levels above 70%. That’s no problem when you’re inside… assuming the AC is on. A well designed air conditioning system can keep indoor humidity at comfortable levels. Aside from cooling, humidity management is the other thing we all love about air conditioning.

But if you turn the AC off while you’re out of town, it won’t take long for the humidity inside your home to be the same as the humidity outside your home. By the time you get back, your home will probably be a haven for dust mites. You might even have a burgeoning mold problem – not what you wanted to come home to!

In the winter time, turning off the heat results in a different problem: stuff freezing. How would you like to come home on January 3rd to a burst pipe and lots of water damage? Not so much, right?

The bottom line is that you’ll need your HVAC system to keep running while you’re out of town. Your home was designed to be a temperature-controlled environment, whether you’re in it or not.

Adjusting the thermostat by a few degrees

Ding ding ding! This is the sweet spot for when you’re away for a while.

In most homes, most of the time, it’s ok to set your thermostat to 78 when you’re away for the summer. This might be too warm when you’re in the house, but it’s cool enough to provide sufficient humidity control. You’ll save a little money and your home won’t become a steam room.

In the winter, you can probably bump your thermostat down to 62 or 63 degrees. That way, your system will still generate enough ambient heat to keep the pipes from freezing – even when they’re in the walls or in your crawlspace.

Do you have a whole-house dehumidifier?

If you do, you can probably set your thermostat to 80 or so when you’re on vacation during the summer. The dehumidifier will take care of the humidity, so you don’t have to worry about the AC being at a low enough temperature setting to keep moisture levels down.

Other HVAC considerations for when you’re on vacation

It’s no fun to come home from a great trip and realize your AC or furnace quit working while you were gone!

To avoid that nightmare scenario, be sure your system receives regular maintenance from an HVAC professional. At a minimum, you want to be sure the drain line is clean and that the system has working safety switches. For your furnace, it’s important to make sure the burners, flame sensor, and other components are clean so that the furnace can turn on and keep running while you’re gone.

Oh, and consider getting a communicating “smart” thermostat for your home! The benefits include:

The ability to adjust the thermostat from your phone, even if you’re on the other side of the world
Monitor indoor temperature and humidity in real-time while you’re away, just for peace of mind
Immediate alerts if there’s a problem, so you can call an HVAC pro to check things out before you get back

Yes, you should adjust your thermostat when you’re on vacation

Just don’t turn your system all the way off or use an extreme setting. The AC still needs to remove moisture and the furnace still needs to keep water from freezing.

Follow the tips we went over above, and you’ll return to a comfortable home and save on energy for the month you were gone!

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