What temperature should your vacation home be when you aren’t there? Every person you ask will have a different suggestion, so it’s hard to find an answer. Here are our thoughts.
Winter Temperature Setting
Assuming you have a second home in some place that regularly goes below freezing, like the Northeast or Northwest United States, a very serious one issue with vacation homes is pipes bursting when the house dips below freezing. You can prevent this by keeping your heat on and keeping the house warm, but with fuel prices spiking in 2022, this can be an expensive proposition.
So how low can you set your thermostat and still be safe? It depends who you ask.
Most insurance companies — that is, the people who need to pay if your pipes burst — will say to set your heat no lower than 65 degrees F if you are away from your home. This will ensure the house is sufficiently warm so that the outer reaches of the home and colder corners aren’t frosty.
Practically speaking, in my experience, you can safely set your temperature to 60 degrees F. This will save you some money in electricity or heating oil and still keep your house safe through even very cold winters.
Searching around the internet, some sources say you can set your temperature as low as 55 or even 50 degrees F while you are away from your home. In all honestly, 50 degrees seems aggressively low but it shouldn’t damage anything in the home. You will be much closer to the frost point if anything were to go wrong with the heating system and when you do return to the house it will be uncomfortably cold for hours (depending on how large your home is), but the savings will be considerable. This might mean a lot when heating oil is over $4/gallon!
Energy.gov notes that you will save 1% of energy costs for each degree your lower your temperature so you’ll want to go low, but not too low!
Summer Temperature Settings
If you are away in the summer you don’t need to worry about pipes freezing, but you want to control the humidity in your home, which means keeping the air conditioning on. In some areas you might not need the AC and you can get away with no cooling, which means excellent savings, but you’ll want to watch for mold mildew, which can come when the humidity peaks.
Assuming you live in an area that gets warm, then you can set your home to 85 degrees F and you should be good for the summer.
Many sources, like Energy Star, agrees with this level, but when assessing make sure you are careful to find out if they are talking about a short-term temperature or a long term one. For example, if you live in a humid area you might want to set your home to 85 degrees F when you go out of the house to go to work because you know you’ll be lowering the temperature (and thus the humidity) when you are home in the evening. If you are leaving your vacation home for a few weeks you might want to set the thermostat closer to 80 degrees F.