Although some hardy individuals will live in freezing temperatures by donning thermal underwear and spending the day in down-filled sleeping bags, most prefer a comfortable and healthy temperature that allows everyday living.
But how low can you go if you want to save money on your heating bill?
Every degree you reduce your living temperature saves you money, but when is it too cold?
Ideal House Temperature in Winter
Comfort is relative, so during winter, your body can tolerate a lower air temperature when it is frigid outside.
Set the heating temperature between 66°F (18.8°C) and 70°F (21.1°C) in winter for a comfortable indoor condition.
You won’t complain if it is any higher, but you pay more for heating.
The house needs heating, but you need to strike a balance between achieving an acceptable temperature so you can work and rest and consuming excessive energy that will make a hole in your wallet.
Why is Cold Bad for You?
People like plants and animals have an ideal temperature range in which they thrive.
When the temperature drops below your ideal range, you suffer the ill effects of cold because your body has to work harder to keep your core temperature up and allow your brain, digestion, and other processes to function.
Plus, cold rooms are frequently damp rooms with the risk of mold triggering respiratory issues.
Is Below 55°F Too Cold?
If rooms in your home are consistently below 55°F (12.7°C) and you spend a large proportion of your time in those rooms, you risk increased blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
When you are cold, your blood vessels shrink, making it harder for your heart to circulate blood around your body.
Is Between 57°F and 59°F Too Cold?
Studies show that exposure to cold and dampness increase and worsen respiratory infections.
If your rooms stay at these temperatures, you are more likely to catch a cold or have an asthma attack.
Cold is not the only factor, but a combination of a weaker immune system (your body is spending energy keeping warm) and exposure to mold and dampness increase the incidence of respiratory illness.
Are Rooms at 62°F to 64°F Too Cold?
The 62°F (16.6°C) – 64°F (17.7°C) range is ideal for bedrooms where you insulate your body against the night chill with blankets and hot water bottles.
A cooler bedroom encourages a restful night’s sleep.
Overnight your body temperature drops by a couple of degrees, and your body enters a rest and reset mode.
Reducing your bedroom temperature to save money on your energy bills and provide ideal sleeping conditions makes sense.
Are Rooms at 66°F to 70°F Too Cold?
For comfortable daytime occupancy in winter, this temperature range works.
Where you set your ideal temperature depends on age and activity.
An older adult with limited mobility needs the temperature to stay around 70°F (21.1°C) and may prefer it to be warmer for perceived comfort levels.
Sitting for long periods can make you feel cold, and the best advice is to add activity to your day if you can. If you must sit still, layer up to better insulate your body.
What about Hypothermia?
If your body temperature drops to 95°F (35°C), everything starts to shut down with fatal consequences.
Hypothermia requires prompt medical attention. Hypothermia isn’t exclusively an outdoor risk; it can happen inside.
Older adults and young children are most at risk, but it can happen to anyone.
Contributing factors include a lack of food, medication, some medical conditions, and inadequate clothing combined with a lack of heat.
If you are chilled, damp, or hungry, hypothermia can set in at cool temperatures like 40°F (4.4°C) and below.
How Cold to Leave the Empty Houses?
Is there any point in heating an empty house?
When you are out at work or away from home, switching off the heating may seem to make economic sense.
Unfortunately, house structures are susceptible to cold damage from freezing water in pipes to damp walls.
Water freezes at 32°F (0°C) but setting your thermostat to 33°F (0.5°C) won’t save your plumbing.
The minimum temperature setting in your home to protect it from cold weather damage is 50°F (10°C) because the walls can be colder than the interior rooms. If your house has poor insulation, you may need to heat the rooms to 60°F (15.5°C) to keep the water in the pipes above freezing.
Continuing to heat an empty house to 50°F (10°C) or above means you protect your structure from winter damage and makes it easier for you to quickly raise the internal temperature to a comfortable living temperature of 64°F (17.7°C) when you return home.
How Can You Stop Your House from Getting Too Cold?
Apart from running the HVAC system to maintain a steady and comfortable internal temperature, you can take additional measures to keep the expensive heat in your home:
- Insulate – add insulation to your roof, walls, plumbing, and underfloor, wrap your home in a cozy blanket to keep the cold out and the heat in.
- Heavy drapes – most heat goes through the window, heavy curtains closed at night act as a thermal barrier.
- Regular maintenance – fix those drafts and fit draft excluders to doors and windows.
- Dress for cold weather – multiple layers trap air near your body and keep you warmer. If you need to sit, add a blanket or an extra wrap to your personal insulation.
- Eat hot food and drink plenty of warm drinks – your body uses a lot of energy to keep you warm, so provide the right fuel.
- Remove excess moisture – use a dehumidifier to get the dampness out of the air to improve your health and cut down on condensation and mold.
- Move more – physical activity generates heat and revs up your metabolism.
Old and older houses tend to suffer from cold indoor temperatures due to a combination of building materials and age.
What about Babies?
Babies and young children have less control over their environment and can get chilled without awareness of the consequences.
Keeping your baby’s room in the goldilocks zone of not too hot or too cold is essential.
A wall thermometer in your baby’s room will help keep you aware of the safe zone for sleeping and playing.
You can tell if your baby is too cold by feeling its hands and feet.
If they feel cold and the skin looks blue, then the room temperature is too cold for your baby, or your baby needs more clothes.
The right temperature for your baby is the same as yours – below 64°F (17.7°C) is too cold in most cases.
Pets Are People Too
Unless your preferred pet is in a tank with a heat lamp as a standard feature, if the room is too cold for you, it is too cold for your companion animal.
Although your dog can go for a walk in cold weather, inside your home, your dog needs the same comfortable range of temperature as yourself, especially if very young, elderly, or with a thin coat.
Are There Benefits to Keeping a Cold House?
Most people like to maintain their houses at a comfortable room temperature between 68°F (20°C) and 72°F (22.2°C).
Still, research indicates that challenging your body with a chillier living temperature can have health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes.
If you are a healthy adult, gradually accustoming yourself to a room temperature of 59°F (15°C) can help you lose weight and increase resilience.
When you are cold, you burn more body fat to keep warm.
Selective exposure to cold can give you health benefits but remember that cold is a health risk for the young, elderly, and the vulnerable.
Living in a Cold Climate
People who live in freezing climates have plenty of techniques and tips to stay warm inside, these include:
- Building styles – triple glazing, smaller windows, and other winterizing features.
- Cozy Culture – from hygge to courie people who live in cold climate embrace warm throws, hot chocolate and other ways of staying warm and happy.
- Appropriate clothing – wool sweaters, thick scarves, and quilted clothing feature in cold country costumes.
- Heating systems – efficient heating systems with backup power supplies tend to be essential in freezing climates.
Studying how people who live and work in extreme climates can help you adapt your lifestyle to accommodate the colder months in more temperate climates.
Does Gender Matter?
Anecdotally the battle for control of the thermostat says women prefer warmer rooms than men.
A space that suits a man may be too cold for a woman, and science shows that the impact of cold rooms on women is not a matter of preference.
Women work better for verbal reasoning and mathematical tests when the room temperature is less cold, and a few degrees makes all the difference to improved productivity.
One biological reason for women preferring a higher temperature for thermal comfort is that women’s skin has more receptors than men, meaning women are more sensitive to cold.
Plus, women’s bodies lose heat faster than men due to differences in body shapes and metabolism.
Most men feel rooms are sufficiently warm at 71°F (21.6°C), while most women are more comfortable at 77°F (25°C).
When you consider setting the thermostat to maintain a comfortable living room, you may need a compromise between the genders for domestic harmony.
How Cold Is Too Cold in Your House?
People are surprisingly resilient and can cope with less than optimal temperatures inside a home by layering up and eating well.
Still, it is healthier for you and your family to ensure that you keep the rooms in your house in winter above 62°F (16.6°C) at night and 66°F (18.8°C) during the day.
You need to wear appropriate clothing and be reasonably active in these temperatures.
Suppose you live with babies, toddlers, and vulnerable adults. In that case, you may need to raise your room temperature as high as 70°F (21.1°C) in winter to compensate for decreased mobility and a lesser ability to control body temperature.
How cold is too cold inside your house is about individual preferences and lifestyles.
Although you can be comfortable at temperatures below 70°F (21.1°C), most people heat their homes to be warmer rather than the comfortable minimum.