Some like it hot. Really hot.

thWe get it: The weather has been very cold lately in the Lower 48, including places that normally don’t see single-digit temps. But is setting your thermostat to 70 degrees or higher the right way to go?

Some 28 percent of the 2,035 people interviewed by HomeServe aim for more than 70 degrees. Of those warm-blooded creatures, 34 percent are elderly and 32 percent are millennials (18 to 34).


I can understand the elderly having trouble regulating their body temperatures. But what’s with all these young pups who just can’t stay warm? Do they own no sweaters?

Another note: 27 percent of those who live with another person can’t agree on the heat setting. I can relate; as noted in this “thermostat wars” piece for Money Talks News, I could never understand why my ex-husband kept raising the temperature vs. just putting on another layer.

That MTN article offers 13 tips for keeping warm during the winter months without cranking up the thermostat. Well, one of them does mention strategic use of a space heater.

That’s “strategic” use, not “burn it at high temperatures during all waking hours.” Seriously: The right clothing and the right attitude do a lot toward staying comfortable. Think of it as self-winterization.

A zone of warmth

I feel bad for the folks in not-usually-that-cold climates, especially those whose homes weren’t exactly designed for warmth. (Hello, Atlanta! Did you ever get those pipes thawed?)

But burning beaucoup BTUs probably isn’t the smartest way to go. No matter how high you turn that thermostat, it’s not likely ever to be toasty. It’ll just be not-quite-as-cold, and your budget will take a huge hit.

Take a look at those tips and see if any apply to your situation. You’ll have actual warmth surrounding your body and can actually move around comfortably vs. huddling by a space heater. Some long johns, a heated throw, a rice sock or a hot cup of Lemon Zinger can turn your whole day around.

Readers: How have you been coping with this unusual winter? Got any tips to share?

Related reading:

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  1. 32% of millennials aim for over 70° – what a load of jessies!! Saying that, those low cut tees do must make your chest pretty chilly unless you turn up the thermostat!! 🙂

    • Absolutely hilarious. Another reason women might want to try a little modesty.

    • As a millennial who has had her thermostat over 70 for several nights this winter, I’d just like to point out that I have a good reason. I live in Texas, and my apartment is pretty crappily insulated. Every time it gets below 20 degrees, a pipe line in my kitchen ceiling brakes, flooding my kitchen, living room, and the bedroom that shares a wall with the kitchen. This usually results in weeks of repairs and hassle because of my shoddy maintenance person and landlord. Spending a little extra on my utility bill is worth it to try and prevent a pipe from busting again.

      Also, thanks for implying that all millennials wear inappropriate clothing. I’m currently in a cardigan and crew neck shirt. Don’t be so judgmental.

  2. I will never have an animal in the house of the bed (except for the chicken one night and a chick another). I don’t prewarm the bed. Other than that, I have some variation on the other tips if not the same thing.

    I bought a wool blanket at a yard sale for $1. It was a Military blanket, light cream and very thick. I use it in place of a sheet. That is sooo warm. I will never use a sheet again in the winter, not even a flannel sheet. Blankets will be top sheet. I am considering making a bottom, fitted sheet from something.

    I wash clothes on freezing nights. This helps to keep the water flowing more in the pipes. I am going to have to keep the water running, not dripping when it is below 10 F in the South with uninsulated pipes.

    Then, I dry them, one load after another to help heat up the house. I used these horrendously cold days to wash things like blankets that I rotate.

    Baking all day and freezing stuff like cakes and breads keeps the house warm and gets me ahead for days when I don’t have time.

    When I got ready for bed and was going to sit all covered up with shoes and socks on, I needed to put fresh socks on just before I got in bed. I found that my feet were damp and became very cold once in bed. Feet perspire even when it is not evident. Then, they become cold.

    I have never been so cold in my whole life as I was this last month.

  3. I save drying the clothes until morning to help warm the house a bit.

    I have seen these little tent things that fit on a kid’s bed–princess for a girl and dinosaurs for a boy. These would certainly keep off drafts and hold in body heat. And, best of all, these are made and marketed to college students with lights and windows in the college tents.

    A family could pitch a camping tent in a room and sleep there, conserving body heat.

  4. I keep the thermostat between 55-60; layering really does work. Turning down the thermostat is good for health, wealth and Earth.

  5. I found that a fleece vest keeps my torso warm and my arms free. Afghans on the sofa are a must if I want to read or watch TV. And — don’t laugh — long underwear is great! My Millennial kids are used to a cool house and wear sweats, etc. Our house is 65 during the day and drops down to 58 at night. We invested in a LOT of insulation and are on the “budget plan” with the gas company (the gas company determines your usage and then you pay the same amount every month.). Our gas bills are about $60 a month and we live about 25 miles north of Boston.

  6. We moved over the summer from Houston to Virginia. Add to the fact our house now heats with electricity instead of gas, its been a little cool and expensive the last few months! While this house is newer, and less drafty, our kids room is above the garage which is unco ditioned. We just added some insulation and thats helping, but space fan type heaters are our frinds! We no longer have a digital thermostat so I have to guess. I keep it about 62 upstairs all day and night, and arou d 66 downstairs until 6pm.

  7. lostAnnfound

    I work from home, so I moved my desk right next to the pellet stove (I mean I can swivel my chair and touch it). That helps to keep me warm during the day when I’m working, plus a sweatshirt. Flannel sheets at night and the thermostat at 58 (prefer a cool room to sleep in anyway). we have had a programmable thermostat for years for the furnace so it will kick on to 70 at 5:00 a.m. for everyone to get up and shower/get ready for school & work and then shut off at 7:30 a.m. That’s when I turn the pellet stove on.

    Living in Western Massachusetts we get our fair share of winter weather, especially these past few weeks (even though yesterday it was 50 degrees!!), so we always try to find ways to save on keeping warm.

  8. Wrapping my hands around a hot cup of tea is the best.
    I wear a hand-knitted cap, sherpa-lined moccasins, and a cozy poncho around the house.
    As propane went up terribly, I used the portable heater a lot.
    I also look at seed catalogues a lot and think Spring!

  9. We’re millenials (30 and 32) in Massachusetts who keep our thermostat around 71 this time of year. It’s really not for us – we’re happy to throw on extra layers and walk around with cold noses – but more for our kids, ages 3 and 1, to stay comfortable. As they get older and it’s easier to get them bundle up similarly (try packing extra layers on a squirming 1-year old who just wants to wiggle, climb and play) we’ll probably keep it at a lower setting. I wonder how many of that “millenial” group is in the same boat as we are.

  10. Reading artcles like this make me more thankful then ever for our woodstoves. Our winter here has been both historic and brutal…freezing temps with heavy snow after heavy snow. Thank goodness I stocked up with wood from some work done this Spring and Summer to rentals…all for FREE. In this neck of the woods propane has doubled and home heating oil has just topped $4.35. I just don’t know how people cope as this surely is a “budget buster”… Our woodstoves have been going non-stop and keeping the place a toasty 72 degrees…

    • Donna Freedman

      We have a fireplace insert with a fan that moves the heat out into the room. During a nearly week-long power outage a couple of years ago, DF kept the place reasonably comfortable even though the fan obviously didn’t work. Temps at that time in the 20s and 30s. If it were a prolonged power outage and the temperature went below zero it probably wouldn’t be super-comfy (except in the living room!) but at least the pipes wouldn’t freeze.
      And yeah, budgets are busting all over the country. In some places I hear there are propane shortages. Brrrr.

      • Tracy Stone

        Has it been two years since you’ve been back up there and with DF? Man, time flies!

        • Donna Freedman

          Nope, just a year and a half since I moved up here and one year since I moved in with DF. But still…I find myself thinking, “A year? Really? Tempus fugit!”
          This is, however, my second winter — I moved back in September 2012. (Really? Really?)
          Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  11. enjoythejourney

    I have to admit (a little guiltily) that the last three days here in Texas have been gorgeous, but before, it has been brutal in terms of what we’re used to in winter. (We’ll discuss our summers some other time.) I’m fine as long as I’m moving around, but like Kate, every room where I sit has an afghan or throw waiting for me. Each has a different pedigree, but they are my best friends when I read or watch TV. Sleeping is a different matter. There’s something to be said for being of that age where you have to lower the thermostat and kick all the covers off at night.

    • Donna Freedman

      That MTN article that’s linked in the piece offers various tips, including having a throw/afghan/heated throw in every room. It’s not the I begrudge people warmth — it’s 3 degrees here right now — but generally speaking kicking up the thermostat doesn’t really make you feel warm. A layer of long johns and wool socks instead of cotton ones probably will.

  12. Unfortunately, I don’t get a lot of say in the matter, thanks to Tim’s joints. And our place just does not retain heat (or cool in the summer) well. So I know we waste a lot keeping it around 75 in the winter. And even then it really doesn’t feel much like 75. I’ve been wearing my hoodie, but a couple of good sweaters wouldn’t be the worst idea. Again, though, I’m not the one with bad joints. Tim got more long underwear this year, plus a warm blanket. And I think maybe next winter we’ll bring the space heater (so that he could smoke outside) indoors. Might help our bills a bit. But compared to summer cooling bills, it’s really nothing.

  13. We have not had heat or air conditioning in our home for the last three years. Our 30 year old furnace needs replacing and as my husband and I have both had lay offs etc.we have opted to keep our emergency fund in place and go without until we have saved the money for a new system. We live in No. CA where it does not get super cold but twenty degrees outside means fifty-ish inside.

    We do have a fireplace and that keeps the living area warmish but we always have extra comforters on the couch for snuggling. It will be nice to have heat/air again but I am glad we have gone without instead of carrying more debt!

  14. Cathy in NJ

    Well it’s a heatwave today at 50 degrees. Socks are key. I breathe into socks to warm them before they go on the feet, and keep them on all the time, even sleep with them. After using the oven or toaster I leave the door open to let the extra heat vent into the house. I have an electric blanket on the bed. I turn it on to warm the bed before I shut it off for the night. Some super cold nights its goes on again. Naturally sweaters, sweatshirts, blankets, throws are worn. The child likes to sit in short sleeve shirts(?) ok but don’t touch that thermostat if you are cold. 15 yr olds in my town don’t believe in coats, wear shorts and short sleeves in freezing weather.

  15. I am a weenie. I just moved to the relatively cold Phoenix from the Florida Keys. I have been wearing layers, drinking tea, and I stole a coat from my mother. I had to buy slippers. One thing to remember is that most homes in the Keys don’t have heat, so when we do get the occasional cold snap(Okay, high 40’s) weather, people use the stove to heat their homes, walk around in as many layers of sweat shirts as they can, and dig out that pair of socks they never wear. It really is pretty funny watching the locals shuffle around in 6 sweatshirts while the tourists run around in shorts when it’s 50 degrees.

    • Donna Freedman

      Recently it was around zero degrees. I saw two girls walk into the grocery store. One wore baggy shorts, long-sleeved shirt and sneakers; the other wore shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops. Neither wore a coat. Me, I’m not that hardy: Everything gets covered.

  16. Sleeping bags make great quilts, and zipped up, keep the drafts out completely. Even the cheapest ones are good down to about 40 degrees. When my son was young, he preferred a sleeping bag to blankets and quilts from October to May.

  17. We keep the thermostat at 65 degrees. Whenever someone complains that it is too cold, I tell them “GET UP AND MOVE. Wash floors, vacuum carpets, scrub the bathtub, and I can guarantee you’ll be warm in no time!”

    • gail, we might be related. I say the exact same thing to everyone in the house! I’m normally sweating because I am doing chores and they are just sitting there complaining.

  18. Vicky Fox

    Last year I bought a Heat Dish from Costco that radiates heat and heats my whole bedroom up. A well spent $60.00. Yes, in California, we get down to 19 degrees last winter. My condo is not ideally insulated so it helped quite a bit.

    I totally agree with gail about getting up and moving. I had a reaction to a medication that left me with a mild case of Raynaud’s syndrome, and during bitter cold, my right hand turns a bit blue, unless I keep my hands warm at all times. Getting up and moving is the best remedy to keep it at bay.

  19. well…its 70 in here right now! My propane furnace is set at 65. My pellet stove on the other hand is set at 1.5. The dial goes up to 10 and I can’t imagine the inferno I would have in here. It doesn’t burn well on the lowest setting of one. The stove ties into the ducts and burns 24/7 as long as I feed it. Unfortunately, it was the smallest unit of that type….and a little too large for my small house.

    It comes with some work though….I will have lugged 4 tons of pellets to the basement by the end of winter. (which still saves me $900 a year in heating costs)

  20. I am obviously in the minority, on this site, anyway, but – – my house is older and drafty. A few years back, in order to try and save money/cut expenses, we dialed the heat down and froze. And the bill wasn’t all that much lower. Sorry. It literally costs me $1/day per month to turn my heat up and be comfortable. I’ll eat ramen, if I have to. It’s only for 3 or 4 month anyhow.

    • Yay ramen! I can remember living on hot dogs with melted American cheese and ramen soup. That will definitely warm me up. Like others, I keep the house on 64, but I have south-facing windows and get free passive solar gain on days when there’s sun. In New Mexico, that’s most days. I worry about my cats though: Is 64 degrees at night too cold for them?

  21. I bake my dinner on cold nights to help heat my small apartment. I also use an electric lap blanket when sitting and watching TV or crocheting.

    At night I use an electric blanket to keep the bed warm. I don’t use the heat when I am not home or at night when I am sleeping. The morning shower warms up my bedroom enough to get ready for work.

    If it is really, really cold during a day when I am home, I will use an oil filled radiator type heater, on low, to warm my living room. I don’t keep it on long, just long enough for the oil to get hot then shut it off. It radiates heat for quite some time. I keep all the other doors closed in the apartment. Why heat a room I am not using?

  22. Suzanne in VA

    Great reminder that I turned mine up to 67 the other day since i was having company- back down to 65 now. i have a small space heater in the bathroom for morning showers if I cant shake the chill but that is not often. Funny to see other ppl do things I do like leave the oven door open after turning it off when cooking.


  1. 9 smart ways to use all that “extra” cash. | Surviving and Thriving - […] toilet will help reduce the costs of running your home. Cutting down on drafts could help reduce the thermostat…

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