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To ask the assembled

So, what’s a useful temperature inside in winter?

We’ve spent a couple of decades without central heating – log fires. And years before that were spent in the Russian system where you don’t get to choose, Comrade.

Now we’ve got central heating. Air pump summat thingie and pipes under the floor with heat conducting liquid in them. We’re about to gain a thermostat as well. The Portugee seem to like very warm houses and we’re going to gain a control system other than the on off switch.

OK, so what temperature to set it at? Looking around peeps seem to think a UK house should be 21 oC. That’s when asking peeps. Energy Saving Trust type people seem to think 18. And I have to admit to finding many UK houses too hot. But I wouldn’t trust EST types to worm the dog let alone tell me the correct temperature.

So, what do folks think is right? Martin, I know, I know. So, folks other than Martin perhaps.

I’m used to, happy with the idea of, winter being when you wear a woollie as well as a shirt. But no one wants to freeze getting out of the shower either.

60 thoughts on “To ask the assembled”

  1. I’m currently sitting comfortably (long-sleeved brushed cotton shirt over a T, jeans, bare feet on woodblock flooring) with the room thermometer saying 17.7C — it starts getting chilly by around 16C, from previous experience.

    ISTR many years ago, guidance for bedrooms being 10C (thick blankets being assumed).

  2. I light the fire at home when it is below 20°C but we let it fall over night to whatever. I get up and go to work so keeping it warm in the morning is just wasted money.

    When we had central heating in France we aimed for 20°C in winter.

  3. For me and my wife it’s 17 degrees Celsius. I should be happy with a bit less, she would prefer a bit higher. Before the boys left home the thin one went round in a t-shirt while the fatter one wanted layers to keep himself warm.
    People vary so tune the central heating to what makes you feel comfortable.

  4. 19-20 living rooms. bedrooms should be cooler 17.

    Actually the Russian central heating system is controllable. You open the windows wider the hotter it gets.

  5. The point of a thermostat is that you set it to the temperature you want. I.e. if it’s too hot turn it down, if it’s too cold turn it up.

  6. It’s been 20° in almost every place I’ve lived that had central heating, but our latest place is uneven or something because we just aren’t comfortable unless the thermostat is 21° or even 22° at times. I should check if the thermostat is placed on a warmer wall than most of the house.

    It’s not us changing preference, if we visit the other home in winter, we turn that up to 20°

    Most homes I’ve lived in have had the system designed such that the bathroom was warmer than the rest of the place.

    Current place has no radiators for the bedrooms, they just get what convects up from downstairs.

  7. 68 deg is an acceptable level. There seem to be a lot of continentals around today asking for the equivalent, which is 20 degC.

    Bedroom windows should be opened before retiring. Bedrooms will therefore start at around 65 deg, with the air dropping to ambient garden temperature within a few hours. Nice and fresh for when you get up!

    Note that living rooms should always have a coal/wood fire, and that the temperature experienceed while toasting crumpets in front of it will rise considerably. Grandparents with arthritis should be provided with a wing chair in this area….

  8. Our central heating system is so old that it doesn’t have a thermostat. We have a timer that turns it on and off at the times that we need it the most. You can manually override the timer if you are too hot or too cold.

    I grew up in an ancient cottage where it was freezing upstairs. Jack frost would draw ferns on the windows. Our beds were wonderfully cosy, we learned to shed our pyjamas and get dressed in seconds so that we could bolt downstairs where the fire was.

    Bill Bryson’s autobiography, The Thuderbolt Kid, has some great stories about cold winters and cold houses.

  9. A lot will depend on what you’re used to.

    Out here in ‘MURICA! the energy-savers reccommend 68F(20C) – letting it drop to 62F(16.7C) when no one’s home. But I live in a desert where 6 months out of the year its over 90F(32C) so that’s entering the realm of uncomfortably cold and we don’t have a stock of sweaters here.

    On the other end, I keep the AC set at 82F(27.8C) and people in other places would consider that uncomfortably warm.

    I would say that as long as its warm enough that your toes aren’t uncomfortable in your shoes – that’s the temp you should set it at.

    Off-Topic: It still amazes me how slowly some things filter out to even otherwise ‘rich’ places. In the early 1990’s I stayed in a hotel in France where not all rooms had a bathroom. I lived in Sardegna in the late 90’s and they had *just* gotten unleaded gasoline – and were still metering internet. Now I find Portuguese houses don’t come with thermostats as a matter of course where, out here, we’ve had ’em (complete with the ability to set a schedule on even the cheap ones) for 4 decades or more.

  10. Wonky Moral Compass

    Ask the boss what she prefers and then split the difference between what she wants and what you do?

  11. View from the Solent

    20-21C for me. 18C is definitely insufficient for these old bones.
    And the bathroom is pleasantly over-radiatored.

  12. We had a hive system fitted about 3 years ago so could set heating to go up or down by mobile phone.
    Great when it works.

    Not so great when it doesn’t.

    No idea if can set times, not something I’m ever interested in.

    May be worth looking at what systems can be made to work in your place. Hive I believe is household, at least one other system does by room.

  13. @Stonyground
    A couple of years ago I was in that situation — so I looked around and found a timer/controller for the heating and hot water with the same wiring configuration that also had a separate RF thermostat. The upgrade was a matter of unscrewing one point on the old controller, sliding it off the backing plate, sliding the new on, and tightening the locking screw — no rewiring needed.

  14. I’m staying with 2 80-somethings and generally they have the thermostats on 23 and I have the hearing turned off in my bedroom and my home office.
    I grew up in a big, old, cold house and still prefer a bit of chill, especially for sleeping.

    I thought this was interesting: Before the boys left home the thin one went round in a t-shirt while the fatter one wanted layers to keep himself warm.
    Does this indicate the thinner sibling runs hotter and thus burns more fuel?

  15. Generally, 20c if sitting; but 17c if active.
    16c-18c in bedrooms.
    23c+ if we have over 75s or skinny women visiting.

  16. Never mind asking for optimum temperatures, everyone has a different opinion, go for an optimum system.

    I have installed 5 hot water heating systems in rental properties in the last 5 years here in Calgary, Canada where good heating is important. It’s going to be -8C tonight and I do not want unhappy tenants.

    The best comfort for the most tenants comes from lots of separate thermostat-control valve or circulation pump pairs and sometimes by-pass valves for individual radiant heat emitters so they can be throttled back.

    A thermostat in each of living area, dining area, kitchen and each bedroom should cost only a few hundred extra per room, and well worth it.

    Unless your plumber is a rapist. Oh wait, they all are.

  17. Heating usually only on morning and evening, so house cools a couple of degrees during the day when either out and about of active. 14C feels warm if comming in from the cold but soon feels cold. Something between 18–20 if just sitting around, 16 is warm enough if active. It always feels colder when damp. Radiator always full-on in bathroom so that usually gets to 22 in morning. Bedroom warmed to 18C in evening and morning.

  18. “Looking around peeps seem to think a UK house should be 21 oC”

    A UK house shouldn’t be any degrees Centigrade. I don’t know the equivalent temperature is in Phrench, but God measures things in Fahrenheit, and a typical American house will be 70 to 72 degrees, turned down to 68 or 66 at night (more for sleeping comfort then for energy savings)

  19. From t’ web
    Minimum temp for fermenting wine at home : 21C
    For beer : 20C
    Using the Adam Smith principle, rooms that are lived in while awake should be 19C – you’re going to leave beer making to people who are good at it

  20. T.C.
    “UK house shouldn’t be any degrees Centigrade. ”

    Nothing is in centigrade seeing as it isn’t a valid unit of measure. You mean celsius

  21. 20.55556°C

    Starting point. Adjust as fits.

    I’m in the silly season here in the SE. Ran heat last week. Ran A/C this week.

  22. Dunno. If we feel cold we move the kitchen table nearer the Aga.

    We can go a whole winter without using the gas fire in our bedroom.

  23. Apparently air pump thingies are very slow to react (or at least very slow for the reaction to take effect), so it’s no use fiddling with it. Try it one one temperature for one evening, then try something higher or lower as appropriate the next evening.

  24. It’s a very personal/cultural thing. I made many visits to an office in Tokyo which was staffed with perhaps 30% North Americans and 70% Japanese. There was an ongoing battle about what the temperature should be. At 20C the westerners were uncomfortably hot and the Japanese staff, particularly the women felt it was freezing.

  25. 18C for us, and if we feel a bit chilly then we just put a blanket over our knees, though if the cats want a cuddle, the blanket isn’t necessary.

  26. Whatever your personal preference for warmth, a key thing is to not let it get too cold when you don’t want the heat. Get a thermostat that allows different temperatures at different times of day and keep a sensible level all day, boost as needed later.
    If you let it get too cold in the day it’ll get damp. That’ll ruin your books (and soft furnishings) and make the walls leak heat like a sieve. You’ll not get it warm again.
    Keep the heating at a level that keeps it all dry, without excessive humidity. Add on in the evenings a temperature boost to suit.

    But if you turn off heating completely during the day, you will just end up with cold, damp, overheated and stuffy rooms that chill you to the bone.
    It’s cheaper to run it this way than to turn off all day and only heat in the evning. F***wit politicians notwithstanding.
    I don’t suppose a Portuguese winter is so different.

  27. We have ours at 15C overnight, and 19C during the day. Love a cold bedroom to sleep in.

    And temperature is measured in Celsius or Kelvin. Fahrenheit is just for the colonials, much like spelling colour incorrectly 🙂

  28. Stonyground: I remember that as a little kid. We shot downstairs in our dressing gowns & dressed in front of the stove in the front room (it wasn’t a ‘lounge’ in those days). The next house had central heating, which made life somewhat more comfortable.

    As I sit here now the multi-weather thingy says it’s 21.8C in the lounge, and about 7C outside. I can sit comfortably in just tracksuit bottoms after having a bath watching TV but my wife has layers on & still feels cold!

  29. Too Many Variables….

    On average 20 centigrades daytime is a decent bet, depending on local humidity and dress habits. Peeps tend to want their sleeping room a tad cooler at 16-18 centigrades, assuming light bed coverings and payamas.

    In the end it’s the Real Boss™ ( aka the Missus ) who will have the final say anyway.. 😉

  30. It all depends.

    When we’re in “heating season” in Normandy, we change our habits and set the temp to be around 18-19C and expect to wear long-sleeved shirts and a pullover. This is mainly because the house is heated by lots of individually-controllable electric radiators. nd French elecricity seems… expensive.

    In Tejas, we’re on propane and winters (and autumn and spring) aren’t so chilly, and the house is modern construction (walls are 2×6 rather than 2×4, which allows for more insulation), the house is heated/cooled by an AC unit in the attic, and the temperature is set to 73. And we’re shirtsleeves.

    In the USA house we have Nest ‘intelligent’ controller. You can, as with many other controllers, tell it things like “keep the house at 73 between 8.00 am and 9pm, but let it fall to 68 at night”. It has a little person-detector (IR-detection of movement, I suppose) and if it sees nobody for a couple of hours, starts letting the temp drop. You can also change settings, read history etc from your iPhone (etc), including programming its behaviour thereby. To do this, it needs wifi.

    In Normandy, the house has a DeltaDore remote control of significantly less flexibility but sufficient utility. You set actual temps on the individual radiators, which give you three settings – comfort, eco and hors gel. Comfort is what you want that room to be at; eco is (I forget) 2C less, and hors gel is 8C. The DeltaDore (“TyDom”)software and boxy can set any radiator to any mode, and can do it on a schedule. [The radiators are sold sans remote capability, but with an interface that lets you (or your favourite electrician) add a controller. The controllers communicate by ‘radio’ – it ain’t the usual wifi]. We had to relace the heating, so we had the electrician add this stuff in while he was at it.

    I’d look at Nest/DeltaDore controllers and ask locally what’s good etc. Then install the recommendation.

  31. A UK house shouldn’t be any degrees Centigrade.

    How many of the denizens here live in the UK? Of those that do, how many grew up with Celsius anyway?

    Your welcome to give the degrees in anything you like (Rankine anyone?) but if you use Fahrenheit I have zero idea what it means.

  32. Stonyground: “Jack frost would draw ferns on the windows.”
    Growing up in the 60’s in the North East of England in a 3 bed, 1 coal fired house with no central heating, I have vivid memories of the ferns on the glass windows along with the stiff, frozen bedroom curtains and the oppressive weight of the multiple blankets required to remain warm in bed. Perhaps that’s why I set our Hive to 24C, despite now living in Surrey. Not that it stays at 24C for long, as my wife prefers a cooler 20C, aided and abetted by Hive which as Martin says is “not so great when it doesn’t (work), which is every day!

    Tim, by all means enjoy the central heating at any temperature you are comfortable at, or set to the best temperature you can negotiate domestically, but I’d recommend that you avoid Nest. Nest has a crappy wi-fi system and in my experience is not fit for purpose; my home wi-fi system in a house built with plasterboard walls is fine, but Nest refuses to talk to it intermittently throughout the day even though it is about 15 feet away from the hub with a Nest supplied signal booster. Stick to a good old fashioned electromechanical thermostat and timer.

  33. The commenters’ figures range from 18 – 21°C, but the accuracy of measurement is probably ±1°C, i.e up to 33% off. Your body perception of temperature is more accurate. Thermostat ‘temperature’ is just a number- adjust to suit.

  34. Our old stone place in the backwoods of County Clare has oil c/h with ‘stats on the radiators only, (no room ‘stat), so you can adjust each to suit the usage of the room. Kitchen lowish, what with cooking etc, similar for bedrooms, two rads turned up and woodburner for living room, while bathrooms have rads plus electric towel rails-great in summer when it’s damp or cool, a common Irish summer event.
    Also, we have a Meaco dehumidifier, the silica type, NOT the compressor one, that is brilliant if you want to warm up the bedroom/en suite or dry clothes inside when it’s peeing down outside. They dry the air but also heat it more effectively and are quieter and cheaper to run than the compressor type.

  35. Will,

    I grew up in a 3 bedroom, one coal fire, council house in Surrey. We used to take hot water bottles to bed and shuffle our legs to warm up the bed clothes, and wake up to a visit from Jack Frost.

    The key difference between my childhood and that of MrsBud, who grew up in Geoff Boycott’s home town in West Yorkshire, is that in her mining village, only a handful of houses were privately owned, everyone else lived in rented council or Coal Board housing, and everyone left school at 16. In Surrey, living in a council house was a rarity, none of my school mates lived in one, and staying on at school and going to university was generally expected.

  36. Warm bathroom – the ultimate luxury.
    Cold bedroom with warm woman marital harmony all round.
    If it’s chilly then light a fire in the woodstove and sit at a suitable distance. This will of course vary. Don’t use a thermometer. Surely you can tell whether you are warm enough without one.
    Women need to be kept warmer – no idea why.

  37. Get a wireless thermostat so you can move it around if you need. As a rule of thumb, put the the thermostat in the coldest place… hallway perhaps… and set to 20C, the living area will end up warmer.

    If you have underfloor heater and a heat pump, the water/liquid will circulate up to 40C. It takes a while to warm up but once it is warmed, the temp is fairly stable.

  38. “We had a hive system fitted about 3 years ago so could set heating to go up or down by mobile phone. Great when it works.

    Not so great when it doesn’t. “

    We looked into this. Our extremely nerdy plumber is big-time into intelligent heating, wireless thermostats, phone app to control, it etc etc.

    His advice was to avoid Hive. The technology is good, Hive is a bad implementation of it. He didn’t put it like this, but I get the impression he thinks Hive is the British Leyland of intelligent heating.

  39. John Wilkinson said:
    “Our old stone place in the backwoods of County Clare has oil c/h with ‘stats on the radiators only”

    My heating is like that too (that reminds me; must check the oil tank), but the radiator thermostats don’t seem to be very accurate.

  40. My thermostat is at 18 Celcius, and I put a jumper on when it’s cold. And the timer only comes on 7:30-8:30, 17:00-21:00. A properly build 1895 terrace that keeps the heat in.

  41. @ Chester Draws
    1) From the look of it the a small majority or the largest minority.
    2) Most of that group – it’s only the young and younger middle-aged who grew up with Celsius

  42. @ MC
    Interesting question – some of the difference was due to the thin one being more active which contributed simultaneously to keeping him warm and keeping him thin, some was, we presume, to his having a higher BMR with similar results, some just to personal preference on comfortable temperatures.

  43. I agree with the comments that the number is just a number. I’ve just checked my controller, and it’s pointed at ’25’ but the actual thermometer on the wall says 19C.

    “Women need to be kept warmer – no idea why.”

    ‘cos they’s culturally inculcated to wander around half naked. Put a damn jumper on, woman!

  44. New to thermostats? Wow. Some thermostat science:

    1. Thermostats aren’t necessarily precision instruments. The older, the less precise. Consider the temp setting to be +/- something.

    2. The use of a thermostat means the heat runs intermittently, as controlled by the thermostat. Therefore, you set a temperature on it, but, in fact, you get a range. Your comfort will likely depend on the extremes, not the setting.

    3. Location of the thermostat affects comfort in the rest of the house.

    “Get a wireless thermostat so you can move it around if you need.”

    This struck me as a code violation here in U.S. Years ago, a heat tech told me he couldn’t move my thermostat, because code required it to be at the air intake. But a check of duh net shows they are available here. When – if? – my son moves out, I think I’ll look into this for my house. Controlling for my bedroom makes way more sense than for a remote hallway.

  45. As others have said, the correct answer is what makes you (and other occupants of the house) reasonably comfortable.
    Of course, there are variables you can fiddle with – e.g. add an extra layer and turn the heating down a bit which will cut the bills.
    But one thing to note is that with UFH (Under Floor Heating), a room stat can generally be set lower because people feel warmer if their feet are warm. Conversely, if your feet are cold, then the room needs to be significantly warmer for people to feel comfortable.
    Another thing to note is by observation (admittedly of a limited sample), to a significant number of women a “thermostat” is correctly operated in the following manner : if you are cold, turn it up to maximum; when you are too warm, switch the system off (or turn down to minimum – especially if it’s reversible aircon, i.e. the type that can heat or cool); when cold again (or when arriving in a freezing cold office because they turned the heating off the day before), turn it back on/set to maximum. I have also concluded that for those with these beliefs, no amount of explanation will make them think differently. Resetting the aircon controls will restore porper opeartion for at most 1 day, after which it will have gone back to “full heat – off – full cooling – off” operation.
    Also by observation, a smaller subset of women regard it as a problem with the office heating if they arrive in a light summer outfit, having got frozen in the short walk from car to office door – and the office isn’t so hot as to make them comfortable within seconds.
    And of course, for women “of a certain age”, the required temperature can vary considerably over short timescales.
    It may seem that I’m being sexist here by picking on women. I only report what I observe – men seem more tolerant of temperature variations, and generally understand the concept of turning the ‘stat up or down a bit rather than treating it as a switch. The one thing I learned from years trying to manage the heating a couple of jobs ago, if you have 6 women in a room, you’ll get at least 7 opinions as to what temperature it should be – and why it’s a totally unreasonable suggestion that those who tend to feel cold might consider not wearing light summer outfits in the depths of winter.

  46. No-one has mentioned that the best way of doing a thermostat installation in a mixed male/female household is for the male to control the temperature via an app on his phone and to provide a fake wall mounted thermostat for the female to adjust as per her mental preference.

    Any complaints can be put down to “It takes a while for the temperature to adjust” or “I bet those bastards at FuelCo have dialled down the power again”.

  47. @Gamecock

    “….“Get a wireless thermostat so you can move it around if you need.”

    This struck me as a code violation here in U.S. Years ago, a heat tech told me he couldn’t move my thermostat, because code required it to be at the air intake. But a check of duh net shows they are available here…..”

    You may have been told this because it would have been a code violation. Alternatively, you may have been told this because the heat tech just didn’t want to go to the bother of moving it…..

  48. This struck me as a code violation here in U.S. Years ago, a heat tech told me he couldn’t move my thermostat, because code required it to be at the air intake. But a check of duh net shows they are available here”

    Maybe some people don’t give a fiddlers cuss for “…the code…?”. I mean, after all the post-buildings or post-installation inspections and sign-off is done, whose gonna come and check?

    …or are we living in an Orwellian nightmare world that I am just ignorant of…?

  49. I’m 48, never figured out that dead old method of temperature involving fareinheight. Temperature in C for my entire lifetime.

    As weather gets colder I’ll start turning thermostat up to deal with it. Working in an office all day at 18C, bus travel with bus windows open twice a day and a half hour plus walk in the cold each way means I look forward to getting into decent heat when I get home.
    27.5C.

  50. “Maybe some people don’t give a fiddlers cuss for “…the code…?”. I mean, after all the post-buildings or post-installation inspections and sign-off is done, whose gonna come and check?”

    The fire marshal. If he finds a code violation during a fire investigation, the tech and his company would be in big trouble.

    2. The tech never knows who he is working for. A code violation could cost the tech his license. Hence, his job. Techs learn early on to stick to code.

  51. The fire marshal. If he finds a code violation during a fire investigation, the tech and his company would be in big trouble.2. The tech never knows who he is working for. A code violation could cost the tech his license. Hence, his job. Techs learn early on to stick to code.

    Ah. An Americanism. For a supposedly free country you do put up with a lot of bullshit.

  52. “For a supposedly free country you do put up with a lot of bullshit.”

    Amen. If Gamecock were president, he’d do away with 600 federal agencies, which have no basis in the Constitution.

    Trade licensing is generally at the state level. Most of it is trade protectionism, sold as consumer protection.

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