How heated does your relationship get over the temperature in the house? These days, we’re all spending more time at home, which can sometimes lead to a deeper understanding than we ever bargained for about our partners’ quirks and domestic habits.
We could devote entire tomes to the proper way to load a toilet paper roll (paper over, never under), whose turn it is to take out the trash (yours, obviously), and what constitutes a made bed (a casually tossed duvet over rumpled sheets doesn’t cut it). But what’s genuinely firing up disagreements on my block is the position of the thermostat dial in everyone’s house. Because what feels perfect for one half of the couple inevitably feels searingly hot—or frigidly cold—to the other.
And we’re not alone. According to a survey from Vivint Solar, 75% of couples argue over the heat level in the house. Here’s how it breaks down: 33% of survey respondents say their partner keeps things too cold, and 31% say they keep it too hot.
We spoke to experts and real-life couples in an attempt to throw cold water on this heated battle. We aim to separate what might “feel” like the right temperature to what’s correct from a cost and energy-saving perspective.
Real-life couples hash it out
The temperature wars seem to come down to a four-degree difference. In many relationships, one person wants the heat set at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit, while the other prefers 72.
Newly hitched Evan McCarthy, president of Wisconsin-based Sporting Smiles, discovered how drastic that seemingly small swing is. But it didn’t hit until he and his wife moved in together—and winter arrived.
“During the summer months, it wasn’t an issue,” says McCarthy. “But now it’s become a much bigger deal.”
He characterizes his wife’s choice of temperature as being “hot” (72 degrees) as he admits he’s more comfortable at 68.
“I’d come home to a superhot house, and we would argue,” adds McCarthy. When he’d turn the dial down, his wife would go so far as to buy herself a few space heaters.
“Then I realized it was costing more in electricity with space heaters, so now we compromise,” he adds. The couple eventually settled on a 70-degree home.
Extreme temperature accommodation
Other couples have learned to have an ongoing, calm dialogue about the temperature. And they agree to make micro-adjustments to accommodate the other one’s needs.
“My wife and I replaced our thermostats with smart thermostats that stay within a 5-degree temperature range of 68 to 73 degrees,” says Mike Ziarko, founder and CEO of the Toronto-based cleaning company No More Chores.
Ziarko believes feeling comfortable is essential, adding that they keep light blankets on hand around the house to bundle up when one of them is temporarily chilled.
“Twice a day, I’ll question my wife about the temperature, and if additional cooling or heating is required, we’ll make adjustments,” adds Ziarko.
Meanwhile, some couples’ temperature battles get highly overheated. And they may indulge in the occasional act of sabotage. (Sometimes, their spouses even admire them for it!)
When Greg and Erin Wilson first moved in together, they discovered a few ugly truths about each other. The pair, based in St. Louis, are founders of ChaChingQueen, a site devoted to living big on a small budget. And perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out Greg is a bit of a penny pincher.
“We were constantly battling over the thermostat,” Greg admits. “Erin was adamant about being more comfortable while I just wanted to layer up. Then, one day, I came home from work and discovered a new thermostat that was password- protected. Well-played. She wins.”
So what is the perfect temperature?
As these couples prove, the temperature is subjective. But what’s a reasonable window?
“The technical answer for maximum energy savings is 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter,” says Zach Reece, owner and chief operating officer of Colony Roofers in Atlanta. “But for comfort and energy savings, I’d say it’s closer to 73 to 75 degrees in the summer and 68 to 70 degrees in the winter.”
Another factor that can significantly affect comfort levels is the home’s humidity level, adds Reece.
“In the summer, humid and hot air rises, meaning that the upstairs room feels warmer and stuffier than downstairs,” he says. “In the winter, the air is drier, so if you want to feel warmer without cranking up the heat, a humidifier can help.”
How temperature wars affect your bottom line
Some experts say that turning the temperature down between 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours a day (while you’re sleeping or at work) can deliver substantial cost savings and help everyone stay more comfortable.
“That can save you up to 10% in climate control costs,” says Jeff Zhou, a personal finance expert and co-founder of Fig Loans in Sugar Land, TX. “It also tends to keep the peace if budget is the root cause of a fight over the thermostat. In addition, investing in a digital, programmable thermometer allows you to control the temperature after you leave for work.”
Other experts recommend installing a zoned or ductless HVAC system if family members can’t agree on one temperature.
“Individual bedrooms, as well as home offices and family spaces, can all be controlled separately,” says Dan Close, founder of We Buy Houses in Kentucky.
Let’s stay together (or not)
About one-quarter (23%) of respondents to the Vivint survey said they deal with temperature differences by layering up, while 21% handle the issue by setting a thermostat schedule. And 19% admit they do nothing, choosing to battle instead of finding a peaceful solution.
And one-quarter of people surveyed by OnePoll and Trane Residential revealed they’d ended a relationship over thermostat etiquette.
Bottom line: When people date, they tend to focus on big-picture issues like, say, the desire to get married, have kids, and buy a house. But perhaps the conversation of ideal temperature should be broached—before it’s too late.
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