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Unoccupied house temperature setting

For a house in Maine that at least some winters will be unoccupied, I need advice on the following questions. Note that conditions are a gas-fired boiler feeding radiant on 1st floor and HWBB on 2nd floor. Assume insulation to meet local standards [at least] Assume home may not have an occupant from Nov to May [most/many winters]. Plan is to use antifreeze/water mix in the heating system. House plumbing would be "drained but perhaps not fully evacuated."

1) Is the best plan to leave the heating system running but at a lower setting? I have assumed yes to protect the house condition.

2) How low can I lower the zone settings considering a desire to conserve energy/costs balanced by not risking the home? Would 40F be too low?

3) Given the type of heating system described above, is there a point of "no or low payback in energy saved" if temperature is set lower?

As always your expert advice is appreciated!!!


  • maine rickmaine rick Member Posts: 107

    being a service teck in so. maine for the last 12 yrs. i deal with some customers that go south for the winter.
    i always recommend no lower then 60* for at a lower temp the heating system would run more often burn more fuel.
  • BoilerproBoilerpro Member Posts: 1,231
    I'd recommend standard practice used in churches

    Thermostat setting of 45 F is recommended by the Interfaith Coalition of Energy ( an interfaith organiation that addresses energy issues with several thousand member churches in the northern US).

    This minimizes energy use, typically cutting the usage in half over typical comfort settings, while protecting plaster, plumbing, etc. from damaging freezing temperatures. It also helps ensure adequate relative humidity to protect natural materials from excessive drying ( in the case of churches, the pews, the expensive components of pipe organs such as windchests, leather on air valves, etc). This temperture is also approved by the American Guild of Pipe Organ Builders and is common practice in most large cities. I can personally attest to the energy savings by these lower settings.


  • KenKen Member Posts: 1,640
    I have a place in northern VT

    I go up two or three times in dead of winter and have found the power has gone off for enough time and with enough frequency to damage the house.

    Drain the toilet tank, drain the potable water to 3' below grade, fill the tub and sink traps with propylene glycol and the bowl as well.

    The only surprises you'll get is red water in the toilet when you return.

    Been there and done that. Then too, how much to heat a house all winter at any setback setting? A lot more than a gallon of anti-freeze!

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  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,493
    just another thought

    Living in NH and having seen a few cold night's I would also add that for a very small cost you can save alot of money. Do yourself a favor and purchase a low temperature alarm. Plug it in to your phone in Maine and set it to dial your number's. Find someone in the area of the residence that would be willing to help you out in an emergency and make sure to buy them a steak dinner every now and then...IMHO
  • Mike KraftMike Kraft Member Posts: 397
    Hey Ken

    Don't forget to dump some in the tanks of your toilets and the overflow standpipe of the flush valve.This will purge through any water laying in the rim ports of the closet and the flapper won't dry rot prematurely:)

    Love from PAH Jr. :)
  • Uni RUni R Member Posts: 663
    These are all opinions...

    I'd say 50. Gives you some buffer, if the utilities go out for a bit. Also, it really takes very little energy most of the time to get an insulated house up to 50°F. If we're away for weeks we set the house around 52. The Maine Coon cats love it, and the cat minder is nice enough to crank it back up a day before we return.
  • Kevin_in_DenverKevin_in_Denver Member Posts: 64
    If you have a basement

    I'm going to try this with my mountain cabin at 10,600 ft.

    Uninsulated basement slab (no plans to occupy the basement)

    R-5 foundation and footing insulation to 4' below grade.

    Indoor insulated shutters for all windows (R12 total).

    Leave basement door open to the rest of the house.

    Has anyone you know of tried this?

    My preliminary testing indicates 45 deg. minimum house temperature at design conditions.
  • tombigtombig Member Posts: 291
    It could

    be worth atry. Not without monitoring. If you have a consideration for woodwork, etc. I like BP's idea of 45*. If the house is that tight it won't cost you much more than peace of mind.
  • DaleDale Member Posts: 1,317
    Up north eh

    I leave mine at 40 and do all the drain down and put red antifreeze in the traps, the washing machine too or the pump explodes, If I was building new house up north I would put in a 12" radiant floor which will keep the house for a week with the power out.
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