As the temperature drops each year, the cost of energy rises and becomes a growing concern for people already bracing for other winter expenses like snow tires and holiday shopping.

Sometimes major lifestyle adjustments are necessary to save on household expenses. Fortunately, when it comes to home heating, adjusting your thermostat by as little as one or two degrees can yield savings on your monthly energy bill, according to Natural Resources Canada and

Thermostats are a great tool for reducing energy use, but there are a few things that affect their efficiency. Here are some strategies you might consider to get the most out of your thermostat this winter.


Make sure everyone in your household who might adjust the thermostat is on the same page about how it works. For example, Rhea Henry, energy content expert at, said people sometimes crank the dial on their thermostat to a higher temperature than necessary, expecting it to heat their home more quickly.

"People seem to believe it’s like a stove top, and the higher temperature means the hotter your furnace will run," Henry wrote in an email to

"The number you set your thermostat to is the ambient temperature you want your home to be before shutting off the furnace. Your furnace will always work at the same pace, so all you’re doing with this is ensuring your home will get uncomfortably hot before you remember to turn the temperature down."


Beyond the basic operating instructions, a thermostat's user manual can be a source of valuable information that is often overlooked, according to Drew Leyburne, assistant deputy minister of energy efficiency and technology at Natural Resources Canada.

"We find that sometimes people rush through their user manuals, especially for programmable or smart thermostats," Leyburn told in a telephone interview. "And they often don't take full advantage of all the energy saving features that are available in the thermostat themselves."

Be sure to read your thermostat's manual for energy saving tips and tricks. If you don't have a physical copy of your manual, many user manuals can be found online, as long as you know your thermostat's make and model.


A thermostat measures the temperature in the room it is in, in order to know when to turn a home's heat source on or off. For this reason, Leyburne explained, your thermostat's placement can affect its ability to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. Placing a thermostat near an entrance, window or heating vent can cause it to misinterpret the actual indoor air temperature of the building or the home because it's getting gusts of especially warm or cool air.

"You want it to be in a place in the house or in the residence that's as indicative of the users' experience as possible," Leyburne said. "So if you're standing right over a radiator or a furnace vent, that's not going to give you a sense of what it's like in the main room."


If you haven't done so already, consider replacing your existing mechanical thermostat with an EnergyStar-certified thermostat. These are energy efficient thermostats that Layburne says can save customers eight per cent or more on their home heating or cooling bills.

In Canada, more than 65 thermostats from 18 different manufacturers are EnergyStar certified, including both programmable and smart thermostats.

Both types adjust temperatures based on factors like time of day or household schedules to avoid overheating and to conserve energy, explained Layburne. Programmable thermostats work off of a weekly or daily schedule set by the user, while smart thermostats adapt to users' behavioural patterns.

"Investing in a programmable thermostat can (reduce) the hassle of raising and lowering the temperature while you’re away by adjusting the temperature based on a consistent schedule," Henry explained.

"A smart thermostat that connects to the internet has additional features, such as automatically setting its temperature based on the local weather, allowing you to adjust your temperature from your phone when you’re away, and even locking the screen so any teens you have can’t just crank up the heat while you aren’t looking."

EnergyStar maintains a database of thermostats certified in Canada on its website.

If replacing your analog thermostat isn't an option right now, Leyburne said it's still possible to conserve energy and save on your heating bill with a traditional thermostat.

"If there's one general credo I'd want to share it's that even with manual thermostats, users can often lower the temperature by two to three degrees Celsius and be comfortable," he said.

Leyburne suggests programming thermostats to 17 degrees when the home is empty or people are sleeping, and 20 degrees when everyone's home and awake.

"Just acknowledging there is no one temperature that suits a resident's house or apartment all the time," he said. "Much like your daily patterns of how you go about your day, it needs to vary. So we recommend that, at a minimum, people use thermostats in a way that reflects that reality."