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The lower the better, but not to freezing (for energy conservation). Most thermostats have a setting that they can't go below. If you have house plants though, you may wish to stay at say 10C or above...
 

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Your sister-in-law is incorrect. She doesn't understand the science involved in programmable thermostats at all, which is proven. The longer/lower you are from the "at home" setpoint, the more energy is saved. You can tell by how long the furnace is on to bring the heat back (say an hour or two), relative to how long the furnace would have been on had you not set the temperature back (much more time).

It is true that the major portion of the saving is the first few degrees, but there are further savings for the next few degrees too, down to the point where you meet the outside temperature and no heat is required at all. The lower you can set the temperature, the more savings there are, especially if you're away for a couple of weeks.

This discussion is strictly from an energy standpoint and has nothing at all to do with comfort - which is why people purchase programmable thermostats - so that the furnace can come on before you need the heat in the home, so that it's comfortable when you get up, or when you get home from work. This doesn't (usually) work for 2 week vacations, however, some thermostats can be remote controlled via the web and heat the home in time for your return from vacation, or you can simply turn up the thermostat when you get home from vacation and the home is usually warm again in an hour or two.

Programmable thermostat link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programmable_thermostat
 

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Keeping the structure at temperature takes more energy than reheating the structure to temperature. (assuming similar outside temperatures at both ends of the journey) Yes it does take more time to reheat the structure than the air, but that again is a matter of comfort and not of energy consumption.

The energy utilized to raise the item (structure) to the original temperature was the same in both scenarios and is often forgotten by the individual who suggests not lowering the temperature. The energy required to keep anything at an elevated temperature is higher than if you allow the temperature of that item to drop for a period of time and then reheat it. If that were not the case, we would have a brand new source of energy on this planet by tapping into this "magic energy" that people believe exists in structures. ;)

Please, do not confuse energy consumption with comfort - they are often inversely proportional - one sacrifices (what most people call) comfort for the sake of energy savings. Although large temperature setbacks on a daily basis do not save much additional energy, they do save some additional energy and when extended for longer periods of time - a 2 week vacation - a lot of energy is saved.

You simply need to look at your heating bill in the winter if you go away for an extended period and lower the thermostat, or your cooling bill (that portion for A/C) in the summer if you have A/C and raise the thermostat. The bill would include the reheating or recooling of the structure. Of course, these bills would need to be adjusted for heating/cooling degree days. If you had a really mild winter or a cool summer, the savings would not be immediately visible if you didn't account for heating/cooling degree days.
 

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When I'm away more than a couple of days, I always turn off the main water shutoff valve. This would prevent a possible horrible flood if something burst (not due to freezing necessarily) - Flexible water lines to dishwasher and washing machine for example... Also if some mischievous children were to turn on the water outside (in the summer).

Earlier we discussed energy consumption. We did not address Time-of-use power, which can play into when you would turn on say the A/C (or electrical heat), but that's more for daytime concerns and not a vacation... you would try to avoid running these major power draws during peak times as much as practical if you're on TOU.
 
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