When you’re looking for ways to cut down on your utility payments and add to your savings, consider controlling your thermostat settings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you’ll save 1 percent on your utility bill by lowering the temperature by 1 degree for eight hours when heating your house. You can cut your energy costs even more when cooling. Savings equal about 3 percent for every degree you set the thermostat above 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Programmable thermostats come with four pre-arranged setting options. They allow you to program the temperature for when you wake up, during the day and evening, and while you sleep. The key is to figure out what the optimal settings are for your lifestyle and program those times and temperatures into the device. For example, if you typically get up at 7 a.m., you might set your waking temperature for 6:30 a.m. so that the house will be warmed or cooled appropriately by the time you’re up. Then you can have the heat reduced during the day when you’re either not at home or moving around. In the summer, you can set the thermostat a little higher for when you're not going to be home. Some programmable thermostats allow you to set up the program for seven days or to accommodate weekends with five-plus-two setting arrangements.
Every family is different, but there are typically settings that allow most people to remain comfortable while saving money. In the summer, the ideal setting is 78 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, according to the Department of Energy. You can save even more by raising the thermostat to 80 degrees F and running your ceiling fans, which will make it feel cooler. The University of Florida warns that every degree below 78 will cost you about 8 percent more on your energy bill. For the winter, the Department of Energy says that the ideal thermostat setting is 68 degrees F. Reverse your ceiling fans to allow hot air to be forced downward to help you save even more on heating.
While your temperature settings are programmed and set to change automatically, you always can override the settings to accommodate special needs. However, you’ll end up losing your savings if you consistently use this feature. You’ll save the most money and keep your home heated or cooled evenly when you allow the settings to remain in place for eight hours or more. Additionally, you can set the program to hold a certain temperature when you go away for extended periods of time. For instance, you don’t need the house to be comfortable when you’re gone on summer vacation, so you can set the thermostat to hold at a warmer temperature during that time.
Additional Savings Tips
There are a host of other steps you can take to reduce your energy costs once you’ve got your thermostat programmed. Keep your doors closed as much as possible to reduce the loss of heat or cool air. Weatherproof windows so precious air doesn’t escape when you’re running your heating and air-conditioning. Replace the air filters in your heating and cooling units at least twice a year for maximum efficiency, and if you’ve got an attic, make sure it's insulated properly. That alone can save you another 30 percent on your heating and cooling costs.
- Energy Star: Proper Use Guidelines for Programmable Thermostats
- Direct Energy: Recommended Thermostat Settings in the Winter Recommended Thermostat Settings in the Winter
- Consumer Reports: Best Setting for Your Central Air Conditioning
- Collier's: How Often Should I Change the HVAC System’s Air Filters?
- Over the Top Roof: 5 Reasons Why You Should Invest in Attic Insulation
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."