Turning down the heat

The first day of Spring means warmer air is just around the corner. It also potentially means higher electric bills as you reach for the thermostat to cool your house.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling accounts for 48 percent of Americans’ total energy consumption, meaning associated costs comprise a significant portion of the average consumer’s energy bill. Can those costs be lowered by turning off the heat or air when the house is empty?



It’s certainly tempting leave the HVAC on when you’re leaving for work or another day-long excursion. If you’re like most people, you prefer to come home to a cool house in the summer and a warm house in the winter.

But is it worth it to leave your unit running for 8 to 10 hours in your absence? No, according to energy experts.

The DOE recommends adjusting your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees when you’re leaving for several hours. (Also, for maximum savings, your thermostat should be set to 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter when you’re at home.)

Rather than relying on your HVAC, there are other ways to keep your house as close to the desired temperature as possible during your absence. For example, completely-closed, reflective blinds on a sunny window can result in a 45 percent reduction in heat gain.

Similarly, closing your drapes during the day can also lower the daytime temperature in your home. The DOE notes that heat gains can be reduced by 33 percent with medium-colored drapes that have white, plastic backings. During the winter, you should open your blinds and drapes during the day to take advantage of the heat.

Window shades are another way to either reduce or increase heat. Dual shades that are white and reflective on one side and dark and heat absorbing on the other can be flipped around for use during the summer and winter months.


When you’re away from the house for an extended period of time – for example, if you leave on a vacation or the property is a summer home or rental property that is vacant – there are additional factors that should be considered when deciding whether to heat or cool the unoccupied house.

“It is more economical to leave the heating and cooling system off in an unoccupied building,” said Darin Nutter, professor and department head of Mechanical Engineering and 21st Century Leadership Chair in Engineering at the University of Arkansas.

However, depending on where your house is located and the time of year, Nutter warns you may want to think twice before switching off your HVAC system.

“There is one real concern base on the building’s location and condition – moist air entering the building and the potential development of mold,” Nutter said.

Air conditioners help to combat the issue, which could arise in climates that are warm and moist, Nutter explained. “In the summertime, running an air conditioner not only reduces the air temperature, but also removes moisture from the air – and both of these factors can help minimize the potential for mold growth,” he said.

However, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, an empty house is not likely to generate water from washing, cooking or other related activities, therefore the probability of moisture causing an issue is low.

On the opposite side of the weather spectrum, another concern is frozen plumbing in the winter. The DOE warns against letting the inside temperature of the house drop too far because the kitchen and bathroom pipes may not be insulated. A thermostat setting between 40 degrees and 45 degrees should provide a sufficient buffer.

The LBNL also notes that homeowners may be able to prevent pipes from freezing using other methods, such as properly draining water from the pipes and wrapping tape heaters to toilets, pipes and traps.

Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Should you turn your heat down when you’re not home?

What’s worse than freezing your keister off on when Old Man Winter blows through town? Freezing in your own home. The trouble is, those pesky heating costs can really pile up. The largest expense in the average U.S. home is space heating, which accounts for about 45 percent of annual energy bills. Households that use natural gas spend about $700 a year on heating costs, while the price tag for those who rely on oil to keep their houses and apartments cozy is a whopping $1,700 annually. That’s not to mention the money that goes toward keeping a home – and those who live in it – cool when the weather turns warm, an effort that reflects roughly half of a household’s energy costs during summer months .

Whether its layering on multiple pairs of sweatpants to fight off the chills or stripping down to your skivvies and opening every window in the joint to beat the heat, many people go to all kinds of lengths in order to save a little dough on their energy bills. That includes turning the heat down – perhaps even off completely — when they’re not at home.


But is this the right approach? Sure, it seems kind of strange to heat a home that no one’s using and, of course, adjusting the thermostat downward saves money that would otherwise go to keeping the place at a reasonable temperature during these times. But some argue that those savings are more than offset by the cost of reheating the domicile when you get back home.

So what’s a cost-conscious home dweller to do?

April 10, 2018 / Written by: Josh Crank

Some of the best energy saving tactics are the ones that don’t require any sacrifice, like turning off the lights when you leave the room. But lighting doesn’t account for up to 48 percent of home energy consumption — heating and cooling does, according to the Department of Energy. So if you’re looking for a place to make painless cuts, start at your thermostat. And if you’re willing to throw on a sweater or turn on a fan once in a while, you could save even more.

Setting the thermostat at the most comfortable temperature is more valuable to some people than to others, so it’s understandable that homeowners want to put a price on every degree. What’s the energy cost of lowering the thermostat 1 degree during the sweltering summer, or the energy cost of raising the thermostat 1 degree in the frigid winter? More importantly, how much can you save by turning the dial the other way?

The Department of Energy estimates savings of about 1 percent for each degree of thermostat adjustment per 8 hours, and recommends turning thermostats back 7 to 10 degrees from their normal settings for 8 hours per day to achieve annual savings of up to 10%.

During colder weather, try keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees while people are home and awake but turning it down by up to 10 degrees while everyone is sleeping or away. In warm seasons, shoot for 78 degrees and push it up to 85 degrees when no one is home. According to the Department of Energy’s analysis, homeowners who do this will save an average of $83 per year.

What Affects my HVAC System’s Energy Savings?

While turning your thermostat up or down by a degree is easy, predicting your exact energy savings is much more complicated. That’s because there are major factors at play besides your thermostat setting:

  • Your HVAC equipment: Not all furnaces and air conditioners are created equal, and while all new systems meet minimum efficiency standards, some are far more efficient than others. The ENERGY STAR program independently verifies the efficiency of different models and lists the most efficient in each category.
  • Your system’s condition: If you don’t get your heating and cooling equipment tuned up every year, it can cost you dearly in system efficiency. Even a well-maintained system will gradually lose efficiency with age. Change your filters regularly, service your system annually and replace it when its age starts to cost you money. Call a licensed HVAC professional for tune ups, replacements and other HVAC services.
  • Your system’s size: Heaters and air conditioners should be matched to home size. Too big, and the systems will cycle on and off constantly in an energy-wasting process called “short cycling”. Too small, and they’ll run more often than they should.
  • Your home envelope: Windows, insulation and weather stripping are just a few of the elements that make up your home envelope. Adjusting your thermostat isn’t enough to make up for a drafty home.
  • Your climate: According to the laws of thermodynamics, a home loses its treated air faster when the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures is greater. In mild climates, this gives you more bang for your buck when adjusting your thermostat for savings. In extreme climates, it can be much harder to hold on to that treated indoor air.

Energy Efficient Ways to Stay Comfortable through Seasons

Even if you don’t love the idea of setting the thermostat a little higher this summer and lower next winter, there are lots of energy efficient ways to stay comfortable.

How to stay cool in summer:

  • Wear lightweight clothing and breathable fabrics, like cotton.
  • Use ceiling fans in occupied rooms.
  • Take cool showers at night before bed.
  • Avoid using the oven; try the microwave, toaster oven or grill instead.

How to stay warm in winter:

  • Dress warmly in sweaters, slippers and even winter hats indoors.
  • Sip warm drinks like tea and coffee.
  • Use an electric blanket to relax comfortably even in a chilly house.
  • Find an energy efficient space heater you can easily move from room to room so that you’ll always have a little extra heat where you need it.

Upgrade to a Smart Thermostat

Dialing your thermostat up and down can be tedious, so if you’re serious about making every degree count, consider upgrading your thermostat model. A programmable thermostat may be all you need if you stick to regular routines, but if you really want to go high-tech, get a smart thermostat.

These thermostats sync with smartphones and tablets so you can control them from anywhere and set heating and cooling schedules using a familiar interface.

Summer is coming, and it’s bringing opportunities for thermostat savings along with it! Make this the year that you cash in one degree at a time.

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About Josh Crank

Josh Crank is a freelance writer and content marketer with a background in legal journalism, travel writing, and marketing for numerous commercial industries. He’s found his perfect fit at Direct Energy in writing about home maintenance and repairs, energy efficiency, and smart home technology. Josh lives with his wife, toddler son and endlessly howling beagle-basset hound mix in New Orleans.

Programmable thermostats do have the potential to save the homeowner money, but they can also cost more. The secret to success is the way in which you use them. Whether you are installing one in your own home or in a home for your customer, it’s imperative that you educate users so that they are able to effectively save energy (and money) by correctly using a programmable thermostat.

According to Energy Star, about 45% of a home’s energy is utilized for heating and cooling (that averages about $2,100-$2,500 annually). Unfortunately, a large portion of that goes to heating or cooling unoccupied spaces. You also don’t need to heat or cool your home as much when you are sleeping. For every 1 degree Fahrenheit you turn your thermostat down, you will use 1% less energy. That means if you reduce your heating by 10 degrees at night, you will use 10% less energy. The savings are larger the bigger the difference between inside and outside temperatures.

The idea of the programmable thermostat is that you will reduce energy usage when you are away at work or when you are sleeping. When used correctly, programmable thermostats are touted as saving the homeowner 10-30% on their heating and cooling bills. However, these figures are difficult to achieve.

From the EPA: “Consumers are often advised that installing a programmable thermostat can save them anywhere from 10 to 30% on the space heating and cooling portion of their energy bills. While reliant on proper use of the programmable thermostat, such savings are easily true in theory; however, there needs to be more field-tested data to better substantiate savings claims. Analyses from recent field studies have suggested that programmable thermostats may be achieving considerably lower savings than their estimated potential.”

Some studies show that programmable thermostats actually save between 6.2 and 6.8% while a Florida study showed that people who had programmable thermostats used an average of 12% more energy. The reason few programmable thermostats save money is because while occupants do use less energy when they are away or sleeping, they tend to use more when they are at home.

The defining elements of success seem to be attitude and consistency. The occupants must be determined to save energy even when they are home and awake. The presets for occupied and unoccupied rooms need to be set and then left. Large swings in thermostat temperatures and constant changes will use more energy.

A good guideline for winter is to set your programmable thermostat to about 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) when you are home and lower (about 10-12 degrees Fahrenheit or 6-8 degrees Celsius) when you are sleeping or away. Get your thermostat to turn on the heat about an hour before you get up or get home.

During warmer months your base temperature should be around 78° F or 26° C and warmer when you are not home or when you are asleep.

3 Dumb Things You Do With Your Thermostat That Cost You Money

Heating and cooling your home makes up almost 50% of your yearly energy bills. So if you are looking for ways to cut energy use, that’s the best place to start.

So what’s the easiest way to cut energy use?

Stop doing things with your thermostat that waste energy.

Here are 3 of them.

Trying to heat or cool your home “faster”

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You get home from work and your home is hot. The home’s at 79°, and you like it at 75°F. But you set the thermostat to 72°, so that it will cool off your home more quickly.

Bad idea.

This doesn’t make your air conditioner work faster. Unless you have a two-stage AC, your air conditioner (and furnace) only works at one speed. Lowering the temperature setting past what you need just makes the air conditioner run longer to reach the 72° setting (costing you money).

Leaving your thermostat at the same setting

Do you set your thermostat at a specific temperature and never touch it? You could be wasting as much as $180/year, according to ENERGY STAR.

Instead, you should change your thermostat temperature setting whenever you leave your home for 8 hours or longer. After all, there’s no need to heat or cool your empty home to the same temperature as when you’re home, right?

Do this:

  • When your home will be empty for 8 hours or longer, set your thermostat 5°-8° higher in the summer and 10°-15° lower in the winter.
  • When you get home, set the thermostat back to your comfortable setting.

Doing so can save you 5-15% on your yearly energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Of course, remembering to change your thermostat every time you leave your home can be difficult. That’s where a programmable thermostat comes in. Programmable thermostats can be set to your schedule so that it automatically makes these adjustments for you.

Messing with your thermostat too much

A study about the effectiveness of programmable thermostats found that people who micromanage their thermostats use more energy than those that leave them alone for long periods of time.


Because constantly changing the set temperature on your thermostat causes your air conditioner and furnace to stop and start, which causes them to run inefficiently.
For example, let’s say you have your thermostat set at 68°F in the winter. Your furnace heats your home until that point then shuts off. But you realize you’re still a little chilly, so you raise the thermostat a couple degrees. The furnace must now immediately turn back on.

Your furnace and AC should be running for longer, steadier times to save money. (Think of it like your car’s MPG. Do you get better mileage on streets with lots of stoplights or on the highway?)

In summary

So remember these 3 things to help you save money on your heating and cooling bills:

  • Don’t crank your thermostat up or down to heat or cool your home faster—it does not work.
  • Change your thermostat temperature setting when you’re away from home for 8+ hours.
  • Don’t constantly change the thermostat setting when you’re home—it wastes money.

Need help with your thermostat or heating or air conditioning system in the Twin Cities area? MSP Plumbing, Heating & Air can help. Contact us online for more information.

Further reading:

  • 5 Effortless Ways to Keep Your Summer Utility Bills Low
  • 3 Must-Know Tips for Buying a Programmable Thermostat


You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates.

You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you’re awake and setting it lower while you’re asleep or away from home.

In the summer, you can follow the same strategy with central air conditioning by keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away, and setting the thermostat to 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cooling. Set your thermostat at as high a temperature as comfortably possible and ensure humidity control if needed. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.

Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.

Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and, therefore, unnecessary expense. A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly.

The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature. The same concept applies to raising your thermostat setting in the summer — a higher interior temperature will slow the flow of heat into your house, saving energy on air conditioning. Check out our home heating infographic to learn more about how heating systems and thermostats interact.

The Most Energy-Efficient Way to Set Your Thermostat

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In the dead of winter and peak of summer, there’s one question that’s bound to pop up at least once throughout each season: how should you set your thermostat so that both comfort and savings are maximized?

There are basically two schools of thought.

The first group says that you should set your thermostat to your target temperature and leave it there all the time — even when you’re away from home for extended periods. The reasoning is that it takes more energy to heat up a cold house or cool down a hot house than it takes to maintain a steady temperature.

The second group says that you should reduce the heating or cooling when you expect to be gone for a long time. The reasoning is that the energy you save during those off-times will offset whatever extra costs you incur by trying to heat up a cold house or cool down a hot house 11 Air Conditioner Blunders to Avoid on Hot Summer Days 11 Air Conditioner Blunders to Avoid on Hot Summer Days Using your air conditioner as effectively as possible? Try these great tips and tricks to keep cool while saving energy and money. Read More . Leaving it on all the time actually costs you more in the long run.

Only one of these can be true. In this article, you’ll learn which one is actually right (and why) according to the physics of heat.

The Basics of Heat Transfer

Before we can understand why one method is better than the other, we have to understand the basics of heat transfer. Whether it’s winter or summer, whether you’re trying to heat up or cool down your home, the principles are the same.

When talking about home temperatures, we need to look at two things: the current temperature and the target temperature. More specifically, we care about the difference between these two temperatures, which is called the delta temperature (?T).

Here’s the basic equation for heat flow (Q):

U (pronounced “U-value”) is a rating number that represents how quickly your home loses heat. Another way to think of U is as the reciprocal of your home’s insulation rating, so the better your home is insulated, the smaller the U.

A is the area of your home. Pretty simple.

So this equation tells us three basic truths about heat transfer speed:

  1. The smaller your home’s U, the slower heat will transfer.
  2. The smaller your home’s A, the slower heat will transfer.
  3. The higher your home’s ?T, the faster heat will transfer.

That last point is most important for understanding thermostats! In layman’s terms: the greater the difference between your home’s current temperature and your home’s target temperature, the more quickly it will heat up when subjected to a heater (and the faster it will cool down when subjected to an air conditioner). As your home gets closer to the target temperature, the rate at which the temperature changes will slow down.

For example, let’s say it’s 50F in your home and your target temperature is 70F. According to this equation, it will take a lot less time for your home to go from 50F to 60F than it will take to go from 60F to 70F. In fact, the first half will be twice as fast!

The Science Behind Thermostat Setback

There’s one more thing we need to know, and that’s how modern heaters work.

You’ve probably heard people say that your heater needs to “work harder” when your home temperature is cold and it “eases up” as the temperature gets warmer, almost like pressing the gas pedal to go from 0 MPH to 60 MPH. You’ve probably heard the same about air conditioners as well. This is called “valve theory” and is absolutely wrong.

Heaters and air conditioners actually pump out a constant temperature no matter where your thermostat is set. Once your home reaches the target temperature, the system cycles between on and off to maintain that temperature. (Unless you have a manual heater or air conditioner, in which case you’ll have to turn it off when you feel comfortable.)

For example, whether your home is currently 40F or 50F or 60F, your heater will emit heat at 100F no matter what (arbitrary value for illustration’s sake). Thinking that your heater will pump out 120F heat when your home is 40F, then 110F at 50F, then 100F at 60F, and so on is wrong.

Now combine this with the basics of heat transfer from above.

Image Credit: Will Markusen via

The truth is that your home heats up much faster than you think it does. Not only that, you have to think about the difference in temperature between your heated-up home and the cold winter outside: because the difference is so great, the heat is quickly transferred out, which prompts your heater to kick back on, only to repeat the cycle.

On the flipside, turning off the heat will cause your home to quickly drop in temperature, but as the temperature falls, so will the rate of heat loss. This is why it actually takes a lot of energy to maintain an indoor temperature that’s significantly different from the outside temperature, and this is true in both the summer and winter.

Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what ENERGY STAR said on the matter:

The evidence is quite clear that, in the winter, letting the house cool down when you are not home for several hours during the day and while you sleep at night saves the most energy.

Ultimately, you should turn down your heater or air conditioner when your home is empty for hours at a time and turn it back up when you come home. This technique, called thermostat setback, is the right answer and is the reason why smart thermostats like the Nest can save you so much money 7 Nest Automation Tricks to Cut Your Heating Bill in Half 7 Nest Automation Tricks to Cut Your Heating Bill in Half If there were a Nest thermostat in every home, it would have the biggest single impact on energy consumption in history; and it could save you more money than you might imagine. Here’s how. Read More .

Which Temperatures Are Ideal for Saving Energy?

According to Energy.gov, general thermostat guidelines include:

  • 68F in the winter when you’re at home and awake.
  • 78F in the summer when you’re at home and awake.
  • Set back the thermostat by 7–10F when you’re asleep or away. A smart programmable thermostat Ecobee3 vs. Nest Thermostat: A Head-to-Head Comparison Ecobee3 vs. Nest Thermostat: A Head-to-Head Comparison Did you know that a smart thermostat can boost your home value? It’s one of many reasons why a smart thermostat is well worth the initial investment. But which one should you get? Read More is extremely effective for this!

Feel free to tweak these to suit your own comfort levels, but remember that every single degree matters. Even though the difference between 68F and 69F may not seem like much, you’ll definitely notice a bump in your energy bill. If 68F is too uncomfortable, use these nifty tricks for staying warm How to Beat the Winter Cold With These 8 Home Gadgets How to Beat the Winter Cold With These 8 Home Gadgets If you’re feeling extra cold this winter – or you just want to save on heating costs – there are lots of small gadgets and devices that may come in handy. Read More .

Note that you should never drop your thermostat below 55F in the winter as this could cause areas of your home to become so cold that pipes freeze and burst. So if you go on vacation, for example, keep your thermostat on at that temperature or higher.

But the most effective way to slash your energy bill is to make sure your home is well-insulated and to reduce the amount of air that needs to be heated or cooled (which makes the U-value and the Area smaller in the heat flow equation from earlier in the article).

For more tips, check out these home energy efficiency mistakes Is Your Home Energy Efficient? 7 Things You’ve Overlooked Is Your Home Energy Efficient? 7 Things You’ve Overlooked The true cost of a smart home is far cheaper than you think. In fact, there are many home automation devices that everyone can afford, and many of them will feature in this article. Read More as well as these helpful energy-saving tips from Reddit Be An Energy Star: 20+ Reddit Tips That Help To Slash Your Utility Bill Be An Energy Star: 20+ Reddit Tips That Help To Slash Your Utility Bill Is your utility bill killing you? Who would have thought that Reddit is a source of wisdom for saving energy & money? Reddit’s crowd wisdom can help you solve everyday problems, like gigantic utility bills. Read More .

Tell us about your biggest home energy woes in the comments below!

Recommended Thermostat Settings for Winter and Summer

Your home’s ideal temperature for your heating and cooling system should provide convenience and comfort to your indoor environment. Thermostat settings for both comfort and energy savings is important to every homeowner.

One simple solution to managing your heating and cooling system is to adjust your thermostat temperature according to your habits, preferences and the temperature outside. The closer your thermostat setting is to the outside temperature, the more you’ll save.


“What recommended temperature setting will provide you with personal comfort and at the same time, is cost efficient?”

Free Bonus Download: . Easily save it to your computer or print it out for reference when the seasons change.

We discuss recommended thermostat settings that offer adequate comfort for most people and are sure to save you money on your utility bills.

Recommended Thermostat Settings

What is a good temperature to set your thermostat in the summer?

During the warm weather, it is generally recommended that you set your home’s cooling system to 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you are home. If you will be out of the house for four or more hours, consider raising the setting so the cooling system only comes on if the temperature tops 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is estimated that for every degree higher you set your thermostat over 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months, you could save approximately six to eight percent off your home energy bill, per degree.

So, keeping your home’s temperature slightly higher and using the best settings for spring and summer can ultimately help save you money.

Later in this article, we give an overview of the benefits of installing a programmable thermostat to easily manage your thermostat throughout the day.

Thermostat settings for the winter should be adjusted if you are at home or away during the day. You can save energy and keep your costs in check by keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime.

Energy.gov reports that turning your thermostat lower by 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours per day will help you see an energy usage reduction of 5 to 15 percent per year on your bill.

Depending on your family’s personal comfort preferences, one idea you may consider is lowering the thermostat at night while you sleep. Many people find it comfortable to sleep in a cooler environment while using winter blankets to regulate warmth.

It’s important to note that indoor humidity plays a role in the comfort of the air in your home. Read here about managing the humidity in your home to help you achieve your desired comfort level.

A Programmable Thermostat Could be Your Solution

Installing a programmable thermostat in your home will let you run a scheduled heating and cooling program without having to remember to manually change your settings throughout the day.

Most programmable thermostats are able to automatically adjust the heating temperature in your home up to six or more times per day. You can also manually override the automatic settings if you need to at any time without interrupting the daily or weekly programming.

A programmable thermostat offers such ease of use, that it’s easy to set your home’s temperature lower while you are asleep or during the day when you are at work.

In the summer months, raising your home’s cooling temperature to over 78 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours per day — a typical work day — can really make a difference in your utility bills.

When programming your thermostat, just take into consideration your daily schedule. In the winter, do you like to sleep in a cool house? If you like your home cooler at night, set your thermostat to a lower setting about an hour before you actually go to bed so the house starts to cool down. Prior to waking up, you might want to set the thermostat so the heat comes on approximately two hours before you actually get up so the house is nice and warm.

You should also consider adjusting the thermostat anytime your house is vacant for four or more hours per day. Typically, adjusting temperatures 5 – 8 degrees (down in winter, up in summer) can help save energy if you are going to be away from home for several hours.

Here are a few tips and benefits of a programmable thermostat from Energy Star:

  • Install your thermostat away from heating or cooling registers, appliances,
    lighting, doorways, fireplaces, skylights and windows and areas that receive
    direct sunlight or drafts. Interior walls are best.
  • Keep the thermostat set at energy-saving temperatures for long periods of time,
    such as during the day when no one is home and at bedtime.
  • Set the “hold” button at a constant energy-saving temperature when going
    away for the weekend or on vacation.
  • Change your batteries each year if your programmable thermostat runs on
    batteries. Some units will indicate when batteries must be changed.

You can read about more benefits of using a programmable thermostat inEnergy Star’s Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling.

Personal Home Comfort

A home’s comfort level is determined by who lives within the home.

When evaluating your settings, you’ll want to consider, “What indoor temperature will provide personal comfort for my family and cost efficiency?”

Some people like a home that is warm and some prefer a cooler environment. If you haven’t been consciously managing your temperature settings up to now, you might be surprised that changing your settings just a little up or down, depending on the season, will provide you with the same comfort you have enjoyed previously in your home.

No matter what your preference, adjusting your thermostat — either manually or with a programmable thermostat — will ultimately help you save money.

Image credit: 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)

What’s the Best Temperature for My Thermostat?

Written by Alaina Wibberly

Heating and cooling are essential not only to your comfort but also to your utility bill: the average household dedicates 48% of their electricity expenses to climate control. If you’re looking to save money on energy costs, learning how best to adjust your thermostat is a great place to start.

The most commonly cited figure for the perfect room temperature is 75 degrees. However, there are plenty of factors other than temperature that can affect how comfortable you are: the season, humidity, the clothes you’re wearing, and what type of activity you’re engaged in. Keep in mind that there isn’t one “perfect” temperature for your home because everyone has a different comfort level. It is definitely worth experimenting with your thermostat to find out what’s best for your own lifestyle because small changes in temperature can add up to big changes in energy savings.

In the Summer

We all love coming home to an icy blast of AC on a sweltering day, but it’s rarely worth it when you look at your electricity bill. In the summertime, for each degree that you set your thermostat above 72 degrees, you can save up to 3% on your utility bill. The closer your home is to the temperature outside, the better.

So how do you do this without sacrificing your comfort? Try gradually raising the temperature on your thermostat one degree at a time, and then let your body get accustomed to the change. Chances are you’ll be able to raise the temperature at least a few degrees without any noticeable discomfort. If you can, set your goal at 78 degrees: this is still cool enough to be a welcome relief from the summer heat, but it won’t overwork your air conditioning.

If you can tolerate even higher temperatures, go right ahead. You can save 6 – 8% on your electric bill for every degree your thermostat is raised above 78 degrees in the summer. If this is too toasty for comfort, you can keep the house cool while you’re home but save energy when you’re not there. While away from home for longer stretches of time (4 or more hours), consider letting the temperature rise all the way up to 88 degrees.

In the Winter

The same logic applies in the cooler months as well: the closer your interior temperature is to the exterior, the less money you’ll spend. If your thermostat is normally at 72 degrees, try gradually lowering it to 68 degrees. Studies have shown that there is little difference in most people’s comfort between these two temperatures, and every degree you lower your thermostat saves you 1 – 3% on your electric bill. Remember that clothes matter as well: a thick sweater is the equivalent of 4 degrees of added warmth, so it pays to bundle up!

Speaking of bundling up: if you have thick, cozy blankets, you can lower the thermostat 10 to 15 degrees while you sleep as well. If you keep the temperature low for 8 hours a day, you’ll be able to save 5 – 15% on your total electricity bill.

As an added benefit, cooler nighttime temperatures will help you in more ways than just lowering your utility bill: “cold sleeping” boosts your metabolism and helps you fall asleep faster as well.

Programmable Thermostats

A lot of this advice involves changing the temperature on your thermostat throughout the day. If you have a manual thermostat, though, this level of maintenance may feel like a hassle. One solution is to get a smart or programmable thermostat. You can create settings that automatically raise or lower the temperature at certain times of day, such as while you’re at work or while you’re asleep. With a programmable thermostat, you also won’t have that short period of discomfort while you wait for your thermostat to adjust to a comfortable temperature. Instead, you can program your HVAC system to kick in a little bit before you wake up or arrive home. That way, your house will be the perfect temperature when you get there.

We hope these tips will help you use your thermostat wisely no matter the season. Remember: comfort is key, but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of your utility bill.

Is it More Expensive to Turn Heat On and Off?

Smart Energy Management

With the abundance of energy-related technology we have access to now, it’s not hard to set timers, either physically or through a Smart wall unit, or a mobile phone application. This means you can turn your heater on and off remotely, and time it for your arrival home, and for when you leave in the morning. Is it more expensive to turn heat on and off in this sense? It depends…

Hot Water

Your hot water is either provided by the boiler, or by an electric water heater system – you need to figure out if your systems are separate, or whether they work together (which is sometimes the case), before you make a decision.

Old boilers have a continuous pilot light underneath them, which is activated as and when you choose, but takes a bit of time to warm up. Modern boilers act a little differently, and warm up a lot quicker, and both should be treated accordingly. These modern boilers are often coated in polystyrene and other chemicals, in order for the cistern to do certain things, and so if this is the case for your boiler, we recommend not turning it off.

If you are considering turning your heating off for the Summer, you must consider your supply of hot water. If you have an electric shower, and are happy to go without taking baths, and if you can survive in the kitchen with manually boiling water on the hob or using a kettle, then this option will prove perfect for you and your needs.

Is It More Expensive to Turn Heat On and Off?

We all want to be comfortable and warm at home when winter weather makes every effort to chill you to the bone. But, if you don’t know when to turn the heat on and off, your comfort could come at an exceptionally high price!

The biggest expense most homeowners have is for energy, in spite of differences between the types of energy used. Natural gas is the most cost-effective heat source, averaging out to more than $600 for the winter. For those who use oil, heat goes up to an average of over $1,400, while homeowners who rely on electric heat to keep their homes toasty fall in-between, at just under $1,000.

Homeowners have debated the pros and cons of when to turn the heat on and off for many years. While many argued that keeping the heat down while they weren’t home saved money, experts argue that it takes more energy to return the heating level to a comfortable one once you return home. Some opted to turn the heat off at night and rely on heavy bedding and/or electric blankets instead.

Although the debate still continues today, technology has brought about some changes to the argument. Making the right choices about heating your home starts with the right technology.

Should You Turn the Heat On or Off While Not at Home?

One part of the argument remains the same; it doesn’t make sense to heat your home when no one is there. That said, there are a number of factors to consider when answering this question. For example, how long are you gone during the day? Do you have pets that stay home alone? Do you have children who arrive home before you do?

The idea that it takes more energy to raise the temperature after it drops is simply untrue. Most people spend between eight and ten hours away from home, a minimum of five days each week. The amount of heat that it takes to heat your entire home during the 40+ hours you aren’t there is a lot! Compare the energy needs to maintain a comfortable period during this time to that needed to raise the temperature a few degrees.

There’s also the issue of heated air moving outside the home. Even the best insulated homes lose heat as it moves to colder areas. While this loss of heat might be gradual, your heat has to turn on to maintain the temperature setting. When the temperature drops outside, it takes even more energy to maintain the temperature level.

Turning back the thermostat during the day by 10° or more can result in energy savings of 10% or more, depending on your environment. It’s the greatest in milder climates where less energy is required to reach the comfortable temperature once the heat is turned on again.

On the other hand, every household isn’t the same. If it’s just you spending the day at the office, it’s easy to make the adjustment in temperature once you’re ready to come home. If there are other family members coming and going, it gets to be a lot more questionable about the benefits of turning the heat off while the house is empty.

Protecting Kids and Pets from the Cold

For many families, the first to arrive are the children from school. The last thing you want to do is welcome your kids home into a freezing house! Let’s face it; you can’t always count on them to take the initiative to turn the heat on once they arrive.

Sometimes pet owners overlook the well-being of their pets when left in a cold house all day. They don’t realize that their pets have problems adjusting to temperature changes just like they do. Even though your pet can regulate its body temperature to accommodate hot or cold weather, they aren’t as efficient at adapting to sudden changes. This is especially true for senior pets that have problems regulating their body temperature and are more susceptible to the cold.

Should You Turn the Heat Off at Night?

For some, the question of when to turn heat on and off focuses on the ‘when’. If turning the temperature down during the daytime isn’t practical, then maybe turning it down at night is. Granted, it’s usually a time when family members aren’t coming and going; but it’s also the time when you get your much-needed rest to stay healthy and keep your energy levels up!

Sleeping in thermal pajamas and plugging in an electric blanket is going to reduce the amount of heat your home requires. But turning the heat off at night isn’t a good idea for a number of reasons including:

-You won’t sleep as comfortably as you would in a reasonably warm room

Medical professionals advise against sleeping in temperatures below 60°F. Lower temperatures cause interruptions to sleep that reduce the quality and quantity of your rest.

-When temperatures reach freezing, your pipes are at risk of freezing and bursting, leading to extensive damage and the need for costly repairs

California isn’t exactly known for its freezing cold winters but it does happen. When unexpected freezes occur, you could pay with busted pipes and a flooded home.

-It still exposes family members and pets to unhealthy conditions that put them at risk

If you have family members who stay up late watching TV or studying for the next day’s math exam, they aren’t going to have the comfort they need or want in a cold home.

-It isn’t necessary

As mentioned earlier, technology has changed the debate about when to turn heat on and off. You don’t have to sacrifice comfort to save money on your energy bill.

Off vs Down: A Better Solution for You and Your Energy Bill

For the reasons listed here among others, turning your heat off during the day or night is never a good solution. Turning the heat down eliminates these issues, while still reducing the amount of energy you use.

We already mentioned that you save 10% off of your heating bill for every 10° you lower your thermostat. That means that lowering your thermostat by 1° will save 1%. So, for every degree you lower the temperature setting, you save 1% of your annual fuel costs.

Now, let’s say you typically keep your home thermostat set at 68°F. If you reduce that temperature to 60°F for eight hours each night, you can save $200 each year or more, depending on the type of fuel you use. If you do the same while you are gone during the day, you can double your savings. At the same time, you keep the temperature within the recommended sleeping range and stay well above the point of freezing.

The Smarter Thermostat for Home Energy Management

Once you work out a schedule of when to turn heat on and off and what temperature adjustments to make, the next challenge is remembering to make those changes. Most experts recommend getting a programmable thermostat to do the job for you. Once you determine a schedule, just program the details into the thermostat and it takes care of the rest.

Although programmable thermostats have made a world of difference to home heat management, nothing compares to the versatility of a smart home system. The right system allows you to manage your home’s temperature settings, monitor security, and even control light settings to optimize energy use and security when you’re away.

Smart home technology is a better way to reduce home heating costs when a schedule isn’t always reasonable. It addresses many of the issues surrounding knowing when to turn your heat down or off and puts total control within easy reach.

The flexibility of a smart security system makes it highly adaptable to you, your home, family, and lifestyle. If you have a pet at home, just set the temperature to a comfortable one in the areas where your pet stays. The smart system allows you to optimize temperature settings in every area of your home. Keep your pet warm and safe while reducing the temperature in the rest of the home while nobody is home.

How low do you want to go? A smart security system works from your smart phone. Either program the temperature adjustments you want into the phone or make them at will. Not only does it take the worry away that your kids will know when to turn heat on and off; it also lets you monitor when they get home from school and when they leave home again. It’s a great way for parents to have peace of mind. It does the same for pet parents!

If you schedule your thermostat to stay at eight degrees lower than normal during the day, the system can have the temp back to normal when you arrive. If you come home early or one of the kids gets the flu, no worries. Just set the thermostat to resume the normal temperature and have the house warm and ready when you arrive.

You are never too far from home to monitor and control your home’s security and energy usage. If you have your mobile device available, you can protect your home from any distance. A smart system is itself energy-efficient. All the options available to you can lead to as much as 50% savings on your annual energy bill!

Smart home systems also have features that help alert you to temperature-related issues in your home. Features like critical temperature alerts let you know when you need to address an issue.

Today’s smart security systems make it much easier to make your home look lived-in, even when you are miles away. Most of us know that turning lights on and off at different times is essential to deter thieves. In the past, the only tool available was a timer that turned the same lights on and off at the same time of the day or night.

A smart system allows you to program your lights according to a versatile schedule for a more realistic presentation. Would-be thieves who observe your home won’t know that you aren’t even there. The system also includes lighting features for the home’s exterior and, especially, the garage door entrance. Motion sensors ensure that there is never anyone lurking in the dark when you enter or exit your home.

The reason the question over when to turn heat on and off has been such a long one in answering is that every household is different. The same features that make you and your family comfortable don’t work for someone else.

A smart home offers the versatility that families need to keep their homes secure and safe. It comes through when the human memory (often) fails. It literally lets you control your HVAC system from anywhere and control other appliances in your home. If leaving the coffee pot or the stove on has been an issue in the past, a smart system can help save you from worry and unnecessary energy use.

Unlike your heating system, the more you use your smart home system, the more money you save. In addition to reducing the cost of heating during the winter, it also reduces your energy needs in the summer. Just set the system to keep the home warmer during the hours you aren’t at home. It can then restore cooling and have it ready for you to occupy by the time you get home!

Smart Shield Systems offers customized smart systems without the need for a learning curve. By offering a variety of packages, we give you the option to pay only for the features that you need. There’s no better way to add security to your home and take control of your home’s energy use year round.

Contact Smart Shield Systems to learn more about our systems. We can turn any house into a tailor-made smart home. We always provide state-of-the-art equipment and technology, customized to suit your home and lifestyle.

Should You Leave Your Thermostat On One Temperature Or Change It?

Posted on: March 20, 2019

The thermostat is the key to keeping your house a comfortable temperature during the frigid winter and scorching summer. And everyone seems to control their thermostat differently – some micromanage their temperature settings, changing them constantly, while others set it to one temperature and hardly ever change it.

But is there a right way to set your thermostat’s temperature? It turns out, there are pros and cons to each method, and that’s exactly what we’re going to look at in this article. Let’s first start with the pros and cons of setting your thermostat to one temperature for the entire day:

Pros of Leaving Your Thermostat at One Temperature

People leave their thermostats at constant temperatures for various reasons. Some simply find the steady temperature comforting, while others just don’t want to go through the effort of changing it all the time. But as it turns out, the only real pro to keeping your thermostat one temperature is convenience. Sure, when you’re away on vacation or gone for the weekend, the consistent temperature is efficient, but when you’re at home, there’s really no additional benefits.

Cons of Keeping Your Thermostat at One Temperature

The biggest takeaway here is that leaving your thermostat at a consistent temperature is actually an inefficient way to run your HVAC when your at home.

Here’s how:

Consistent Temperatures Can Cause Heat Energy Leakage

In most cases, leaving the thermostat temperature constant is aimed at keeping the thermal energy (heat) inside the homes constant. Consequently, inside the house will often be warmer than the outside.

To understand how this works, let’s talk about how heat moves from one area to another. Heat is transferred from a region of high concentration to a region of low concentration. As a result, the heat energy required to maintain the temperature at the hotter region includes the energy “leaked” to the other end. The higher the temperature difference between the two points, the faster the heat loss to the surrounding area.

The same applies to house temperatures. The higher the temperature inside compared to the outside, the more rapidly energy leaks out. Maintaining this energy leakage can seriously rake up your utility bill.

The Most Efficient Way to Control Your Thermostat

To help you run your HVAC more efficiently and help you save money on your utility bill, there are a couple of tips you can follow:

Follow the 8-Hours Routine

The easiest way to remember to change your thermostat settings is to follow your work routine, or an 8-hour routine. In other words, change your thermostat to a more efficient setting when you leave for work and then change it back when you come home.

The most efficient settings reduce energy leakage. In other words, try to get as close to the outside temperature as possible without making your home uncomfortable. Obviously, you don’t want to set your home to 40 when it’s 40 outside, or 90 in the summer.

Making just a few adjustments can have a big impact. So if you set your thermostat to 65 when it’s 40 outside, try bumping it down to 60 or even 55 when you leave for work. Or if you normally keep your home at 70 when it’s hot outside, bump it up to 75 or even 80 when you’re not home and then bring it back down when you come back. Little changes like this can reduce your utility bill by 15%

The Benefit of Programmable Thermostat

If you want the ideal solution for energy efficiency, opt for a programmable thermostat. After a few days of routine adjustment, the programmable thermostat will begin doing the work for you. Studies show that those who let it do the job for them save more than thermostat micromanagers.

If you’d like to learn more about your options, the experienced team at David Gray HVAC can help. .

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True or false: It’s cheaper to keep your home at a constant temperature, so don’t fiddle with the thermostat

By sampwpadmin on June 28, 2017


There is no need to heat or cool your home when it’s empty. It just wastes energy, costs money and causes more wear and tear to your heating and cooling system.

Here’s what you should do, according to the U.S. Department of Energy: When you leave home for at least 8 hours in the summer, set your thermostat 5 degrees to 8 degrees higher than your preferred temperature. (Set it lower in the winter) When you return home, set the thermostat back.

Here’s why.

Say you have your thermostat set at 75 degrees and it’s 90 degrees outside. Heat enters your home to replace the cool air inside. When the inside temperature rises higher than 75 degrees, your air conditioner begins running to remove the extra heat and cool the house back down to 75 degrees. The process continues over and over.

Of course, the smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the less your air conditioner will have to operate — and the lower your energy bill will be.

If you raise the thermostat just 5 degrees higher than the temperature you prefer, your air conditioner will have to run less to keep the interior cool.

So, you come home from working 8 hours and your house is hot and stuffy now. You had the thermostat set at 80 degrees, so now your room temperature is 80 degrees. Just reset your thermostat to the 75 degrees you prefer and the air conditioner will work full blast to cool the house back down.

Even though your cooling unit will have to run for a while to get to the temperature you prefer, it still saves more energy — and money — than running it constantly.

If you have a programmable thermostat, even better. Set it to begin cooling 30 minutes or so before you usually get home and it will be at a more comfortable temperature when you come in.

The time it takes to cool your house down 5 degrees depends on a lot of variables including the size and age of your HVAC, the home’s age and insulation, and if your system has been cleaned and serviced regularly.

Tip: If you are too hot during the time your home is cooling down, turn on a ceiling fan or a portable oscillating fan. It will circulate the air and the breeze it generates will make your skin feel cooler.

Call Sam Pollard & Son to have your air conditioner inspected and serviced. If you have an undersized unit that can’t cool your home, they can recommend and install a new one.

Posted in: BLOG

The Thermostat Debate: Change It or Leave it?

Set-It-And-Forget-It Thermostat Strategy Debunked

It’s an argument that has raged on as long as the thermostat has existed. Should you turn the heat down when you’re asleep and at work, and turn it back up again when you’re home and awake? Or should you simply turn your thermostat to a set temperature and leave it there?

The “set-it-and-forget-it” crowd argues that turning the thermostat down makes the furnace work harder than normal when it gets turned back up, negating any savings that may have accrued from the lower setting. Intuitively, it sounds like a reasonable argument. But based on the facts, it is simply wrong.

Your House Loses Less Heat When Interior Temp Is Low

The fact is that when your house temperature drops below normal, it loses heat to the environment much more slowly than it does when the heat is at its “normal” temperature of around 68 degrees. Less work for the heating system plus less lost heat to the environment means a lot more savings, savings that are not squandered when the thermostat gets turned back up to 68.

The Department of Energy calculates that turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours will save you 5 to 15 percent on your heating bill – a savings of as much as one percent for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long.

The same principle applies to air conditioning in the summer – turn the thermostat up when you’re not around, then cool it off when you are home. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the changes in advance, without running to the thermostat several times a day.

So as far as we’re concerned, this debate is over. Adjust your thermostat daily.


Energy.gov: Thermostats

This article and its content are sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric US Inc., Cooling & Heating Division.

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