Finding the best thermostat setting and figuring out what temperature to set your thermostat to can save you a ton of money each year…and saving money on energy costs is a hot topic these days. Those of you who read our articles regularly, know that we are a small, U.S. Veteran-Owned heating and air conditioning company based in Southern California, and pride ourselves in giving people honest, straight answers to their questions; this will be no different. Did you know that in Santa Clarita, California your air conditioner is responsible for around half of your electric bill in the summer? People are catching on and we are often asked, “what temperature should I set my thermostat to?” There are many answers to this question and I’d be wrong if I said that there was one trick, or one magical thermostat setting that will make all of your dreams come true and save you millions of dollars a year. In actuality, what temperature you set your thermostat to depends on a range of factors including season, humidity levels, and how often you are in and out of the house. As such, I will start by saying that you should set your thermostat to the temperature that is most comfortable for you.
Why have an air conditioner or furnace if you are hot or cold all of the time? It kind of defeats the purpose. However, most people have a temperature range that is most comfortable for them, not one magical number. So this article will discuss the most cost effective temperature ranges to keep your thermostat at, and keep you comfortable while saving you money this year.
What Temperature Should I Set My Thermostat to in the Summer?
If you are reading this, then you are more than likely concerned with what temperature to set your thermostat to in the summer, but we will also address winter heating setting in the next section. Energy efficiency is a multi-pronged subject, and it is important for you to understand that if you forget everything else that you read in this article, remember that what temperature you set your thermostat to is only one factor to help save you money on energy. Others to take a look at are what size your air conditioner is, as well as a few other things. Here are a couple articles I’d recommend to get you started:
- Best time of year to buy an air conditioner
- What size central air conditioner is right for my house?
- How to lower your electric bill in the summer
In most US homes, over 40% of a household’s electricity bill is a result of air conditioning and heating, and in Santa Clarita, California and other arid climates, it can be over 50%. And it’s not just homes that are the culprit either. PG&E estimates that the same is also true of commercial buildings.
- Fact: The ideal daytime temperature comfort-range for most Americans is between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
So setting your thermostat to the highest temperature in this range during the summer months is key to reducing energy costs. Set your thermostat to 75 if you can handle it, or even higher if it is comfortable but don’t sacrifice your comfort. According to Direct Energy, you should set your thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer, but at that point, why even bother having an air conditioner? Remember, that is based on energy usage, not comfort-levels, which are the purpose of having an air conditioner, in my not-so-humble opinion.
- Fact: At night, the ideal temperature comfort range for Americans drops to 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 87 degrees if you are my wife).
Don’t hesitate to lower your thermostat at night though, because your air conditioner actually works less at night than it does during the day, due to lower outside temperatures and the fact that the sun is no longer hitting your house, causing radiant heating.
As you can see, even though the hottest time of the day outside of your home is from 1-3PM, by the time this heat penetrates your home’s insulation it is actually between 3 and 7pm that your house experiences its peak energy usage. This is important in fully understanding what temperature to set your thermostat to in the summer.
Here is a tip from the pros that you probably didn’t know: every degree in temperature that you raise your thermostat in the summer, corresponds to around a 1% change in your electricity bill.
What Temperature Should I Set My Thermostat to in the Winter?
The winter, as you might imagine, requires the opposite approach from the summer, so set the temperature on your thermostat lower in the winter to ave energy. Energy usage is down by about 30% in Southern California during the winter months, but for those of you living in the Northeast, you know that energy prices go up.
The ideal temperature range for your thermostat in the winter is from 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, but most people like it around 68.
In the winter, set your thermostat to the lowest temperature that you can comfortably stand, or set it even lower and just throw on a sweatshirt. The nice thing about the winter is that you can always throw on another layer.
I would recommend lowering your thermostat at night when you are sleeping, and just pull up your down comforter. Setting your thermostat to around 50-55 degrees for just 8 hours a day in the wintertime has been shown to reduce energy costs by as much as 15%, depending on your region. In fact, according to Lifehacker, the lower you set your thermostat, the better it is for animals, plants, and your overall health (Lifehacker – Five Reasons to Lower Your Thermostat).
Remember the tip: for every degree you raise or lower the temperature on your thermostat, you are affecting your energy bill by about 1%.
The short answer is yes, but be careful. What many people don’t realize is that your HVAC system isn’t just raising or lowering the temperature of the air in your house, but it is also affecting the temperature of your insulation. If you just change the temperature set on your thermostat every time you leave the house, then you can actually see an increase in your energy bill.
How is this possible? Simply put, it takes hours for your HVAC unit to penetrate the walls of your house – that’s the whole point of insulation! If you allow the outside temperature to infiltrate your insulation all day, then your air conditioner or heater will have to spend additional energy cooling or heating it back to your desired temperature. This can sometimes cost you more than if you had just set it a few degrees higher or lower before you left the house. Here are a few tips to save money on energy:
- In the summer, set your thermostat 5 degrees higher than your ideal temperature when you leave the house.
- In the winter, set your thermostat 5 degrees lower than your ideal temperature when you leave the house.
- Only turn your system completely off if you are planning to be gone longer than 24-hours.
- If the outside temperature is below freezing, keep your heat ON, and place it at its lowest setting. If you don’t, your house can get all sorts of problems as it drops below freezing (frozen pipes, condensation leaks, etc).
- When it’s time, buy an air conditioner with a higher SEER rating (preferably 14 or 16 SEER), but realize that SEER isn’t everything.
Or instead of dealing with the hassle, get more efficient equipment or a Smart Thermostat such as the Nest, Lyric or Ecobee. Take a look below:
- What’s a Good SEER Rating for My House?
- SEER vs EER, and How to Use Them to Buy a New Air Conditioner
Don’t Overpay for Your New Air Conditioner or Furnace
I know that most of you aren’t in the market for a new heater or air conditioner, but when you are, you should think about how to save some money:
Keeping the Best Thermostat Setting is Easier With a Programmable Thermostat
Keeping the best temperature setting on your thermostat is made so much easier with modern, smart-thermostat. A programmable thermostat can be programmed to do all of the things listed above for you. Imagine not having to worry about whether or not you forgot to turn down the thermostat before you went to work, or not having to get out of bed to turn the thermostat down because it already knows what time you go to bed? It isn’t as expensive as you might think (usually priced around $200 for a decent one). Better yet, most of the newest programmable thermostats can be set right from your smart-phone. If you are looking for a good one, we a huge fans of a company called Venstar, particularly their ColorTouch, T-7850 (no, we aren’t paid to endorse them). You can find out more about these here:
If money isn’t as much of a concern to you, then I’d spend a little extra and splurge on a programmable thermostat that actually learns your habit patterns and desired temperature ranges. The next generation is here, and programmable thermostats are out – smart thermostats are in. The Nest turns itself down when you are not at home and back up when you get home from work. Why wonder what temperature you should set your thermostat to when you can buy a thermostat that learns what you like and does it for you? Priced at around $250, the Nest Smart Thermostat sets itself for you and is definitely worth looking into.
Final Thoughts on What Temperature to Set Your Thermostat To
I hope this has answered your questions on what temperature to set your thermostat to. For more information on this and other related topics, visit the ASM Air Conditioning Blog. For more on the best thermostat settings and other related questions, remember that All Systems Mechanical services Santa Clarita, and most of Southern California. Click below to see if you’re in our service area; we’d be happy to help you: