Thermostat Negotiations

Reader Contribution by Staff

It’s that time of year again. Temperatures are dropping, and household debates around the thermostat are heating up. Keeping your living space comfortably warm without wasting energy — and money — can be a tough balance to strike, especially since some of us like it warmer than others. But no matter how different our ideas of ‘room temperature’ might be, there are a surprising number of things we can all agree on. Here are a few talking points that can help peacefully resolve home heating arguments.

Does cranking up the heat warm up the house faster? Nope, not according to the Energy Star program. It’s better to just set the thermostat to the level you’d like it to reach. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) suggests no higher than 72 degrees for when people are home.

If you turn down the heat, don’t you use a lot of energy warming up the house again? No. The DOE says you use much more energy by leaving the heat turned up all day while you’re gone. In fact, it only takes a few minutes to warm your house once you turn the heat back up and you burn surprisingly little energy in doing so.

How low can you safely turn down the heat? Even if there’s no one home, you should leave the heat up high enough at all times that you’re not in danger of the pipes freezing. This DOE page recommends keeping the temperature above 50 degrees.

How much money does turning down the heat really save? It depends on a lot of factors, but a rule of thumb suggested by both the Alliance to Save Energy and the DOE is that for each degree you turn down the thermostat, you can save about 3 percent on your heating bill.

Do we have to keep it so cold in here!?! If you’re keeping your house colder than you’d like because it saves energy, make sure you’ve considered all the options. It’s not as hard as you might think to save energy, save money and make your home more comfortable all at the same time. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Install a programmable thermostat — or adjust the settings if you already have one — so that the temperature kicks on about 15 minutes before you typically arrive home each day. That way you save a lot of energy but don’t have to come home to a cold house. You can do the same thing at night.
  • Turn down the thermostat at night, but stay warm by piling on the blankets and using an electric mattress pad. Gary Reysa calculated significant savings for this practice on his Build it Solar site.
  • Step away from the thermostat! Turning down the heat is probably the most obvious way to save on your heating bills, but there are dozens of others, and many of them will make your home more comfortable. Here is a good place to get started, and here are a few other places to look for ideas.

Do you know of other good resources to learn more about saving energy at home? You can post them in the comments section below.