How Much Can You Really Save by Adjusting Your Thermostat?

·4 min read
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Energy bills continue to rise, and depending on the climate where you live, you may find your bill a lot more painful than it used to be if you’ve been cranking the heat. And, if you live in an area where you need the air conditioning on in the summer, you may fear having a high bill in the coming months, as well.

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You’ve probably heard rumors that you can save a lot of money just by turning your thermostat down to a certain “magic” temperature, but is it really true?

According to the federal government’s Department of Energy (DOE), you can really save money on heating and cooling with a few key strokes of the thermostat. They say that you can save up to 10% per year just by scaling back your thermostat 7°-10°F from where you usually keep it — and just for eight hours a day. However, they note that you save more with this habit if you live in a milder climate than a severe one.

The ideal eight hours to reduce your thermostat are either when you are sleeping or when you’re not at home. This way, you don’t feel the effects quite as much. So, what is that magic temperature that should allegedly save you so much money?

The DOE says for the cooler months, when you run your heater most often, it should be 68°F during your waking hours, and then lower during sleeping and working hours. For warmer months, you can do the same with your air conditioning by leaving the AC off when you’re away, and keeping it as moderate as you can at night. Here are some considerations for making the whole process more seamless.

Smart Thermostats

One of the easiest ways to create these perfect, money-saving energy use conditions is to buy and install a smart thermostat. These thermostats connect to the internet and can be programmed to control the temperature in your home.

Smart thermostats that qualify for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Energy Star” energy saving criteria may save users as much as 8% in utility bills. That translates to about $50 per year, though this could be higher in places with more extreme winter and summer climates, or where energy prices are higher, the EPA reports.

Smart and other programmable thermostats also take the work out of manually raising and lowering your temps, which can be a hassle or you may forget to do. Smart thermostats often have sensors and a technology known as “geo-fencing” that helps them determine when people are in or out of the house. They switch to energy-saving modes, and will remember settings you program and adjust the temperature accordingly.

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Some of them can also be controlled by apps, even when you’re away from home. Smart, programmable thermostats take the work out of setting your temperature and make saving energy, and thus money, easier.

Other Thermostat Tips

You can help your thermostat along insulating your home well. During winter, according to the DOE, the lower you keep your home’s temperature inside, the slower you’ll lose heat, thus enabling you to save more energy. The inverse applies during the summer — a higher interior temperature will slow the pace of heat making its way into your house, which can save you money on your air conditioning.

If you think colder is better, that is not the case with air conditioning. The DOE says that setting the thermostat to a colder-than-normal setting when you turn on the AC will not actually cool your home faster. In fact, it just wastes energy and costs more money. Instead, pick a comfortable temperature to set it to.

Hack Your Fan

If you have ceiling fans in your home with switches that can change the direction the fan spins, this can also help you make the most of your thermostat by shifting the direction of hot or cool air.

For example, in summer, you want to rotate your fan blades counterclockwise to push cool air down. In the winter, you want your fan blades to spin clockwise to push the hot air that has risen to the ceiling down to the rest of the room. Also, turn your fans off when you’re not using a room — they only work when you’re there to feel their effects.

Seal Up Air Leaks

Lastly, your thermostat can’t account for air leaks that are letting air in or out of your home. Weather-stripping, caulking and insulation are all ways to seal up leaky spots and provide extra protection so your thermostat can do its job correctly. The DOE says sealing these up can save a homeowner 20% or more on heating and cooling bills.

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This article originally appeared on How Much Can You Really Save by Adjusting Your Thermostat?