Best Thermostat Settings for Cooling and Heating

Published on: June 18, 2013

Does raising the temperature of the thermostat for air conditioning in the summer and lowering it during the winter really save money? Experts say it does. According to the Department of Energy, for every degree in temperature that a thermostat is lowered for air conditioning, annual energy costs increase up to 8 percent. Each degree that a thermostat is set back over an 8-hour period during cold months results in a corresponding 1 percent reduction in energy costs over a year. If you set your thermostat back 5 degrees, you will save about 5 percent on your fuel bills.

During the cold months, setting the thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) during the daytime when you are at home should provide a comfortable indoor environment. Setting it back when you sleep to 60 degrees F will save energy. During the summer, set the thermostat between 75 and 78 degrees F (26 degrees C). The temperature can be raised when you go to bed or when you are away.

Types of Thermostats

There are several types of thermostats. The older, manual thermostats are the least accurate. With only one temperature setting often controlled by a sliding bar or a dial, the result can be inaccurate settings and wide temperature swings. Although you can set them back, they must be manually adjusted each time you want to change the settings. It is easy to forget to reset the device.

Electronic low-voltage thermostats, also known as programmable thermostats, allow several different temperature settings over a day and a series of days. Digital readouts give an accurate reading and more precise temperature control. Once the thermostat settings are entered for each period of each day, no additional adjustments are needed. The goal is to reduce heating and cooling during the night when you sleep and during long periods of the day when you are at work or school. Properly adjusted programmable thermostats can save up to 10 percent on energy usage.

Not all thermostats are compatible with all heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Programmable thermostats are not recommended for the heat mode of heat pumps but can be used to change thermostat settings for cooling. Intelligent recovery thermostats are designed to work with heat pumps in heat mode to minimize the use of back-up heat and keep setback temperatures within a range that allows heat recovery when you want it. Line-voltage thermostats are designed to work with baseboard, ceiling cable and wall-mounted heat sources. A knowledgeable HVAC contractor can recommend thermostats that are compatible with your system.

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