Stop the Thermostat Wars

When you get chilly on winter nights, do you sneak over to the thermostat and push it up a few degrees — only to exchange words with your partner who sets it back down to keep costs in check?

Families wage these “thermostat wars” most often in winter when the urge to get cozy is strongest and when the heating bills are at their biggest.

With winter lurking around the corner, here are some tips for making peace with your thermostat adversaries based on the type of thermostat you have.

Plain Old Thermostat

Rest assured, you’re in the majority. Although this is changing, about 70% of us still have to set our thermostats manually. So we might as well do it right.

Some important thermostat rules of thumb:

  • Make sure the thermostat is not located by windows and doors which might skew the temperature reading. If it is in the wrong spot, a heating and cooling contractor can move it for you.
  • The ideal setting in winter to balance energy savings and comfort is 68 degrees. Set the temperature down a few degrees when you leave the house during the winter. That strategy uses *less* energy than keeping the temperature constant all day (i.e. heating an empty house).
  • Indeed, according to the Department of Energy, by turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill – a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long.
  • Do *not* jack the temperature up when you get home and expect it to heat up faster that way, as if you have a heat pump it can cause the more expensive backup heat to kick on. Set it to your desired temperature, and it will warm the house at the same rate and not waste energy.

Programmable Thermostat

You’re a step ahead of the game. Or are you?

The DOE estimates that you can reduce your energy bills by up to 9% through proper use of a programmable thermostat. Key word: proper.

Recent studies have shown that a staggering number of people who have programmable thermostats installed in their homes are not using them correctly. The Washington Post covers the reasons in depth but it boils down to this:

It’s far too complicated or time-consuming to figure out the settings (or you inherited the device — sans instruction manual — when you moved in), so you leave it set in “hold” mode which essentially means it functions like an old school manual thermostat.

So if you’re the proud owner of a programmable thermostat, take some time before winter sets in to learn how to use it. A great place to start is the ENERGY STAR website.

A Smart Thermostat

Congratulations. You’re cutting edge (and making the rest of us jealous). One survey found that 75% of Americans want a self-adjusting thermostat – making it the most coveted connected-home device.

From Nest to ecobee to Honeywell’s Lyric, the options in this field abound.

The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show revealed a number of new or on-the-horizon “smart home” features, many of them related to thermostats — like connecting with Siri and with solar arrays. Read more from Greentech Media.

The 411

  • These devices learn your schedule and behaviors and adjust accordingly, heating or cooling in the most efficient manner.
  • You can manage them remotely from an app on your smart phone. When you are within a certain from him it starts to bring the house back to your desired temperature ((think no more freezing houses when you return from a trip in the winter).
  • These can be set to respond to peak demand times to limit pressure on the grid.
  • If you don’t yet own a smart thermostat, make sure you get a model that is compatible with your heating and cooling system.

Of course your thermostat is only one piece of your home energy puzzle, but it’s certainly an important piece that you can put in place entirely on your own right now. Find out other ways you can save energy and money this winter and add value to your home through our partners at Pearl Certification.