The “How to Heat” Debate

When it comes to using less energy for heating your home, there are plenty of opinions about what to do. As a result, there are just as many myths regarding what will save money on your bills. This may lead you to wonder, what can I do to keep my energy bills low? Is it cheaper to program my thermostat for various times of the day? Or is it cheaper to keep my house’s temperature consistent?

The answer can depend on many factors, including time of year, changing weather conditions, how much time you spend at home, and if you have a thermostat.

According to Energy.gov, general thermostat guidelines state that you should set your thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter when you’re at home and awake.

Additionally, the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society says that, if you want to stay comfortable, the most efficient thermostat swing (or temperature difference up or down) should be no more than ±2 degrees.

Note that you should never lower your thermostat below 55 in the winter, as this could cause pipes to freeze or burst. If you go on vacation, always keep your thermostat above this temperature.

In addition to these basics, here is additional information regarding regulating the temperature in your home to get the most efficiency.

Have you ever set your thermostat above or below your desired temperature in hopes that your home will heat “faster”? This can cost you more money without speeding up the process. For example, let us say you come home to an uncomfortably cool home. Its 62 degrees and you want to warm it up to 70 as quickly as possible so you set the thermostat to 75 hoping to heat your home faster. By setting the temperature to 75, your heating system will end up having to run longer to hit that desired temperature, costing you more money to heat your home. To avoid paying more, do not set your thermostat beyond your truly desired temperature.

Do you leave your thermostat on the same setting? For convenience, some of us like to “set it and forget it” with their thermostat. This can cost you money. If you leave for more than 8 hours at a time but your thermostat is set to the same temperature, you will be paying to heat an empty house. Now take that 8-hour timeframe and multiply it by how many days you are gone per month. For some, that’s more than 20 days or 160 hours. That is 160 hours of unnecessary use that you could have otherwise been saving each month. Granted, some of us do not like to come home to a very cold home. So, rather than turning your system off, try this 2-step approach to maximize your comfort and energy savings. According to the US Department of Energy, by practicing this 2-step approach, homeowners can save up to 10% of their annual energy costs.

Step 1: When your home will be empty for 8 hours or longer, set your thermostat 7-10 degrees lower in the winter.

Step 2: When you get home, set the thermostat back to a comfortable setting.

Helpful Tip: Investing in a programmable thermostat can save you money because if you can program your settings based up a set schedule, you will not ever have to think about adjusting the temperature. Moreover, an Energy Star certified “smart thermostat” can automatically adjust temperature setting in your home for optimal performance.

Other factors that may impact your fuel usage:

If your hot water is off your furnace or boiler, this will increase energy costs as it will come on at times to keep the hot water at a consistent temperature year-round.

You do not need every zone in your home at the same temperature. Consider each zone, how that zone heats the area in your home, and to set the temperature accordingly.