Adjusting Thermostats to Save Money

A simple adjustment to the thermostats in your home can save you money. And don’t worry about having to be too cold or too hot inside your home. Neither do you have to put up with luke-warm hot water. The adjustments you need to make are small but the savings in energy and cash are definitely worthwhile.

Let’s look at your home heating first. Did you know that heating and cooling represents about 20% of the energy costs in an average household? It makes sense, then, that this is an area where you can make some savings, for both the environment and your bank account.

It doesn’t matter what method you use to heat your home or how severe the winters are where you live, the principle of turning the thermostat down is the same. When it’s cold outside, we tend to over-compensate by setting our heating to a really cozy level. An adjustment of just two degrees is all that is needed to save money and energy.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that, as a general rule, lowering the thermostat by two degrees represents a 1% saving in energy. In climates where a furnace is used to send heat around the house via heat ducts, the saving tends to be higher because it doesn’t have to work so hard to distribute the heat. The same would apply to homes that are heated (and cooled) by ducted air-conditioning.

In milder climates, where individual room heating is used, the same principle applies. If you use a gas or electric heater that has a controllable thermostat, set it a couple of degrees lower and enjoy the cash savings off your winter power bill.

Another great strategy I heard about the other day is to change your regular thermostat over to a digital one, if you have an older model of furnace or heater. A digital thermostat is programmable, meaning you can set the temperature to vary at different times of the day. You can also vary the temperature settings for different seasons.

Why would you want different temperatures at different times of the day?” I hear you ask.

At night, when the family is sleeping, the house can be a bit cooler. In fact, sleeping with the temperature too high can cause sleep disturbance and cause you to wake up feeling sluggish. Everyone is snuggled under the bed covers anyway, so it makes sense that the house temperature can be lower. It’s cheaper to add another blanket to the bed than use extra power keeping the house unnaturally hot.

The same applies during the day; you’ll want to wake up to a warm house but as the day wears on and you are moving around, you will still be comfortable if the temperature is 2 to 5 degrees lower. Again, it’s cheaper to add another layer of clothing than to pay for extra energy to heat the house.

Also, when no one is home during the day, the house doesn’t need to be so warm (or cool). Naturally, you don’t want the house to get so cold (or hot) that it uses extra energy to get back up to temperature when you get home. So, you can set the thermostat several degrees lower and program it to ramp up the temperature about an hour before you are due to get home. You’ll be amazed at how much this strategy alone cuts your energy bill; government figures show that reducing the temperature (called setback) by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, will save between 5% and 15% in heating costs. This particular study refutes the belief that allowing a house to cool down (or heat up) when not occupied, will actually cost more in heating because more energy is used bringing the temperature back up.

Experts recommend a thermostat setting of 78 degrees minimum in summer, when you are home, and 62 degrees when the house is empty. Using these figures will allow you to save 10% off your energy bill.

Now let’s look at water heating. Heating water in the home accounts for 25% of power costs; around $500 a year for the average household. So, this is definitely another area where savings can be made.

Traditionally, most households heat the water to too high a temperature and then have to add lots of cold water to make it a usable. It makes sense, then, to lower the temperature, add less cold water, use less power and enjoy the cash savings.

If there is a thermostat on your water heater, set it at 120 degrees. If there is a general setting of low, medium and high, set it at medium. In summer, you might be able to set the temperature even lower, as we tend to use warm rather than hot water when the weather is hot. Government figures show that, for every 10 degrees you lower the temperature of your hot water, you will save 3 to 5% in energy.

The most energy-efficient type of water heater is the tankless variety; these heat the water instantaneously as required. Considerable heat is lost through the walls of a storage water heater; if you have one of these, install an insulation blanket (at a cost of $10-20) to reduce heat loss of 45%. This in turn will save you another 9% off your power bill.

Use these strategies to lower the energy usage in your home, help to protect the environment and save money at the same time.

I would love to hear how you have saved money on heating. Please share.


18 thoughts on “Adjusting Thermostats to Save Money

  1. I live in Florida so heating is never the problem but rather staying cool. Actually when it is cool out we like to let the windows up and let in the cool air. When it is hot however when just simply turn it off when we are not home. Given that we are away from home almost 10 hrs there is no need to have the AC on all day. We want to invest in an auto thermostat to start cooling the home about 30mins to 1 before we get there.

  2. These are some good point to easily save money and energy on your utility bills. Some other cheap and extremely effective energy savers are insulating your hot water pipes (saves energy and it will get hot water to your faucet faster), and using low flow shower heads/aerators on your sinks. Most people don’t notice these and it saves hot water.

    There are a ton of ways to save energy, but these along with installing a programmable thermostat are among the easiest and most cost effective.

  3. We set our thermostat five degrees cooler at night than during the day in the winter. In the summer, it’s frustrating because if the AC doesn’t run at night, it gets very stuffy, and even more so since the upstairs will warm up throughout the night (likely from ambient heat in the attic and such) though the theromstat is downstairs where it stays cool. I actually have our AC set a little cooler at night to compensate. to truly correct the system would mean installing some sort of zone system which is doable but expensive.

    I actually just bumped up our water heater temperature a bit. The main reason is that in the winter, it’ll get a little cooler when not used, since the basement is pretty cool, meaning the first person that takes a shower (me) gets water that’s just not warm enough. So, now it’s slightly above the ‘medium’ line, and in the spring it’ll go back down slightly below that line, which means it averages out throughout the year.

  4. I have lowered my thermostat in winter and raised it in summer for 40+ years. I usually have th elowest utilities per square foot. One of my colleagues told me she had a $1,900 (2 months)electric bill recently. We have had a very hot summer. My bill was $120 (2 months) before taxes.

  5. Using radiant heat from your windows in the winter by keeping the blinds open on sunny days can help with heating costs in the winter. The same goes for the summer, but you just need to keep those blinds closed.
    People might think you’re a hermit, but it does save money. Sometimes I can turn off the heat for a few hours just from the heat of the sunlight streaming in.

  6. Having just moved into a new house this July we’re not sure what the winter will bring in terms of heating bills, but the new home is definitely more insulated than our old home. Also, we have radiant heat combined with baseboard heaters and they are far more effective than the under-powered hot air furnace in our old home.

  7. When not at home, I turn down the heat (or A/C). At night, I generally like to sleep in a cooler home – and agree that one can simply add another blanket. Something more refreshing out approaching sleep that way, rather than having the home warm. Anyway, making a few basic adjustments like that can result in some savings over the long run.

  8. Depending on how large your home is, cooking with the oven can make a big difference in your homes temperature. Cooking with with your oven in winter months will help to heat your home, just like the hearth of the olden days. Also, cooking less with your oven in summer months will help to lessen the need for fans and air conditioners. Another good reason to have friends and family over for a barbecue!

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