Myths and Tips About Proper Thermostat Settings

The thermostat in your home controls when your heating or cooling system operates. You can save energy and money by learning how this simple device operates.

One common myth is that the higher you set it when you return home, the faster your furnace will heat up your house. This isn't true since most furnaces deliver heat at the same rate no matter how high it is set. So the best thing to do is to just set it at the temperature you'd like, and your furnace will heat your home as fast as it can. Setting the thermostat higher on heat pumps, however, may cause your heat pump to heat up faster, wasting energy because the backup heat may come on.
Raise the temperature of your heat pump only 2-3 degrees at a time. Another myth regards the efficiency of adjusting the settings down or up for heating and cooling, respectively, when you don't need it, such as at night or when no one is home. This myth, in fact, states that your furnace will work harder than normal to heat your home back to the desired temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. This is not true, as has been proven by years of research and field observations. The longer your home stays at an increased temperature when cooling or reduced temperature when heating, the more energy and money you'll save. This is because your heating and cooling costs depend mostly on the difference in temperature between outdoors and indoors. When you turn the thermostat up in the summer or down in the winter, you are simply reducing this temperature difference. If you adjust your thermostat back 10 or 15 degrees during the hours while you're away at work or while sleeping, , your energy savings can be anywhere from 5-15% on your energy bill.

You can install a set-back thermostat that will automatically adjust your home's temperature at pre-set times. However, you can also achieve these same savings if you remember to change your thermostat faithfully anytime you leave home or go to bed.

If you have a heat pump and want to install a set-back thermostat, you'll need to buy one that's designed specifically for a heat pump. Lowering the desired temperature of a heat pump can actually result in its operating inefficiently, which in turn cancels out any of your savings. The best way to save money when using a heat pump is to choose a moderate setting and leaving it there all day and night.

Making the simplest changes and performing routine maintenance can save energy and money. Here are a few more tips to folllow to help you save.

  • Inspect and clean your heating unit.
  • Replace all filters on a regular basis.
  • Open shades during the day to let the sunshine in and warm your home during the winter; close the shades during the summer.
  • Insulate hot water pipes and ducts that run through open areas of your home.
  • Insulate your basement, crawl space, and attic. Insulation should be at least R-30 in the attic, R-13 in the walls and R-19 in the crawlspace. A well-insulated home reduces energy consumption by as much as 8-10% per year.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to set your thermostat back automatically while you are at work or asleep.
  • Use energy saving settings on appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers.
  • Caulk all leaky windows and apply weather stripping to doors, sealing in any air leaks in your home.
  • You can add an insulating blanket to your electric water heater only, as this poses a safety risk to gas heaters.

Use these tips and watch your savings mount!

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