Here's the ideal thermostat number to stay cool without draining your wallet, according to the US Department of Energy.
This story is part of Home Tips, CNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
With the heat especially brutal in many places this summer, it can be tempting to blast the air conditioner all day and fill your home with as much cold air as possible. But with electric bills about to skyrocket in many US states, this can put a noticeable strain on your budget as you try to cool down.
The good news is that one quick adjustment to your thermostat can save you big money.
We’ll explain how to configure your programmable thermostat for efficiency this summer and discuss how it makes a difference in your home. We’ll also offer a few tips on how to keep your house cool and comfortable without breaking the bank. For more, you can check out the best place to put your fan for maximum coolness this summer and this one home upgrade that can save you big on AC costs.
Here’s the best thermostat temperature to set for summer
According to the US Department of Energy, the best technique for staying cool yet minimizing utility costs in summer is to keep your home warmer than usual when no one is home and then setting the temperature as high as comfortably possible when home. Energy Star, a program of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy, suggested that homes be kept at 78 degrees Fahrenheit when home during the day.
It also suggests that the thermostat be set to 82 F when sleeping and 85 F when out of the house for maximum savings — recommendations that were met with scorn and disbelief on social media.
If setting your thermostat to somewhere in the 80s sounds too warm, then a good rule of thumb to follow is to turn your thermostat up 7 to 10 degrees from your normal setting for eight hours a day, so you can save up to 10% a year.
And the best temperature for winter
According to the US Department of Energy, it’s best to keep your thermostat at 68 F for most of the day during the winter season. For maximum efficiency, you should also designate eight hours per day during which you turn the temperature down by between 7 and 10 degrees. By following this routine, you may again be able to reduce your yearly energy costs by up to 10%.
Depending on your schedule and comfort preferences, you can decide whether you’d prefer to keep your home cooler during the day or at night. Some people prefer turning the heat down at night when they can cozy up under blankets and won’t notice the colder conditions. Plus, sleeping in chillier temperatures may even be linked with getting more restful sleep.
For others, it might make more sense to turn the thermostat down during the daytime when they’re at work. Once you’re home, you can crank up the temperature to a more comfortable level.
Why your thermostat matters
A common misconception is that setting your air conditioner to a lower-than-normal temperature will cool your home faster. But actually, an air conditioner will only really cool your home 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the outdoors; any other setting will not cool your home more and will result in unnecessarily high expenses.
Plus, a higher interior temperature setting in the summer will actually slow the flow of heat into your home, which results in energy and money savings.
What makes 68 F the best temperature for winter? It’s on the lower end of comfortable indoor temperatures for some people, but there’s a good reason to keep your home cooler during winter. When your home is set to a lower temperature, it will lose heat more slowly than if the temperature were higher. In other words, keeping your home at a cooler indoor temperature will help it retain heat longer and reduce the amount of energy required to keep the house comfortable. As a result, you’ll save energy and money.
Positioning your thermostat for maximum efficiency
In addition to following these temperature recommendations, you can maximize your energy efficiency by installing your thermostat in the right place. It’s best to position your thermostat away from drafty areas (near vents, doors or windows) and away from places that receive direct sunlight, as these factors could activate your thermostat unnecessarily. Instead, place it on an interior wall in a well-used area of your home.
Have a heat pump? Keep this in mind
Fiddling with your thermostat multiple times per day isn’t ideal, so it’s best to have a smart thermostat or programmable thermostat that lets you set a schedule and automate temperature changes.
Unfortunately, some smart and programmable thermostats don’t work well with heat pumps — a furnace and AC alternative. If you have a heat pump system, ask your HVAC specialist about buying a special type of thermostat that’s designed for use with your system.
Other ways to reduce energy costs
If you’re frustrated with high utility bills, you might be interested in switching to green energy such as solar power. With solar panels, you can generate power yourself, reducing energy costs and your reliance on the public grid. They’re an eco-friendly alternative to traditional energy sources, providing clean power all year long (including in winter) for your home, business or vehicle .
The bottom line
Being smart about your thermostat settings can make a real difference to your energy consumption year around. By reducing your home’s temperature to 68 F and under during winter and about 78 F during summer, you can conserve energy and cut down your energy bills for good.
There’s many expenses you have to worry about from monthly bills to rent and grocery budgets. These tips can help you save big money: