How do i adjust my thermostat for cold weather comfort and still lower my monthly heating cost? (Two Part Series)



(First in a two-part series)

Monthly heating bills are directly related to furnace operation, and adjusting the thermostat for a lower temperature can reduce your monthly heating bill. Energy efficient heating can be obtained by setting the thermostat at 68 degrees F when you are home and awake and at 58 degrees F when you are away or asleep. Although this solution sounds simple, the required adjustments and low temperatures present problems. Someone must diligently adjust the thermostat to realize cost savings and you will regularly arrive home and wake up to a cold house (will talk about programmable thermostats in a minute). Also, depending on the age and activity level of those in your home, 68 degrees F may be uncomfortable.

Here is how thermostat adjustment influences energy use. Setting your maximum thermostat setting 5 degrees lower, from 70 degrees F to 65 degrees F for example, can reduce energy use by 10 percent. Lowering your thermostat 10 degrees for 8 hours each night during the time you are in bed can save an additional 5 to10 percent. For families that are away from home during the day, lowering the thermostat setting for an additional 6 to 8 hours each day will further reduce energy consumption.

Some people mistakenly believe that the energy savings from lowering the thermostat for a few hours are offset by the expense involved in reheating the house. Tests show that lowering your thermostat setting daily for intervals of four or more hours will reduce costs.

Many people have programmable thermostats that use time and temperature settings to automatically control temperature. Families with similar waking and bedtime schedules and regular home arrival and departure times are especially satisfied with the convenience and comfort offered by this technology. A programmable thermostat offers the convenience of automatic temperature control, with the ability to suspend the program and manually control the temperature. If you do not have a programmable thermostat, consider installing one because it can reduce energy use for both heating and cooling activities.

In addition to reduced energy consumption, modern programmable thermostats can relieve the discomfort of coming home to or waking up to a cold house. Models are available with digital displays powered by batteries and can be programmed with ease. Weekday and weekend schedules may be set and furnace operation may be manually controlled to accommodate variations in your schedule. Programmable thermostats that sense occupancy or light are also available and will control temperature based on the presence or absence of people. Many do-it-yourselfers can replace a manually controlled thermostat with a programmable model. Prices range from $30 to $100 (and higher) and care should be taken to select the correct brand for your furnace and wiring. You may want to hire an electrician or heating equipment dealer to replace your thermostat. Personal injury and equipment damage can occur if the wrong thermostat is installed.

Generally the higher priced models are more precise, more durable and more easily programmed. If you decide to do the installation, but want to know how it is programmed, visit a dealer that sells programmable thermostats and have them demonstrate the procedure. This equipment can be programmed in much the same manner as the timers for automatic sprinkler and programming difficulty varies with equipment brands.

An automatic thermostat can be programmed to raise the house temperature before you wake up in the morning and lower the house temperature when go to work or school. Select a model that is easily programmed and has the directions on the unit rather than on an instruction sheet. Make sure it is battery powered or has backup battery power so that the stored program is not disrupted by power outages. Discourage family members from overriding the program to increase the temperature setting.

In addition to thermostat adjustment, here are a few other suggestions to reduce monthly heating bills. Regularly clean and/or replace your heater’s filter and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for schedule of service. Try not to use a space heater because it is an inefficient use of heating energy and expensive to operate. If possible, close the doors and heating vents to unused areas of the house. Use the sunshine to heat your home by opening the window curtains during the daylight hours and closing them at night. Keep outside doors closed and reduce the traffic going inside and outside. If you are involved in activities that are stationary, try wearing more clothing and/or using a blanket or comforter in your lap.

Posted on 15 Feb 2001

Richard Beard
Agricultural Systems Technology and Education Specialist



(Second in a two-part series)

Here are more inexpensive, energy-efficient measures you can use around your home to reduce your energy bills by 10 to 50 percent and at the same time save energy and reduce air pollution.


* Turn off the dishwasher during the drying cycle and allow dishes to air dry.
* Don't run hot water continuously while washing or rinsing dishes by hand.


* Wash only full loads of laundry.
* Use water no hotter than necessary for adequate soil removal and sanitation.
* Use cold water for rinsing clothes.
* Use good laundry techniques to obtain satisfactory results in one washing process.
* Avoid over-drying in the dryer.
* Vent the dryer to the outside.
* When using the dryer, use the automatic setting that determines when clothes are dry and shuts off the dryer.
* Line dry garment and household items when practical.
* Use the dryer efficiently. Avoid drying one or two items at one time. Dry consecutive loads.
* Remove items when dryer stops to avoid unnecessary wrinkling which requires pressing.
* Clean the lint filter after each load. Minimize ironing by choosing garments with easy care requirements.

Cooking and Baking

* Never use the oven or cook top as a room heater.
* Use oven to capacity. Cook more than one dish or one meal at a time.
* Use a cooking utensil that fits the electric unit or gas burner.
* Use tight-fitting lids on cooking utensils when appropriate.
* Reduce heat to lowest setting possible to maintain necessary cooking temperature when using surface units or burner.
* Use small appliances for cooking, baking and toasting. They are often more efficient than the range for small amounts.
* Preheat oven only when necessary. Do not preheat longer than needed to attain required temperature.
* When cooking with electricity, turn off the oven, surface units or burners shortly before food has completed cooking.
* Do not be an "oven peeper." Each time you open the oven door, you lose heat.
* Locate cooling appliances away from a heat source such as the range, hot air register or direct sunlight.

Refrigeration-Refrigerator and Freezer

* Avoid opening door or holding it open unnecessarily.
* Vacuum grills and evaporator coils to keep clean.
* If cold air is leaking around door, have door adjusted or gasket replaced.

Recreation and Entertainment

* Turn off the TV, radio or stereo when no one is really watching or listening.
* Disconnect an instant-on TV when you are not going to be using it regularly.
* Spend vacations closer to home.
* Use shop or hobby equipment efficiently.

Personal Care

* Don't let the water run unnecessarily while you shave, brush your teeth or wash your hair.
* Turn off personal care appliances after each use.

Posted on 15 Feb 2001

Richard Beard
Agricultural Systems Technology and Education Specialist

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