10:30 AM

Smart Settings, Smart Thermostat, Smaller Power Bill

My son and his bride are experiencing an age-old dilemma of new marriage: When he sheds his jacket, she reaches for a sweater. Their cool/warm comfort levels aren’t quite in the same zone.

As with marriage in general, when it comes to a comfortable temperature in the home, they are working to find common ground. Fortunately, their mutual desire to eat and keep the bills paid has led them to employ energy saving measures.

Some are simple: She would rather raise the thermostat setting in winter, but instead she settles for a sweatshirt. They use ceiling fans to help cool rooms in summer. And in winter, they open the blinds to let in the sun’s warmth.

These small changes have made some difference, but it may be time for them to think big, to think smart ‑‑ to make the move that optimizes their heating and air energy efficiency. It’s not complicated: Set the thermostat at 68 degrees in winter and 78 degrees in summer.

But, what about comfort?

My son typically sets the AC at 62 degrees in summer, and his wife is happy with the heat at 74 degrees in winter. But the coziness they feel inside the home can turn to discomfort when it’s time to pay the power bill.

Working the heating and air system as little as possible cuts costs, and that occurs when the setting on the thermostat is closest to the temperature outside. The further apart the indoor setting to the outdoor temps, the more you’ll pay for energy.

To decrease the gap, try readjusting your comfort level. Similar to dieting, it can be uncomfortable at first, like my son swapping bacon for blueberries. But in a short time, your body will adjust to more budget-friendly thermostat settings.

Try decreasing or increasing the thermostat setting, one degree per day, until you’ve reached the optimum 68/78 degrees settings. If you typically set the thermostat at 74 degrees in winter, lower it by one degree each day until you’re at 68 degrees. You may be surprised at how quickly your body adapts to the decreased temps, and your power bill will decrease, too.

Another smart move the newlyweds can take to lower their power bill is to invest in a smart thermostat. Actually, I might get them one for Christmas.

Smart thermostats make wise energy use easy. Nest, ecobee and Emerson are some of the top brands on the market with products featuring everything from touchscreen to built-in Wifi. Some send energy reports based on usage patterns and others have sensors that detect you’re home from work early and turn the heat up automatically. Wow!

Bells and whistles aside, the smartest thing about smart thermostats is that they allow you to program your settings to maximize energy savings at night or when you’re away from home. In hot months, you may opt to set the thermostat at 85 degrees when you leave for work at 8 a.m., giving your AC some relief while you’re away from home. Program the thermostat to lower the temperature back to 78 degrees at 5 p.m., and you’ll return to a comfortable home.

In winter months, set the thermostat in the low 60s when you leave for work and program it to return to 68 degrees by the time you get home.

Yes, I’m thinking Santa may tuck a smart thermostat under my son’s Christmas tree this year. It’s a gift that really does keep on giving.


Jackie Kennedy has worked with Georgia’s electric cooperatives for 23 years, producing newsletters, press releases and articles about the industry or energy-related matters. She is the author of People, Power, Progress: The Story of Jackson EMC, published in 2013. In her blog, she grapples with a variety of energy efficiency topics.