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This year began with a massive winter storm that left more than 4 million Texans without electricity for several days. As Texas prepares for another winter, many wonder how they can save on their energy bills as they adjust their thermostat and bump up the heat. According to the EIA, more than half of the average household’s annual energy use goes towards heating and air conditioning.
So, how should Texans (and energy consumers across the country) set their thermostats this fall and winter to avoid high electricity bills? And how should they adjust them come springtime? Here’s what you need to know.
Setting your thermostat
Let’s put it right out there: The best temperature to set your thermostat to is subjective. Some sources say setting your thermostat to 68 degrees in all seasons is best, while others believe adjusting the temperature based on the weather is the way to go. If you have a smart thermostat that automatically adjusts the temperature for you, you can set your thermostat and forget it for the season.
Regardless of the season, your main goal should be to consume less electricity in order to lower your energy bill. The U.S. Department of Energy says it’s possible to save up to 10% of heating and cooling costs each year by lowering your thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees for 8 hours a day.
What’s more, lowering your energy bill is not limited to your thermostat. Understanding where you use the most energy in your home is key. You can use SaveOnEnergy’s usage calculator to estimate how much power your home’s appliances and devices use, which can help you better manage your energy consumption and electric bills.
What to set your thermostat to in the winter
If you live in a state that is normally warm like Texas, retail electricity provider Direct Energy suggests setting your thermostat to between 68 and 72 degrees in winter if you are at home. The provider says setting your thermostat to 68 degrees will lead to lower energy bills. And during the night or when you’re away from home, Direct Energy says setting your thermostat between 62 and 66 degrees is ideal.
And what if you get warm temperatures during the winter? Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning professionals say there’s no harm in jockeying the temperature – especially if you can leave it constant for at least eight hours.
What to set your thermostat to in the spring
The U.S. Department of Energy suggests keeping your house warmer than normal when you’re away and lowering the thermostat when you’re home. The optimal spring temperature to set your thermostat to is 78 degrees while at home.
To further help with cooling without breaking the bank, the department also suggests utilizing fans when you’re in a room. Using ceiling fans, the DOE says, allows you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees with no effect. (Remember, though, fans don’t cool the room – the air circulation cools people. That means you should turn fans off when no one’s in the room.
Energy savings with your thermostat setting
Medium.com pushes a higher temperature when you’re home, suggesting 78 degrees in spring to save between 6% and 8% savings on your energy bill. The key to saving on your electricity bill is to use as little energy as possible and to be mindful of adjusting the temperature when you’re not home in order to avoid wasting energy.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration says heating and cooling account for more than half of a home’s annual energy consumption. That’s why making small changes to your thermostat is a good way to save on energy costs without making too much of a sacrifice.
Smart thermostats vs. programmable thermostats
Smart thermostats are growing in popularity these days, with Nest among the most popular brands. A smart thermostat works through home automation – control it with your smartphone when you’re away and get access to recorded internal and external temperatures among other features.
Programmable thermostats have been around since the 1970s and give users the flexibility to hold a certain temperature on a schedule. Both are helpful for regulating temperatures in your home, but smart thermostats have more features and give you more control.
The bottom line: The more conservatively you set your thermostat during any season, the more you can save on your energy bills.
Caitlin Ritchie is a writer and editor within the energy industry, specializing in deregulation, energy efficiency, and solar power. Her writing and research have been cited by Snopes, The Washington Post, The American Solar Energy Society, and other major sources. Find more of Caitlin’s work at ChooseEnergy.com.