Does your summer energy bill seem out of reach or unpredictable? While the typical rise in temperatures is directly connected to higher utility bills, your costs can be more controlled if you take a few steps to manage your thermostat. Without careful temperature control, your summer bills may continue to be frustrating, but a few simple changes may reel those costs back in.
Do You Have a Programmable Thermostat?
If you have an old-fashioned dial thermostat, you may not be obtaining the most precise temperature control possible. These units should be checked and calibrated from time to time to be sure that the settings selected are those desired. It’s also easy to change settings and forget about them, leaving the air conditioner running at a colder setting longer than necessary. An upgrade is recommended with such a unit. The comfort specialists at Engineered Air can help you select the right programmable thermostat to work with your HVAC system. Keep in mind that not all electronic thermostats are programmable models. If your unit only allows for up and down adjustments without the ability to select settings for various time periods, then you are missing out on significant energy savings opportunities.
Types of Programmable Thermostats
Many digital thermostats offer schedule options. Unless your digital thermostat is very old, it most likely does allow programming.
Programmable units are available in different configurations, enabling you to install a system control that best reflects your household activities. These include:
Whole-week programming – select setting changes that occur consistently every day of the week, excellent if your schedule doesn’t change much through the week.
7-day programming – select different setting changes for every day based on an unpredictable or fluctuating schedule.
5-2 programming – select one group of setting adjustments for your work or school week and another set for the weekends.
5-1-1 programming – similar to the 5-2 model, this version allows you to address differing Saturday and Sunday schedules with independent settings for each weekend day.
Another style of thermostat that is popular with people trying to squeeze every last drop out of their power bill is the smart thermostat.
Regular thermostats are basically just a control panel for your HVAC system. It lets you turn the temperature up and down and maybe set a schedule.
What makes smart thermostats “smart” is that they learn from your behaviors, control the climate in your home over the internet, show you energy consumption in real time, and can even adjust themselves based on ambient conditions like humidity.
From the app or remote interface, you can always see how much you’re spending on cooling costs, and the program can even try to automatically adjust to save you money.
If you’re the type of person who religiously turns your air up before you leave your house, you may not see a ton of benefit from a smart thermostat.
But if you always forget to turn your air up, or you want to set up home energy savings systems that involve controlling other appliances like your ceiling fans for the lowest power bill possible then a smart thermostat is for you.
All smart thermostats do is take the hassle out of adjusting the temperature and climate in your home for you. It stops cooling an empty apartment, so you don’t have to remember to, and it makes sure you’re comfortable when you’re at home.
All with no extra work on your part.
What are the Best Smart Thermostats?
The original entrant into this category is the Nest smart thermostat. It combines data, automated learning, and good looking design into one powerful package.
The app is very comprehensive. You can see almost all of the data on your home’s energy usage live anywhere you have internet access.
Because it’s one of the most established brands of smart thermostat, it also has some of the most integrations with other products. That’s something you might want to keep in mind if you’d like to use more than one “smart device” in your home some day.
Nest is a pioneer for sure, but it’s not alone.
Another great model of thermostat is the Ecobee Smart Thermostat.
It comes in a few different models that range from $200-500 depending on the features.
Basic Summer Savings Tips
Is Your Thermostat in the Right Place?
If you struggle with gigantic utility bills, your thermostat placement could be to blame.
You don’t want to install your thermostat any place where the temperature is unusual. Installing it in front of the bathroom is a bad spot because the hot steam from the shower can pool around the thermostat and affect its sensors, for example.
Exterior doors often let in drafts that change the way the way the thermostat perceives the temperature in your home. If your thermostat is near a window, see if beams of sunlight are ever cast over it because that could affect the temperature reading as well. According to the Department of Energy, these situations can cause “ghost readings” and unnecessary AC cycles.
It’s also not a good idea to put thermostats in rooms or hallways that are rarely used because then the thermostat is not reading the temperature of the area you actually want to heat or cool. This can leave you sitting in an uncomfortable room while the thermostat thinks everything is fine.
You’ll want to avoid putting your thermostat on exterior walls. Exterior wall temperatures will be vastly different from the temperature in your home.
The best place for your thermostat is on the interior wall of a room you use the most. That way the thermostat is making comfort judgements based off of the space you’re most concerned with.
Be sure that your thermostat is unobstructed by doors, bookshelves, or other decorations so that its sensors can work properly.
Housekeeping for Summer Savings
In addition to making sure your thermostat is in the best place, there are a few other steps you can take to prepare your home for summer savings.
If you can turn your thermostat 7°-10°F warmer during the summer you can save as much as 10% per year on your energy bill.
Keep your home around 80°F or closer to the outdoor temperature while you’re away, and set the thermostat to 78°F when you need cooling.
Setting your thermostat at a colder temperature does not cool your home any faster. According to the Department of Energy, a common misconception about thermostats is that they work better at a lower temperature.
What actually makes you feel cool is the difference between the inside temperature and the outside temperature. The closer you can keep those temperatures, the more the savings.
Isn’t it more expensive to turn your thermostat up when you leave?
National Resource Defense Council senior energy policy advocate Lauren Urbanek says that the cheapest way to use your air conditioner is to leave the house warmer when you’re gone.
Are your utility bills astronomically high? You should call your electricity utility company and request a home energy audit.
In a home energy audit, the power company will send a representative to your house, and they’ll look at your AC, furnace, and other electrical equipment to make recommendations on how you can lower your power bill.
Something helpful about the energy audit is that the power company representative can help you locate areas where air is seeping outside of your house. You’ll pay extra for cooling the neighborhood, so sneaky air leaks could be to blame for your high bill!
Finally, you can make your home feel even cooler with two easy preventative measures.
Do you have ceiling fans in your home?
The National Resource Defense Council says that using a ceiling fan can make a room feel 10 degrees cooler. They also use significantly less energy than your AC so that you can feel temperatures in the low 70’s or high 60’s without the energy bill spike.
You can also connect your ceiling fans to your smart programmable thermostat like the Nest.
One option is to buy a new ceiling fan with its own “smart” technology.
Starting at $700, you can get a Haiku L Series fan that has a sensor that can turn the fan on when your home is above a certain temperature. There are other fancier, more expensive models too.
You’ll need to add the Haiku Wall control option for the L series, but this fan will then work with your Nest thermostat (and many other smart thermostat brands). More expensive models have the sensor technology included.
If that’s not in your budget, you can retrofit your existing ceiling fan with a smart light switch!
A Belkin Wemo light switch costs about $50. You can install this switch on the circuit that controls your fan, and then your fan can be coordinated with your Nest thermostat! It also works with some other “smart” products like Amazon Alexa, and other smart thermostats.
Managing a Programmable Thermostat
Once you’ve made the transition to a programmable model, you may wonder how to manage the settings for ideal energy savings. Experts offer a guideline that you can use as a starting point and adjust according to personal preferences. Use lower cooling settings during the time you are at home, and make programming adjustments that will raise the settings during times that the house is vacant. A sample programming schedule includes the following settings:
Waking setting – greater than 78 degrees
Daytime setting – raise the temperature from the setpoint at least 7 degrees
Evening – return to the waking setpoint
Night – raise the setting at least 4 degrees Florida summers can be a bit more extreme than those in many northern states, and these general guidelines may require some modification for use in your home. However, selecting a comfortable set point for your waking time will allow you to make personalized adjustments in your own programming schedule. It’s helpful to recognize that experts indicate potential savings on your cooling costs of 1 percent for a 1-degree increase when it remains in place for at least eight hours.
Managing a Smart Thermostat
Save on Your Energy Bill in Pompano Beach, FL This Summer
Engineered Air’s comfort specialists can introduce you to the latest in thermostat technology as we show you how a wireless unit can provide even more cooling management options. Contact us today for an appointment to review wireless controls or to learn about additional sources of energy savings in your home.