Do you turn off your heat when you leave the house? It may sound like a viable solution to lower your heating bills, but does it actually save you money? While no one likes to come home to a bitter cold house, turning down your thermostat could save you some serious cash in the long run. However, turning it down too much or completely off can have the opposite effect. Consider the pros and cons of each option and learn the best ways to save money on heating costs.
Pros of Thermostat Setback
Thermostat setback is the practice of lowering your thermostat during times when you need less heat, such as when you are asleep, at work, or on vacation. The same concept applies in the summertime but is known as thermostat setup and pertains to the use of air conditioners. In theory, thermostat setback has the potential to save you money on your heating bills. It all comes down to a few scientific principles.
The rate of heat loss in a home is based on the difference between the temperature of the house and the outside air. Therefore, the colder you allow your home to get, the slower it will lose heat. While it is true that it may take extra energy to bring your home back up to a comfortable temperature, later on, many people find that they are still using less energy than they would if they kept the home at a constant temperature.
Turning down your thermostat by just a few degrees can make a noticeable difference in your energy usage without interfering much with your comfort. When out of the home, aim for a lower temperature of around 58 degrees. At this temperature, you are no doubt saving on energy costs. However, it is also not too low that you have to worry about your pipes freezing.
Now that you know that turning down your heat by a few degrees can be beneficial, you may be wondering how to streamline this process. One of the easiest ways to control the temperature in your home is with a programmable thermostat. With this device, you can set it to automatically adjust to various temperatures at different times of the day. This means setting it to be cooler in the hours you are not at home.
If you have an older thermostat in your home, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer model. Not only are most of the newer models more efficient and user-friendly, they are often Wi-Fi enabled. What does this mean for you? It means that you can control your temperature remotely from a smartphone or other device. Coming home from work early? With a click of a button, you can come home to a warm, cozy house.
Cons of Thermostat Setback
Many people believe that adjusting your thermostat when you are not at home has no effect or a negative impact on your heating bills. This thought process comes from the amount of energy used to reheat your home. When you turn down your thermostat before leaving for the day, your home gradually becomes colder and colder. When you return home, it can take up to an hour or more to bring the temperature back up.
The main problem with this method is that your heating system has to work harder to perform the same job. When set at a consistent temperature, your heating system only has to maintain the temperature. However, when you turn the thermostat down, the heating system must work long and hard to bring the temperature to a comfortable level. This results in excess wear and tear on your heating system.
You may also want to consider your comfort level. If you decide to turn down your heat when you are away from home, you must consider how it will affect your comfort when you return home. For at least an hour, you are probably going to be cold and uncomfortable. If you want to return home from work and simply relax, a cold home can make this difficult.
If you are not careful, turning down your heat can actually cost you money. Some studies have found that some people who constantly adjust their heat actually use more energy than those who leave their thermostat alone. This is likely due to your heating system having to start and stop frequently, causing the system to run more inefficiently. Your furnace should run at a longer, but fewer intervals to save on heating energy.
Tips to Save on Heating Costs
- Take advantage of natural heat sources like the sun. Open the curtains on any south-facing windows in your home during the day to allow light to flood in.
- If you have drafty windows in your home, cover them with heavy-duty plastic during the winter. If you have the money, replace them with efficient windows.
- Find and seal leaks around your home. Consider gaps around recessed lighting, chimneys, behind cupboards, and around doors. Add caulk to seal air leaks.
- Dress for cold weather. Instead of turning up your thermostat when there is a chill in the air, throw on more layers or snuggle up with a warm blanket.
- Hot air rises. Bring the heated air back down towards the floor by running your ceiling fan in reverse.
- If you own a fireplace, make sure that it is not allowing cold air in or warm air to escape. Close the damper when the fireplace is not in use.
- Undergo regular heating system tune-ups. This is the best way to keep your heating system running at peak performance which can lead to major savings.
Proper maintenance is key to keeping your home warm and comfortable and your energy costs manageable. Call in a professional HVAC contractor at least once per year to perform a standard checkup on your heating system. If any problems are found, have them repaired quickly before a small problem turns into a larger one. Also perform other basic maintenance tasks, such as replacing dirty air filters. All of these things can help save you money on heating costs.