The way we use our home’s HVAC system will inevitably shift with the changing weather each winter. Some seasonal HVAC habits are adapted instinctually and out of necessity, such as the need to shift from cooling to heating as the temperatures outside do the inverse. Other HVAC habits are adapted as a result of our innate desire to save money, or at the very least not waste it.
Regardless of where they stem from, however, most of the changes we make in terms of our HVAC usage are directly reflected in the way we use our thermostats. If you think of an HVAC system like the human body, the thermostat is the brain that controls the rest of the body’s functions. While maintenance and general upkeep are still crucial to the health and longevity of an HVAC system, how we program our thermostats will have the largest impact by far on the way our system functions on a daily basis.
To ensure that everyone has the knowledge to properly control their home’s HVAC as we attempt to comfortably make it through what’s left of the colder months, we’ve assembled a list of helpful tips and tricks for how to best use your thermostat this winter.
1. Lower Temperature During the Day
Setting your thermostat to slightly lower temperatures during the day makes sense for a couple of reasons. For one, many American households are uninhabited during most weekdays as a result of work and/or school, in which case there is nothing wrong with a cooler house in exchange for saving a couple of bucks, especially if there’s nobody around to feel it.
Even if you are home, the limited hours of daylight during the winter also come with slightly higher temperatures outdoors. This bit of added warmth affords homeowners the opportunity to turn down the thermostat for a few hours without sacrificing anyone’s comfort in the process.
2. Lower Temperature Overnight
In addition to saving on heat during the day, homeowners can also save energy and money by lowering their thermostats overnight. To be clear, overnight refers here to the time when everyone in a given household is typically asleep – not any time the sun is down (otherwise we would combine this with Tip 1). Since people use their beds and blankets for warmth while sleeping, homeowners can use this time to give their HVAC system a much needed rest as well.
3. Use Recommended Settings
For optimal comfort and energy consumption, the US Department of Energy’s recommended thermostat setting is 68 degrees during the daytime and 62-66 degrees overnight and/or when the home is unoccupied. If you or your house run cold and this simply doesn’t cut it for you, you can adjust as needed, but try to do so conservatively and within close range of the recommended setting. Higher temperatures mean more energy and ultimately more money.
4. Adjust Temperatures Gradually
Whatever the circumstances are when you need to adjust the temperature on your thermostat, it is crucial that you do so gradually as opposed. Cranking the temp all the way up or down in order to achieve the desired effect faster or at a greater capacity is a huge no-no when it comes to proper thermostat usage. Doing so will waste a ton of energy and money, not to mention putting unnecessary and potentially damaging strain on your HVAC system. Avoid big fluctuations when programming your settings and instead adjust the temperature settings gradually a few degrees at a time.
5. Avoid Turning Off Your HVAC System
In trying to be conservative with their home heating, some folks misguidedly take Tips 1 and 2 to the extreme by shutting down their HVAC system entirely any time they aren’t using it. Rather than saving any significant amount of energy by turning it off, you’ll be wasting tons every time you turn it on and force the whole system to have to reboot.
As laid out in Tip 4, you should adjust temperatures gradually to save energy, and turning your system on and off with any sort of regularity is an extreme example of how to do the exact opposite. Unless you plan to leave your residence totally unoccupied for an extended period of time, it is best to keep your system running and refer to Tips 1-3 for better ways to conserve energy.
6. Account for Different Levels/Rooms of a Home
Depending on how up-to-date your HVAC system is, getting your home to heat evenly (as in the same temperature throughout) can be anywhere from tricky to virtually impossible. This is due to the inevitability and sensitivity of air flow. The size, structure and set up of your home will affect exactly how well air is able to flow through and fill it, but the basic principle is that hot air rises and cold air sinks. This is why basements are typically colder and harder to heat, while the top floor is warmer and easier to heat.
To take advantage of this, figure out how the different levels of your home respond to different thermostat settings, pay attention to what floors are being occupied, and program your thermostat accordingly. If you’re fortunate enough to have separate thermostats for different floors and rooms, the same principle applies, but you’ll have the added benefit of being able to set different temperatures from level to level.
7. Account for Thermostat Location
Many are under the impression that a good thermostat location means a convenient one.
While being easy to reach is somewhat important, a decent thermostat location has much more to do with how balanced the temperature of that location is in relation to the rest of the home. In a proper location, a thermostat is able to get an accurate reading that it can then use to determine how to heat the home as a whole. When thermostats are located in areas that are more prone to shifts in temperature, such as near doors and windows, these shifts can cause inaccurate readings that prevent your system from working as well as it should.
8. Pay Attention to Shifting Outdoor Temperatures
While the winter season is infamous for colder weather in general, there are different levels to the cold, and temperatures this time of year can still fluctuate greatly week to week and even day to day. Even just within the past few weeks, the northeast has experienced everything from snowstorms and freezing cold to surprisingly pleasant and unseasonably warm spring-like days with temperatures near 60 degrees. Even if you’re the type of person who likes to set their thermostat and forget about it, you should pay attention to how cold it really is outside and whether or not your normal amount of heat is necessary. If not, seize the opportunity to set the thermostat a few degrees lower while you can.
9. Invest in a Smart Thermostat
The latest big advancement in home HVAC systems, smart technology (or home intelligence) gives homeowners total control of their home’s system from remote locations via their mobile device, not to mention making it way easier to stay on top of Tips 1-8.In other words, this smart technology turns your cell phone into a portable thermostat that works anywhere and everywhere. You can also schedule different settings for different times, and if you ever forget to do so, you can remedy the situation no matter where you are with just a few taps of the finger.
10. Be Wary of Unsolicited Tampering
It’s a common trope in movies and TV to see proud homeowners plagued by people tampering with their thermostats. Unfortunately, this cardinal sin of home heating is all too common in real life, and the ugly truth of the matter is that some people see nothing wrong with taking the liberty of changing a thermostat that they don’t pay for. While spouses and children may have the ability to get away with doing this an infinite number of times, it’s still never a bad idea to at least try to set some house rules regarding thermostat usage. There’s nothing wrong with being a thermostat stickler either. No matter what, keep an eye on your thermostat’s settings if you live with others, especially if you start to feel a noticeable change in temperature or air quality.
That’s all the tips we have for now! We hope this article was able to teach you a thing or two that will help you improve your thermostat use. If you have any questions or know of any tips and tricks we may have missed, please let us know in the comments below. Check out our previous blogs if you haven’t already, and be sure to keep an eye out for more helpful HVAC info coming soon. As always, thanks for reading and happy heating!