The thermostat may seem like a simple device—at least, the old manual thermostats that use dials and sliders may. You want more heat during the cold weather? Turn the thermostat up higher, and there’s your extra heat. When it gets too hot or too stuffy, turn the thermostat back down. Pretty basic.
But it isn’t, and adjusting your thermostat with this up-and-down pattern based on how warm your house currently feels can waste energy without providing better comfort. It can even shorten the service life of your heating system because of the extra strain put on it.
What a Thermostat Actually Does
To explain how you can better set your thermostat for winter comfort and energy savings, we need to first clarify how the thermostat operates. It isn’t like the gas pedal in a vehicle, where the more you push down on it, the faster the car runs. A thermostat is a switch that turns the furnace or other heating unit on and off. When you set the thermostat higher than the current indoor temperature to request heat, the thermostat turns the heater on and keeps it on until it reaches the set temperature. Setting the thermostat higher only means a heater running longer, not putting out larger quantities of heat or doing it faster. Instead, aim to keep the thermostat set at a steady temperature, one for the daytime when people are home, and one for the night or when the house is empty.
Higher Indoor Heat Means Faster Heat Loss
Another reason for putting the thermostat up higher isn’t giving you better heating is that the hotter you make the indoors, the faster the house loses heat to the outside. This forces the heater to continue to run to make up the lost heat. The closer you can make the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the slower you’ll lose heat—and the less the heater will need to run.
What Is a Good Setting for the Thermostat?
This depends on personal preferences, but we and the US Department of Energy recommend aiming for 68°F as the daytime temperature when people are in the house, with a setback of around 8°F at night or when the house is vacant. Wear warmer clothing indoors to help make it easier to keep the thermostat lower. If you find 68°F too cold, set the thermostat higher, and then lower it by one degree each day until people become used to the temperature.
Advanced Thermostats Can Make This Easier
Using a programmable or Wi-Fi thermostat simplifies these settings: you can put in the program and don’t have to think about it. The Wi-Fi “smart” thermostat makes the process even simpler, since they develop their own energy saving programs based on your patterns of use.
If you are looking into making upgrades to your heating in Cherry Hill, NJ, such as installing a new thermostat, speak to our HVAC professionals. We work with furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, zone control systems, and many other residential heating solutions.