As warm weather sets in, it’s only a matter of time before you turn on your air conditioner. Whether you’ve got central air, window units or ductless panels, cooling off is key during the summer months.
However, as comfortable as it will make your home, it will also be costly. On average, it costs between a quarter and thirty-five cents per hour to cool a 36-square-foot room. An air conditioner in a larger room, around 50 square feet, it’s nearly a dollar an hour.
One way to keep your energy bills from getting too high is to set your air conditioner to a reasonable temperature. Not using too much energy means not paying more in energy bills.
So you want to keep that expense low. But, you also don’t want to be too hot. After all, what’s the point of running the a/c if you’re still sweating? The trick is to find a sweet spot: A temperature that feels right to you but also doesn’t cost too much to maintain.
There are a few steps you can take to find the most reasonable temperature to set your air conditioner at. Here’s how to do it...
Start by setting your air conditioner high
When trying to find the most reasonable setting for your air conditioner, you have to start somewhere. And, the best spot to do it at is 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to Energy Star, it’s an ideal temperature. 78 degrees keeps you fairly cool and comfortable during the day. It also shouldn't make your electric bill skyrocket.
Start with your thermostat at 78. If that feels ok, increase it by one degree. Find out just how warm you can go and still feel comfortable. Remember, the higher the temp, the lower the bills in the summer.
Or, if 78 is already too hot, that’s fine too. Just start going the other way. Lower the temp one degree at a time. Try to keep it as high as you can.
Just remember, however, that each time you lower it, you’re adding a little more to your bill. Going back to Energy Star, look at it this way: If you dial your thermostat back seven to 10 degrees for eight hours a day, you can save 10 percent every year on your energy bills.
Next, figure the average American spends around $1,100 annually in energy costs. Now imagine moving your thermostat from 68 to 78 degrees in the summer. And, in the winter, you make similar adjustments. That could mean more than $100 in savings every year.
Adjust the air conditioning with ceiling fans
Of course, 78 degrees may just be too high for you. That’s ok. There are other ways to feel cooler without moving the thermostat.
The trick here is ceiling fans. Running them while you’re in the house won’t actually cool down any of the rooms. What they will do, however, is move around the air.
When you’re running an air conditioner, you’re pumping cool air into your house. A fan helps circulate that cold air. So, it doesn’t actually lower the temperature. But, it does help your air conditioner do its job better.
Those fans can make a bigger difference than you might think. According to the United States Department of Energy, a ceiling fan can make a room feel four degrees cooler.
Now, let’s go back to the 78-degree rule. Maybe that’s too warm, but you can do 74 degrees. Turn on your fans and keep your thermostat at the higher temp. It’ll feel cooler than it reads.
There are, however, two things to remember here. First, make sure the fans are running counter-clockwise. You want them to blow the air straight down. If you set them clockwise in the winter to help keep things warm, turn them back now.
Secondly, turn off the fans if you’re not in going to be in that room for a while. Remember, the fan isn’t creating the cool air. The air conditioner is.
If you turned off the a/c, then yes — it would take more time and energy to turn it back on and begin cooling the room again. But the fan is just moving the cooler air around. So, you can let the room feel a little warmer when you're not in it. Then, turn the fan back on when you’re there.
Change your thermostat setting for different times of day
Finally, you can set your thermostat to different temperatures at different times of the day. That’s especially so if you keep a regular schedule are out of the house for hours at a time. And, most people don’t need to keep things quite as cool when they’re sleeping as they do when they’re awake.
Going back once again to the 78-degree rule-of-thumb: That’s for when you are awake and in the house. In the evening, try setting the thermostat four degrees warmer. With that change, you’ll save a little bit money. But, you won’t be sweltering and unable to sleep. And, again, remember that you can use a ceiling fan to cool things down a little more.
And, set it at least seven degrees higher when you’re leaving for the day. This strikes a good balance. You’ll lower your energy bills, especially if you’re gone most of the day. But, the house won’t get so warm that the thermostat has to work extra hard to cool it back down when you get home.
It can be a lot to remember the exact settings and times. And, it’s an extra step in your schedule to make those changes. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make it easier.
For instance, you can consider a smart thermostat. These are programmable, so you can set them to change by themselves when you want them to. But, they go even further.