What is my Thermostat Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

What is my Thermostat Trying to Tell Me?

Did you know your appliances are talking to you? Really, they are! Did you also know you can learn an awful lot by listening to them? Really, you can! You can find out how much electricity you’re using — and how much money you’re spending, too! To highlight what customers can discover with Direct Energy’s Direct Your Energy Insights Tool, we’re going to dig into some of the lesser-known ways your appliances affect your electric bill. By learning more about your electricity usage, you’ll use less of what we sell!

What is my Thermostat Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

What is my Thermostat Trying to Tell Me?

Many smart thermostats track usage, and how that relates to the outside temperature, and will produce a report on how well your home is heating/cooling. But older programmable thermostats don’t track usage at all because they’re basically timers. And the venerable electro-mechanical dome-shaped thermostats are essentially ON/OFF switches. Thermostats by themselves don’t save energy. You can have the most stylish, smartest thermostat in the world that even brings you a latte every morning— but it probably won’t save you an awful lot of money if your home is drafty and poorly insulated .

However, it’s no secret that what many people believe about comfort instructs how they set their thermostats. Consequently, behavior is the biggest thing that effects how you use your thermostat:

  • One commonly believed myth is that setting your thermostat to one temperature throughout the day reduces energy usage. Newton’s Law of Cooling shows that maintaining a continual temperature actually uses more energy over time compared to setting back the thermostat at regular set points of the day.
  • Don’t fuss with your thermostat! Keep the temperature set at its energy saving set-points for long periods of time. A New England study from 2007 found that homeowners who micromanaged their programmable thermostats (turning them up and down by one or two degrees throughout the day vs letting the thermostat follow a schedule) wound up using more energy. This has since transitioned into smart thermostats. While smart thermostats offer remote controls via apps and WiFi, some users can’t resist the urge to fiddle and tweak temperatures.
  • Cranking up your thermostat to 90°F on cold days or 45°F on hot days does not heat or cool your home faster. HVAC systems cannot vary their heating/cooling energy output. Your home’s thermal mass plus the amount of insulation and air sealing really determine how fast it heats/cools.

What is my Thermostat Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

Comfortable Set Backs

We like our homes to be comfortably warm or cool but comfort can be pretty complicated. Often what we think is a comfortable temperature is merely learned behavior that goes against what has been proven in terms of normal human circadian rhythm. The Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) conducted a series of psychological experiments on people who were acculturated to believe 72°F was the best temperature. ASHRAE found that participants who did not know the room’s temperature said they were as comfortable at 68°F as they were at 72°F. As it turns out, comfortable daytime temperatures range from 68°F to 76°F.

At night, when you go to sleep your core body temperature lowers and heat radiates from your extremities. A National Institute of Health study found the best sleep happens as the body reaches “thermoneutrality” when environmental temperatures are at 86°F (nude and uncovered) or 60 to 66°F (wearing pajamas and covered by one sheet).

Consequently, setting back your thermostat when you’re asleep actually keeps you comfortable and may help you sleep better.

  • In summer, set your thermostat to 80. Use the appropriate amount of bedding and pajamas to feel comfortable.
  • In winter, set your thermostat between 60 and 66°F. Again, bedding and pajamas as needed.

Setting back your thermostat when you’re asleep or away reduces your energy usage and increases your energy savings. In the winter, for every degree you lower the thermostat during the heating season, you’ll save between 1 and 3% off your heating bill. In the summer, for each degree that you raise the thermostat, you save 3 to 5% on your air conditioning costs.

Want to know how you can save even more?

Customers who sign up with a Direct Energy plan can get complete access to the Energy Insights Tool to help them monitor their usage and take more control of bill. If you’re a Texas resident, you can save even more by signing up with Direct Energy’s Free Weekends. From Friday at 6 PM to Sunday at 11:59pm, you’ll get FREE electricity. That’s the most hours of free electricity in Texas! Just by switching to Direct Energy and saving your laundry for the weekend, you’ll really clean up!

About 

Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.