During the winter, we save a little money by keeping the thermostat set low.
It’s an easy thing to say, but it could be a hard thing to live with. Who wants to be cold all the time?
For me, there is nothing more miserable than being cold. But we have found a simple way to dramatically cut heating costs and to stay comfortable at the same time.
How Much Money Do You Save By Lowering Your Thermostat?
Our gas company used to advertise that we could save 2% on our heating bill for every 2 degrees lower the thermostat was set.
According to the Energy.gov website, the savings could be as much as 1% for each degree the temperature is setback for each eight hour period.
They also say you can save between 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill by turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° during the night.
Obviously the amount of savings is dictated by the cost of the energy source you use to heat your house and the quality of insulation and windows you have in your house.
In other words:
- Is it cheap or expensive to heat your house?
- Does your house leak heat or is it well insulated?
If your house is poorly insulated and your energy costs are high, you would save even more money for each degree the temperature is decreased.
If you have cheap sources of gas heat and have a modern, well insulated house with triple pane windows, you may be on the lower end of the savings range.
Home Heating Today vs 50 years Ago
I remember both my grandparents used to heat their houses with wood when I was a kid.
The kitchen of my maternal grandparents house was heated with a pot belly stove. The rest of the house was not heated until they added a bathroom in the 1970s. The bathroom was heated with an electric heater so the pipes wouldn’t freeze.
My paternal grandparents heated a front living room and the kitchen with a single wood stove. After all the kids had moved out of the house, they moved their bedroom into the heated room during the winter.
People used to keep heating costs low by heating with wood they cut themselves if possible and by heating only one or two rooms.
And for those of you that remember those old houses, most of the rooms were very small. They basically abandoned the cold part of the house during the winter. But I remember those rooms heated with a wood stove were warm, in fact almost too warm.
Today, our houses are larger than our grandparents houses.
Most of us use central heat and we heat every square foot of our big houses, and we heat them 24 hours per day.
Our comfort level is way up from our grandparents day, but our demand for energy is also way up.
Part of the reason we have been able to do this is the relative cost of heating our houses has dropped compared to our income. Hence our standard of living has increased.
Though it may be comfortable, some of us think heating every square foot of our house 24 hours per day is wasteful.
It wastes money, it wastes energy that could be used for something else and it causes us to depend on foreign energy sources. For those that are concerned about such things, it increased carbon output and greenhouse gases.
Turn Your Thermostat Down at Night If Nothing Else
Energy.gov states that by turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° during the night, you can save between 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill.
That doesn’t include any savings from turning it down during the day when you are gone or when you don’t need it as warm.
We live in a place with long, cold winters. We have to start heating the house in October and usually don’t turn off the heat until mid May and sometimes we still have to turn of the heat in June.
In the 7 years we have been in our house, our gas heat has cost between $317 and $460 for the entire winter, for a seven year total of $2,706.
I get those figures by subtracting the average of the summer gas cost each year, which represents hot water and cooking, then add all months between October and May.
At night, we set the thermostat at 55 degrees and set it to 62-64 during the day depending upon how cold we feel.
It’s the 8-hour period at night where we are saving the most since we can turn it all the way down to 55 and still be comfortable.
We have down comforters that keep us plenty warm during the night and sometimes we will pre-heat the bed with an electric blanket just before going to bed and then shut it off after we get in. We also will heat up a water bottle and carry it into bed on colder nights.
If we average 68-63=5 degrees for about 16 hours per day and 68-55= 13 degrees overnight for another 8 hours per day, that averages to 7.67 degrees less than 68 degrees for 24 hours per day and if the government figure of 1% for every degree for each 8 hours is true, we should be saving 23% on our heating bill.
Since our heating bills already reflect the savings, if we kept the temperature in our house at 68 degrees for 24 hours per day, we would have paid between $412 – $597 per year for a total of $3,514.
So over the last seven years, we have saved $808 on heating costs. I don’t know about you, but there are lots of things we prefer to spent $800 on than heat.
I know $808 is not enough money to save if you are shivering all the time, but we are not cold.
Best Solution: A Programmable Thermostat Saves Us $160-$180 Each Winter
During the first winter in our new house, we did not have a thermostat that was programmable, just the standard wall unit with a slider adjustment. During the cold months when we used heat, from November through April, our heating cost was $620.
By the following winter we had installed a 7-day pogrammable thermostat and our heating cost from Nov-Apr was reduced to $458 – a savings of $162, even though that following winter was much colder than the first!
On average, you can save up to 33% on annual heating costs with a programmable thermostat and up to $180/year. That adds up over time!
We set the thermostat to go down just after we go to bed, about 10:30pm, and then kick back on in the morning before we get up, around 6:30am, so that’s it’s nice and warm when we get out of bed.
We adjust it when we go on vacation to be lower during the day and then colder again at night. We also have a different program set if we will be gone for the day.
Nest Learning Programmable Thermostat
The Nest was designed by former Apple employee, Tony Fadell.
Now you can get a programmable thermostat for less than $20 (see thermostats listed below), but if you want to get something extra-fancy the Nest will do for about $250.
One of the coolest (or hottest) features is that you can control it while your away through any WiFi connected device, like your smartphone or computer.
Being able to lower the temperature with a program makes a big difference with your heating costs and subsequent savings.
And installing a programmable thermostat is easy-peasy. No electrician needed.
It took me just a few minutes to install. Simple instructions come with the unit you purchase. And once you program the thermostat, you don’t really have to mess with it again unless you want to make changes.
And it’s not, of course, just for heating but also works for setting up a program to cool the house during the summer with your central air conditioning.
Stove Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peregrineblue/2799707333/