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What Temperature Should I Set My Air Conditioner in Summer

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Staying cool in the Texas summers is a top priority, and walking into the blast of your home’s air conditioner provides welcome relief. But what is the ideal temperature for your thermostat to keep cool without incurring huge electricity bills? Will your home still feel refreshing?

Everyone in your family may have a different threshold of “comfortable,” with thermostat wars marking your days and nights. One family member may be bundled up in layers, while another has cranked the air conditioner with two fans pointing their way. But employing some best practices and a few smart energy-saving tips can help everyone come to an agreement, all the while saving you money during high-peak energy costs in the dog days of summer.

Temperature Recommendations

The U.S. The Department of Energy recommends setting your air conditioner thermostat to 78 degrees during the day. To some, that sounds uncomfortably warm. However, if you’re working from home, mainly stationary at a computer, 78 degrees and a fan can feel quite comfortable. And contrary to common practice, setting your air to very low temperatures to “cool faster” doesn’t work. This results in your air working harder with less efficiency (aka costlier) without cooling more quickly. 

Your air conditioner is more efficient when the difference between outside and inside temperatures is not too great of a gap. Realistically, your A/C will cool your home about 15-20 degrees cooler than the outside. On 100-degree days, it’s understandable that people want to walk into a 70-degree home. But 70 degrees means your A/C is running hard to keep up and rarely switching off from auto cool. Setting your thermostat to 80 degrees on sweltering 100-degree days is the best way to stay cool without overtaxing your A/C and the power grid at large.

Furthermore, if you’re away from home during daytime hours for work, school, or errands, it’s recommended to set the thermostat to 85 degrees so you’re not paying to cool an empty house. You may not be home during the hottest part of the day, so there’s no need to overtax your air conditioner while you’re away. Setting your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees higher than your normal setting eight hours a day can result in 10% savings every year. That’s real savings you can take to the bank!

Nighttime and Daytime Thermostat Settings

Since your heart rate slows and body temperature drops while you sleep, experts suggest bumping up your thermostat at night several degrees. In practice, however, most people prefer a colder sleep climate. Some studies suggest that cooler temperatures actually help individuals sleep better. Keep this in mind when you’re tempted to turn up the heat in the winter!

While expert recommendations fall between 78 degrees for daytime and 82 for nighttime, many people prefer their thermostats around 72 degrees. If you need cooler thermostat settings in the low 70s, consider other ways to conserve energy that offset your cooler thermostat settings. See tips below on how to optimize your thermostat settings and other practical ways to keep out the heat.

Optimizing Your Thermostat

With the cost of everyday items on the rise, like groceries and gas, families need to find monthly savings, and it just may be found in your thermostat. Most homes today have a programmable thermostat or a smart thermostat. These have provided incredible energy savings for individuals and families, who can “fix it and forget it.”

A programmable thermostat allows you to set a program that runs daily; for example, an “away” setting for eight hours a day at 85 degrees. On your commute home, your pre-set program then starts cooling down to a more comfortable 78 degrees. A nightime setting a few degrees cooler helps you settle in for a good night’s sleep.

A Wi-Fi-enabled smart thermostat is programmable, with the further convenience of access via your smartphone. You have the convenience of scheduling your settings, as well as control from your phone if you need to make any adjustments. Did you leave for a week-long vacation and forget to change the thermostat? No worries, you can open your smartphone and adjust your smart thermostat from anywhere. These thermostats also track data and provide insights that help you evaluate your energy-use habits.

If your home doesn’t already have a smart or programmable thermostat, it may be a pricier investment up front, but it will pay for itself in yearly savings. The U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program certifies thermostats that will conserve energy and save you money. See the EPA’s thermostat recommendations here.

Other ways to keep your thermostat running smoothly? Make sure it’s positioned wisely in your home. Place it in a well-trafficked area, preferably an interior wall, away from direct sunlight or drafty doors and windows. 

Tips for Keeping Your Home Cool

Besides being smart with your temperature settings, you can implement other ways to keep your home comfortable during the summer. A few small adjustments can make a big impact:

  • Keep blinds or curtains closed during the heat of the day to keep the sun out.
  • Run fans only in the rooms you’re currently in. The cooling effect is for your skin, not the overall room temperature. You’ll save on electricity costs by only running fans when occupying the room.
  • Make sure you don’t have drafty doors or windows.
  • Ensure good insulation in the attic and storage areas.
  • Turn off lights when not in use, as they can heat up a room.
  • Use heat-emitting appliances, like your dishwasher or clothes dryer, at night, not during the hottest peak hours.
  • Keep the A/C vents open even in unused rooms. Your unit is set for the size of your home, and it will push through the same amount of air, but work harder if rooms are closed off. You can shut vents halfway in seldom-used rooms to keep airflow going.

Discuss these cost-savings measures with your whole household so everyone can get on board. Read these 10 Summer Energy Savings Tips for even more ideas. As you see your utility bills decrease, reward yourselves for your conservation efforts with a trip to the family ice cream shop or a night at the movies. Be encouraged — milder temperatures are coming, which makes way for breezy open windows and less need of your A/C.

Payless Power, a Texas-based retail electric provider created for Texans, helps customers achieve energy savings and cost savings with our affordable prepaid electricity plans. Enter your zip code to find a plan that suits your household today.

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