Tips for cutting cooling costs in the summer months are similar to those for winter heating savings.
About 3 percent of the U.S. population is using a tablet or smartphone elsewhere to manage “smart” thermostats at home, according to Nielson’s recent Consumer Energy Sentiments report.
While smart thermostats are among the newest technologies for energy efficiency, a Kansas State University expert said the majority of Americans with programmable and manual thermostats could still witness savings with a little extra effort.
“It’s how you use them,” said Elizabeth Kiss, an associate professor and family resource management specialist for K-State Research and Extension. “Looking through the research available from the U.S. Department of Energy and other sources, adjust the thermostat and leave it for 8 to 10 hours. That’s where you get the most savings.”
Kiss said people should consider adjusting their thermostat when they are gone for that extended period of time, such as when at work or out of town. The research has also shown that the most savings, as much as 10 percent per year, is seen when the thermostat is turned up or down a particular number of degrees.
For greatest savings in the summer, Kiss said, set up the thermostat about 7 degrees Fahrenheit (F) during the day and 4 degrees F at night, considering the base temperature is between 72 F and 74 F. Closing window coverings to keep out the sunlight during the day could also help increase home energy savings.
Ceiling fans can benefit home energy savings in the summer months, she said, by circulating cool air through the house. A bathroom or range fan can be turned on to control heat and humidity. Don’t heat the house with appliances such as the dryer or oven during the day, but rather use those at night, if needed.
Turning the thermostat down 8 degrees F in the winter is recommended, Kiss said, when people aren’t home or perhaps during the night. Window coverings should be left open on sunny days during the winter, as the sunlight can help warm the inside of the house.
Other tips could help with savings all year. Kiss said many utility companies will do home energy audits for their customers, but added that people can also audit some items on their own. For example, check insulation, particularly in attic walls. Check for air leaks in doors, windows and outlets. Cracks or openings can increase energy costs, which can add up over time.
Making an effort to witness more savings
“About 47 percent of homeowners still have manual thermostats,” Kiss said. “You can still see energy savings. You just have to remember to turn it up or down.”
Programmable thermostats take action on behalf of the renter or homeowner to adjust the set temperature. Kiss reminds consumers that programmable thermostats operate on batteries that should be changed each year.
If updating a furnace or air conditioner and getting a programmable thermostat, rebates are often available from electric companies and equipment manufacturers, she said.
“So not only do you save on the cost of the new air conditioner or heating unit, you also then would save over time, because it will be more energy efficient in the long run,” Kiss said.
She added that a furnace or air conditioning unit generally lasts about 10 to 15 years. For those thinking of replacing equipment in the next couple of years, she recommended they get estimates now to help plan for the cost.
“Many people have a single heating and cooling unit,” Kiss said. “Although some larger homes and homeowners who have upgraded their units may have zoned systems. No matter what, make sure to get the unit that’s the right size for what you need. If it’s underpowered or too small, you’ll end up paying more, and you won’t get the environmental comfort—the temperature you would like—in the house.”