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Depending on where you’re located, the summers can be particularly brutal so if you’re not adjusting the A/C, it can lead to higher energy costs and uncomfortable temperatures.

So in this article, I’ll show you how to find the perfect setpoint that keeps you and your utility bills from getting too hot. Let's dive in!

What Temperature Should I Set My Air Conditioner to in The Summer?

The ideal method to keep your home comfortably cool without having to spend a small fortune on electricity bills is to follow the thermostat settings recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). 

The Department of Energy recommends setting your air conditioner to 78°F in the summer, as this temperature considers several factors to maximize energy efficiency and overall comfort.

As such, they take into account nationwide energy consumption patterns, the threshold for energy production, regional climate differences, and the average human body temperature.

So by following this temperature baseline, you can strike a decent balance between staying comfortable and saving energy.

Is 72 Degrees a Good Temperature for Air Conditioning?

According to a study carried out by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the indoor temperature range for people dressed in summer clothes falls between 73 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit (F). 

However, 72°F falls outside of that range and is a far cry from the DOE's recommendation of 78°F. 

This means that at 72°F (which is a pretty low-temperature setting), you'll be more comfortable but definitely at risk of running high energy bills.

hvac ac unit
72 degrees is definitely comfortable, but it's not the most energy efficient

Is Adjusting the A/C To Run at the Lowest Possible Temperature a Good Idea?

Even if your thermostat may allow it, setting your A/C to the lowest temperature setting is not recommended since it will work nonstop to reduce the temperature in your home beyond the comfortable range of 73- 79°F.

As a result, you’ll only be left with a temperature that’s either too cold or an A/C that’s running ragged.

Instead, the most efficient method is to set the temperature on your thermostat to a relatively comfortable level, say 78°F.

After setting the A/C at 78°F, you can then start to go up and down according to the outdoor temperature and your comfort levels.

Finding Your Comfortable Body Temperature

People don't necessarily feel hot or cold the same way or under the same conditions. So, a temperature that's fine for you may feel warm to your family members. 

To find a temperature that suits everyone, start by setting your thermostat at 78°F and lowering it by one degree every day – until you find a setting that's suitable for all.  

Adjusting the Inside Temperature Compared to the Outdoor Temperature

In addition to finding your comfortable body temperature, you also need to consider the indoor setpoint with respect to the outdoor temperature so you can find the perfect setting that’s comfortable and doesn’t inflate your energy bills.

During Mild Summer

If the area you live in has a mild summer season, you won't need to adjust the setpoint to be too low to stay comfortable indoors. 

Therefore, check the average outdoor temperature, using the weather report or an actual thermometer (if you have one), and try keeping the indoor temperature around 5-10 degrees lower than this outside temperature value.

During Sweltering Summer Days

However, if you battle scorching heat during the summers, your air conditioner will have to work twice as hard to maintain a low temp setting.

In that case, you might have to adjust your A/C to run at 10-20 degrees lower than the outside temperature. You can go even lower by almost 30 degrees in extreme circumstances but please note that the AC will have to run continuously. 

So always make sure to consider the outside temperature and the levels you’re comfortable at when deciding to deviate from the 78°F baseline.

Casement Window AC
Using 78 degrees as a reference and moving from there is the key to finding a comfortable temperature

6 Tips For Keeping Your House Cool While Saving Energy

If 78°F can seem a little too hot, you can always try out a few tricks to keep your home cool without having to constantly fiddle around with the thermostat. Here’s how:

1. Close Curtains and Blinds

While natural sunlight has its benefits, excessive exposure to the sun can increase the temperature inside your home. 

So consider using window curtains and blinds to limit the amount of sunlight entering your space and prevent unnecessary heat gain.

2. Use Fans

Humidity can be a killer as far as indoor cooling comfort is concerned. The moisture level in the air can interfere with your body's way of keeping cool (aka sweat). 

When the air is dry, it's much easier for us to sweat and cool down. But, when humidity is peaking, your body can't cool down properly, which often leads to setting the thermostat to lower temperatures. 

Thankfully, you can control humidity inside your house by investing in ceiling fans or portable fans (such as table fans, wall fans, or pedestal fans). 

These fans can help suck excess moisture out of the air, keep you comfortable, and allow your AC to run in an energy-saving configuration.

3. Prevent Leaks By Sealing the Gaps Around Windows and Doors

Even a bunch of small leaks or lack of insulation can go a long way in affecting the comfort of your home by allowing cool air to leak outside and warm air to accumulate indoors. 

Properly sealing any gaps or cracks around your home's windows and doors can help to prevent cool air from escaping, ensuring that your air conditioning system doesn't need to work harder to maintain a comfortable temperature.

If you have any major leaks, you might have to get the help of a contractor or HVAC company, 

However, if it’s a small matter of sealing small gaps and crevices in your windows and doors, you can do it yourself with caulking and weatherstripping methods. 

These are cost-effective remedies that can significantly help improve insulation and the indoor air quality of your home.

4. Keep Humidity in Check

Air conditioners are pretty adept at controlling indoor humidity since they work by absorbing heat from a room, after all. 

However, during the hot summer months, you might need to give your air conditioner an extra hand by adopting other measures that can help reduce air moisture to a comfortable level. 

We've already highlighted that you can resort to ceiling and pedestal fans, but making sure your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans are running at appropriate times can also help cut back on the heat. 

Additionally, you can also rely on dehumidifiers to absorb the excess moisture in a room, especially if you have a portable or wall AC.

5. Perform Regular HVAC maintenance

Most of the time, we think of HVAC maintenance as something we'd like to put off for as long as we can – like a visit to the dentist. 

However, contrary to popular belief, regular HVAC servicing can help your cooling unit run like clockwork. That means you don't have to worry about concerns like dirty evaporator coils, leaking refrigerants, or malfunctioning compressors, all of which, in the end, affect the cooling performance of your system. 

If each part of your air conditioner is working at maximum efficiency, the appliance won't have to use too much energy to achieve the desired temperature. That's why regular maintenance is one of the fundamentals in helping you reduce your energy bills in the long run.

6. Consider Upgrading to a Smart/Programmable Thermostat

An excellent way to cut back on rising energy costs without sacrificing too much in thermostat settings is to invest in a smart thermostat

These thermostats are designed to help you save on HVAC energy costs with capable features like 7-day scheduling, energy consumption reports, and remote access. 

The scheduling feature can help run the A/C in a low-power setting when nobody is at home and power back on to cool the house before anybody returns. 

On top of that, a smart thermostat can leverage intelligent functions to learn more about your HVAC system’s performance and operate it for maximum efficiency.

Untitled design 29
A smart thermostat is the best option if you want to maximize efficiency

7. Monitor your Thermostat Whenever Possible

If a programmable thermostat is still not an option, you can instead make the necessary changes yourself. 

Although it might be tedious at first, this form of “helicopter parenting” the thermostat can help you shave off around 10% of your utility bills and make you understand more about how to optimize the HVAC system according to your climate. 

In that case, here are some tips to consider:

  • Start by setting your thermostat to 78 degrees as a base level and work your way from there until you find your most comfortable temperatures. 
  • Avoid undershooting the desired setpoint temperature as it will use up more energy to cool down the house and make it uncomfortably colder.
  • Try changing the temperatures gradually (with a maximum difference of 5 degrees) as it will help cool down the house more evenly and account for outside temperature fluctuations). If possible, check back in an hour and see if turning down the temperature any lower is necessary.
  • When you're leaving for work or any other engagements where nobody will be at the house for 4+ hours, always remember to turn the thermostat to a higher temperature setpoint, usually 10-20 degrees higher than your comfortable temperature.
  • Also, don't forget to turn off the AC or let it run at higher temperature settings whenever you're leaving for vacation. 

The Verdict

For most homes in the US, the Department of Energy recommends setting the A/C temperature to 78°F.

This temperature might not be the most comfortable for you. Therefore, I recommend using it as a reference to help you find the most optimal summer temperature. 

However, don’t stray too far from 78°F, and take note of the tips and tricks I’ve mentioned above to help you balance comfort and energy savings. 

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