Our dependence on air-conditioning may have increased in recent years, but unfortunately, so have energy costs and environmental concerns.
Most people are looking for a temperature that keeps them comfortable, particularly in summer, while also maintaining a responsible attitude towards utility bills and the environment. The good news is it's possible, while the bad news is you’ll need to put in some effort. Our article will walk you through several practical ways to reduce your energy bills without compromising on convenience.
What temperature should I set my air conditioner to in summer?
The ideal way to keep your home comfortably cool while not spending a fortune on electricity bills is to follow the thermostat settings recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The DOE suggests that you set your thermostat at 78 degrees Fahrenheit during the summers to avoid bills skyrocketing and keep cool at the same time.
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, 72F falls outside of that range and is a far cry from the DOE's recommendation of 78F. That means that at 72F (which is a pretty low temperature setting), you'll definitely be running a risk of high energy bills.
Department of Energy Recommendation
Unfortunately, there is not a lot that can be done about the 78F recommendation, since the Department of Energy arrives at this figure using a multitude of factors outside our control. These factors are the energy consumption patterns of the entire country, the break-even point for energy manufacturers, climate variations in the country, and the body temperature of an average person.
Simple tricks to keep the house cool
However, if 78F seems hot to you, there are always a few tricks that you can try to keep your home cool without fidgeting with thermostat settings.
1. Natural sunlight has benefits. However, too many uncovered windows also mean there's extra heat flooding into your house with the sunlight. Stop the mercury from rising indoors with the help of window treatments to block the temperature-raising light.
2. Install ceiling fans (or buy pedestal fans) for rooms that seem to heat up more than others to keep the overall temperature down.
3. Ensure the sealings around your doors and windows are intact to keep cool air from escaping through cracks.
How low can your AC temperature go?
There's no way to give a set answer for the ideal lowest setting for your AC thermostat in summers. That's because there are a bunch of other factors at play, which are described below:
Human 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 78F and lower it by one degree every day – until you find a setting that's suitable for all.
Secondly, how low you can set your AC thermostat (without getting high energy bills) also depends on the weather outside your house. If the area you live in has a mild summer season, you won't need to set too low a temperature to stay comfortable indoors.
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. For example, a difference of more than 30 degrees between indoor and outdoor temperatures means that your air conditioner will have to consume more energy to ensure the indoor atmosphere stays cool.
6 Tips for keeping your house cool while saving energy
1. Get 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 smart thermostats.
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.
That means you can keep your air conditioning at your preferred setting no matter where you are. Thanks to the scheduling feature, you can create a 7-day plan for your week ahead and not have to fiddle with the temperature manually each time the weather cools down at night.
Aside from that, energy consumption reports provided by certain smart thermostats can highlight the trouble spots in your electricity consumption and help you reduce your overall bill by resolving them.
2. 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 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 can help you reduce your energy bills in the long run.
3. 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 portable-, ceiling-, or pedestal fans. Fans can help suck excess moisture out of the air, keep you comfortable, and allow your AC to run in an energy-saving environment.
4. Prevent leaks
Even a bunch of small leaks can go a long way in affecting the comfort of your home by allowing cool air to leak outside and warm air to circulate indoors.
However, identifying and fixing the air leaks inside your house is a simple method of cutting back on energy costs, not just in summers but in winters as well. Not to mention caulking and weatherstripping are also cost-effective remedies that can help you improve the indoor air quality of your home.
5. Raise temperature when away
Just because no one's in the house doesn't mean it's a good idea to switch the air conditioning off completely. However, you must increase the temperature to avoid unnecessary utility costs.
The thing is, there's a much higher chance of indoor humidity when all the windows and doors are shut, and there's no means of ventilation. Add the absence of cooling to that and you might as well be walking into an oven.
You can keep your air conditioner running even when you're not at home as long as the thermostat is set at 88 degrees Fahrenheit. This will keep the air circulating, avoid humidity build-up, and make your home much easier to cool upon your return.
6. Keep humidity in check
Believe it or not, air conditioners are pretty adept at controlling indoor humidity – they work by absorbing heat from a room, after all. However, sometimes you need to give your air conditioner a 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.
So you now know what temperature should you set your air conditioner to in summer. There are quite a few effective techniques you can apply to ensure your comfort levels are met without having to pay expensive bills.
However, more often than not, reducing power consumption is a holistic-type effort – meaning you might need to apply more than one method to gain the results you expect. And, remember, running your AC at a low setting isn't just going to benefit you; it's also helping the environment.