like it hot; others prefer to chill.
those polar opposites reside under the same roof,
discussions around the thermostat can get tense.
an ongoing battle to keep everybody comfortable,"
said Steve Wilken, a hardware store manager. "You
just try to find a happy medium."
that Goldilocks zone — not too hot, not too cold —
is about more than personal comfort: Space heating and
cooling account for almost half of a home’s energy
about temperature often come down to the cost of that
extra heat or cooling.
HVAC is a big energy expense," said Jennifer Franz,
a Lennox energy efficiency expert. "Programmable
thermostats became very common as an energy saver. But
what they found is the first time the programmed
perimeters didn’t fit their lifestyle or preferences,
people just over-rode it and didn’t program it
the perfect temperature? And how do you keep it that
way? New technology — as well as some old-school
solutions — can help find and maintain that sweet
72 degrees is considered an optimum
"comfortable" indoor temperature, according to
ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating
and Air-Conditioning Engineers). But the society’s
research found that the "preferred temperature for
comfort" ranged from 68 to 76 degrees, depending on
time of year and clothing worn.
found that 72, 74, 76 degrees are the most typical
preferences," Franz said. "People set their
thermostats a little higher in summer, lower in winter,
to save more energy."
nighttime temperatures can aid sleep. A National
Institute of Health study found that the best sleep —
for most people (wearing pajamas and covered by one
sheet) — comes with temperatures between 60 and 66
degrees in winter.
adjustments can add up in savings. For every degree you
lower your thermostat in winter, you’ll save 1 to 3
percent on your heating bill, according to industry
estimates. Likewise, you’ll save a similar percentage
on air conditioning in summer by tolerating warmer
thermostats make programming and maintaining ideal
temperatures easier. They also can save an estimated
$125 to $180 a year in energy costs.
most people, temperature is something extra they don’t
want to think about," Franz said. "They just
want to be comfortable. If they can save energy, that’s
example, the Lennox iComfort S30 uses a smartphone app
to determine if anyone is home and makes adjustments
accordingly. Priced at about $500, this Wi-Fi-enabled
device also maintains energy-efficiency reports and can
be remotely controlled.
can work with multiple phones," Franz explained.
"Imagine a circle around your home. (Via your phone’s
GPS), the system detects when you cross that circle.
When no one is home, it switches to an ‘away’ mode,
and adjusts the thermostat to energy savings. When you
come back in the circle, it turns the thermostat back
up. It sets the temperature without you thinking about
uses a Nest Learning Thermostat at his home. Priced at
about $250, the Nest system "learns" from
homeowner preferences and, after the first week, makes
its own adjustments.
can testify to those energy savings; it really does work
well," Franz said.
innovations include HVAC systems that use multiple
thermostats to cool or heat different parts of a house
is a great option for people with different comfort
likes," Franz said. "If one person likes it
hot and another likes it cold, you can do that. Also it
takes into account that your house may have cold and hot
areas; not all rooms are the same."
thermostats only measure the temperature at their
immediate location, she noted. Poor air flow around the
thermostat can affect their efficiency and accuracy.
really don’t want to put your thermostat in a closet
— unless that closet is the perfect temperature,"
only so much a thermostat can do; comfort is personal.
In an informal poll of readers, the range of
"perfect" thermostat settings ranged from 61
to 76 degrees in winter and 75 to 90 degrees in summer.
Those settings had to do as much with money as physical
usually set mine at 68 in the winter and 90 in the
summer," said Linda Meeks of Rancho Cordova.
"Up until a year ago, I never even used my central
heat and air, relying on ceiling fans and window air
conditioners in the summer, and turning on a space
heater if it got very cold. My system was old and very
inefficient, and so I never wanted to use it."
year, Meeks replaced her old HVAC with a new efficient
system, but still sticks with her same settings.
it’s just me and my dogs in the house, there is no
conflict with other family members unless they’re
visiting," she said. "I then tell them to just
put on a sweater in the winter or stand by a ceiling fan
in the summer!"
winter, Samira Al-Qazzaz of Carmichael turns the
thermostat to "0" most of the night and all
morning before switching on the heat in the afternoon;
first to 61 degrees at 1 p.m., then 68 from 4 to 9 p.m.
During summer, the thermostat stays above 80 degrees.
winter), we use blankets at night and dress up warm and
comfortable during the day," Al-Qazzaz said.
"We sleep outdoors in a screened patio on hot
can be a gap between "perfect" and reality.
perfect temperature in winter in my house is 76,"
said Jeanne Snyder. "My actual temperature in my
house is as low as 55 in the morning. When I turn the
heat on, I only allow it to go to 66. I only turn the
heat on twice a day and only until it reaches 66 and
then I turn it off. I definitely do this to save money.
the summer, I don’t turn the air on until it reaches
100 outside," she added. "I then set my
thermostat at 86. I can deal with the heat in the
summer. In the winter, I’ll go to a movie to get out
of the cold house."
readers bundle up in hooded sweatshirts or sweaters and
gloves in winter, then strip to shorts and tank tops in
summer. Several mentioned sleeping outdoors in the heat
of July or August.
not just temperature that affects comfort level but
humidity, Wilken said. "Adding humidity into the
air in winter can be a big benefit. Ideally, 45 percent
relative humidity is good in winter. When the humidity
drops, you feel cooler."
may mean adding a humidifier to rooms filled with dry
want the opposite in summer," he added. "Then,
you want to keep humidity low, at 25 to 30 percent. That’s
when you may want a dehumidifier."
drafts and air leaks go a long way to maintaining your
home’s comfort level, Wilken said. "Cracks and
crevices are the biggest culprits. Weather-stripping and
caulk can go a long ways."
apps that help detect such air leaks make this task
easier, he noted.
and space heaters can help make small adjustments and
meet personal preferences.
summer, you definitely want more air movement; it makes
you feel cooler," Wilken said. "In winter,
personal heaters are good options because they only heat
a small area. If you feel chilly, it takes care of your
HVAC systems are becoming more efficient and easier to
program, Franz said. "Even if your system is only
10 years old, it’s relatively inefficient compared to
what’s available today."
systems offer multiple stages that allow heating or air
conditioning to be applied by variable percentages
instead of just "on" or "off."
older systems are ‘single stage’; they’re either
off or on 100 percent," she explained. "Even
my hair dryer does more than that."
family members may feel the need to make their own
adjustments as they search for their comfort zone.
can get a lock box for the thermostat, too," Wilken
added with a chuckle. "That can settle the