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Saving on your Texas energy bill – thermostat edition

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By Terri Williams January 8th, 2020
3 min read
For business

Setting your thermostat efficiently can help save on your energy bills.

While a brisk winter walk might be nice, most Texans don’t want to wake up or come home to a cold home. On the other hand, heating an empty house will cost you greatly on your monthly energy bills. Here are a few tips to help you save on your energy bill using your thermostat.

Once you’ve set the thermostat (for daytime or nighttime), experts recommend leaving it alone.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it’s possible to save up to 10% a year on your heating (and cooling) bill by merely lowering your thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees for 8 hours a day.

For example, during the winter months, the DOE recommends setting your thermostat to 68 degrees when you’re at home and awake. Conversely, you should set it lower – around 64 degrees – when you are either asleep or when you’re away from home.

And once you set it, don’t keep adjusting the thermostat – leave it alone!

Helping your heater – strategies to keep warm

At first, the DOE’s recommended temperatures might sound too cool. However, there are other things that you can do to stay warm while at home. For example, wear flannel pajamas and sleep on flannel sheets. Also, wear socks and house shoes to avoid walking on the floor or use plush throw rugs to keep your feet warm.

You can use different strategies to generate heat during the winter season. According to the DOE, approximately 30 percent of your home’s heat escapes through the windows. On the other hand, 76 percent of the sunlight that lands on double-pane windows enters your home as heat.

During the day, if you open the curtains or drapes (on your south-facing windows), the sunlight will help to heat your home – and fortunately, sunlight is free. However, at night, be sure to close the curtains or drapes to keep the warm air from escaping.

Experts also advise you make sure your drapes are as close as possible to the window. The DOE recommends using Velcro or magnetic tape to attach these window treatments to the walls and floors, noting this could reduce heat loss by 25 percent.

Also, the same ceiling fans that keep you cool in the summer can keep you warm in the winter. Here’s how: turn your fan’s setting so the blades run counterclockwise. This will cause it to circulate the warm air in your home and will keep you warm even though the thermostat is on a lower setting.

There’s a myth that when you lower the heat, your furnace has to work extra hard to get the heat back to that desired temperature. However, this isn’t true. You’ll save a lot more energy when you’re not heating an empty house, or heating it when you and the family are tucked under the covers asleep.

Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats can take the work out of remembering to lower the temperature when you’re leaving home or going to sleep. “Smart thermostats can be geo-fenced to your phone, meaning any time your phone leaves the boundary set up by the geo-fence, it determines you are away and adjusts the thermostat accordingly,” says Josh McCormick, VP of Operations, Mr. Electric. “It can be set to your phone for time-based programs, or for manual control.”

In fact, McCormick says many smart thermostats can even learn your habits. “And then they can help develop programs to save you money based on yours and your family’s schedule.

Use energy-saving setbacks

“These are most beneficial if they last at least eight hours at a time,” says  Richard Ciresi, Owner of Aire Serv of Louisville. “The best times for setbacks are during the day while you’re away at work and at night when everyone is asleep.”

According to Ciresi, it’s important to program timely recovery periods, so you won’t have to return home to or wake up to a cold house. “Remember, the longer each setback period is and the further you set the temperature back, the more you’ll save.”

Change the temperature by only a degree or two:

“When you do decide to override the setting, don’t crank the programmable thermostat way up,” Ciresi advises.  “This doesn’t heat your home any faster and only stands to waste energy.”


Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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