Controlling heating and cooling

Most people adjust their thermostats manually. You set the temperature, and your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system (HVAC) decides how to get the house there. Conservation calls for setting the temperature at 68°F in the winter and 82°F in the summer.

You can shut off your air conditioner at night, and your house will likely stay cool enough to be comfortable. If the temperature is hotter outside than in, don’t open your windows. If vice versa, open up. You can also lower the ther­mostat temperature in the winter at night and sleep snug as a bug under a good comforter.

Busting some popular myths

For the most part, homeowners try to minimize their use of the HVAC. Everybody understands it costs a lot. You can take further measures to reduce your costs, but first I need to dispel some common misconceptions:

image063A lot of people think that if you turn your system off for a while, it works all that much harder when you turn it back on. This is not true. HVAC systems are either off or on. They don’t work harder under any circum­stances. They just work longer. So if you turn your system off, the energy you save during that time period will be equal to the energy you need to get your house back to normal temperature.

You don’t save money by turning your thermostat off and on. You do save money by turning it down, or in the summer, turning it up.

A lot of people think that if you want your house to get to the set tem­perature faster, you turn the thermostat past the desired set point. For example, you come into a cold house and turn the HVAC on and then adjust the thermostat up to 90°F so things will heat up fast. The system doesn’t work this way. The temperature will increase only so fast — and no faster.


You save money by turning your thermostat down as much as possible when­ever you can (vice versa in the summer). If you can turn it down 15°F overnight, for eight hours, you can save 5 to 15 percent off your energy bill. Whenever you’re gone for a few hours, turn your temperature down (in winter). Vice versa for summer air-conditioning season.