Curious About Savings From Raising, Lowering Thermostat

By Jim Armstrong, WBZ-TV

METHUEN (CBS) — One thing is certain: it’s not getting any cheaper to keep your house nice and warm, and everyone’s looking to save some money.

But still, the question keeps coming up: Is it smarter to keep your house at a constant temperature or turn it down a few degrees when you’re sleeping or at work?

Harold from Methuen Declared his Curiosity saying, “We just had a furnace repairman service our boiler. He told us it was less expensive to leave the thermostat at 70F 24 hours a day, rather than to turn it down to 62 F at night. I’m curious! Is he right? Common sense says no. What do you say?”

We asked around and it seems most people opt for the slight chill down, but some believe it is, in fact, more cost efficient to leave the thermostat alone.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports.

“It’s a myth,” says Ian Rex.

He runs a company called Energy Hound that specializes in looking for places where homes and businesses are leaking their warm air and advising consumers on the best way to stretch their energy dollars. He attributes the so-called myth to an old way of thinking — people, he says, who believe “I’ve done it this way my whole life, I’ll keep doing it and if someone asks me, that’s what I’ll say.”

His advice? “Turning [the thermostat] down 5, 6, 7 degrees is going to be extremely helpful.”

To be fair, the argument against doing so is that it takes a lot of energy and money to get your house back to a comfortable temperature.

Not so, says the US Department of Energy. We ran Harold’s question past it, too.

Its explanation: all houses leak heat.

Here are the details from DOE spokeswoman Jen Stutsman:

“A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly. The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature.”

A good rule of thumb, though, is try not to make the temperature in your house swing more than 10 degrees.

More from Declare Your Curiosity
  • Joanie Walker

    We heat with wood so all we have to do is not put in wood for the night. So in a way we do – we do not use fuel at night, only when we are home (kinda hard to feed the wood furnace if you’re sleeping or not home

  • DStein

    My wife has this argument with me every winter. She thinks the “advice” of turning down your heat at night to save is a fallacy perpetuated by the utility companies that want to sell you more gas or oil, and the companies that make programmable thermostats, so they can sell more of those, too. I still turn the heat down from 67 to 60 with a programmable.

  • kate

    I’m just glad to know that I am saving by having my heat lower this season. I try not to set my thermostat above 65. We put on a few layers of clothing but it saves on oil and thats what it is all about.

  • DStein

    I’ve got the BEST solution, move somewhere where the temperature hovers between 75-85 all year long. I think that place is called Hawaii.

  • kate

    Hawaii sounds good to me!!!! or 6 months in florida and then 6mo here.

  • Harold Garey

    Thanks to you all @ WBZTV/Curious. Harold Garey.

  • linda

    Years ago we would sometimes turn down the heat at night until we learned out lesson: When you have it fairly warm in the house, then turn the heat down, the pipes can freeze!

  • Ian Rex, The Energy Hound

    So, research finds that homeowners save between 1% to 3% on their energy bill for EVERY degree their thermostat is lowered within a range of about 60-70 degrees (leakier homes will save more towards the 3% figure). Imagine how much $ you can save by lowering your temperatrure 6-10 degrees while you are away from home for over three hours…and being dedicated to it!

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