Turning Down Heat May Save Much More Than Expected

By turning down the heat, people can save nearly twice as much as the U.S. government estimated.

THE GIST

A company called EnergyHub analyzed Michigan winter thermostat data and found consumers could potentially be saving more than 5 percent (about $10) for each degree they turn the thermostat down.

EPA recommends 70 degrees when people are home and active and 62 degrees when away or sleeping.

As spring blooms, researchers are looking back at the past winter to see how much people paid, and could have saved, on their heating bills.

Analyzing data from thousands of its programmable smart thermostats, a company called EnergyHub estimates that, by turning down the heat, people can save nearly twice as much as the U.S. government had estimated.

With summer looming,  EnergyHub is starting to calculate how much you could save on air conditioning and predicting similar results.

The U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency have both looked at the potential of smart thermostats — which can be set to raise or lower the temperature based on if you will be home, awake or sleeping under the covers — to reduce energy use, and thus energy bills. They have found that for every eight hours  you lower the temperature of your house in the winter and raise it in the summer,  you'll shave about 1 percent per degree off your electricity bill. The longer the change lasts, the more you save, up to 3 percent per degree for a 24-hour shift in your home's average temperature.

Those predictions are based largely on theoretical models, however. Today (May 15), EnergyHub released analysis of data collected from thousands of its Mercury smart thermostats across the state of Michigan, where winter weather can be quite severe.

The company found that on an average winter day, consumers could potentially be saving more than 5 percent (about $10) for each degree they turn the thermostat down. That's if they follow the EPA-recommended energy-saving levels — 70 degrees for the eight morning and evening hours that most people are home and 62 degrees for the 16 hours they are away or sleeping.

Granted, the analysis was based only on Michigan data and did not take into consideration factors such as furnace type or age or size of the homes. But the news is nonetheless encouraging.

EnergyHub's thermostats are largely sold through utilities or digital service providers (cable, Internet, etc.), but the Filtrete smart thermostat is available for about $100 at Home Depot. And plenty of other companies offer similarly priced smart thermostats. Or you could simply remember to turn your regular old thermostat down in winter and up in summer when you're out of the house.

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