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Question of the Week: Why do you keep your home as cool (or not) as you do?

2008 June 9

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

It’s getting hot! Air conditioning makes our homes much more comfortable during hot weather, but a million air conditioners running at once have environmental impacts. A programmable thermostat helps reduce the impacts by cooling only when you need it.

Why do you keep your home as cool (or not) as you do?

Follow-up: Summary of the comments submitted for this blog entry.

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

¡Se están calentando los días! El aire acondicionado hace los hogares más confortable durante el temporada de calor, pero el tener un millón de unidades de aire acondicionado funcionando a la vez tiene impactos ambientales. Un termostato programable ayuda a reducir los impactos al refrescar la temperatura sólo cuando realmente lo necesita.

¿Por qué enfría su casa (o no la enfría) de la manera que lo hace?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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114 Responses leave one →
  1. June 9, 2008

    We just turned our AC on a few days ago. Here in the Baltimore area we have had a cooler than usual spring time but have now been hit with a hotter than usual week for this time of year. It’s especially difficult as we have not had time to acclimatize, though honestly heat is something I never get used to. We tried keeping our AC on 78 all weekend mostly to remove the humidity. It really is still too warm for me unless I am just sitting and not doing anything. Last night I lay in bed soaked in sweat so I suspect we may move the thermostat down a bit to probably 75. It’s just not healthy to try to save money by being too hot. That said I know a lot of people who keep their AC at 68-70 so we aren’t doing too bad I don’t think. In the winter we keep our heat at 68. I like it cool.

  2. Bill S. permalink
    June 9, 2008

    During hot days, our indoor temperature rarely gets below 80. We have window ACs, but usually run them only for sleeping and during the day when the temp gets past 90. Otherwise, it’s all fans – - exhaust, ceiling, floor fans, and those personal fans that attach to the desk (I have a home office). It’s a little uncomfortable during the first hot days (especially when humidity in the NE is high), but I have found that my body adjusts. No argument that cooler is more comfortable, but given the problems with energy demand and cost and of course environmental effects, this doesn’t seem like an unreasonable course of action.

  3. Sorina permalink
    June 9, 2008

    A bit south if Baltimore (in Laurel), we’re still holding off with turning on the AC. It’s been in the high 90′s for the past few days, but since we’re mostly at work or at play (during the weekend), we don’t mind it that much. We have ceiling fans that help us sleep at night (the cool-ish/warm-ish air moving over our bodies, the soothing humming, you get the picture). We also do cross-ventilation, especially downstairs: open windows and patio door on opposite sides of the house. When we’ll give in to the heat and turn on the AC , we’ll probably set the thermostat to 78. Also, to keep the heat down in the house, we try to cook on the grill out on the patio; we limit the use of the oven (maybe once a week, at most) and cook light, cold meals mostly.
    In the winter, we set the thermostat to 68 when we’re in, and 64 at night and when we’re at work. I think one of the greatest things ever invented is the programmable thermostat.
    WE do this because we don’t mind the heat/cold too much, and I really care about the environment, so using energy for AC/heat seems like such a luxury. I think it should be seen as one.

  4. Lina Younes-EPA permalink*
    June 9, 2008

    En español: ¡Los termostatos programables han sido una bendición! !Y el nuevo sistema de aire acondicionado EnergyStar ni se diga!
    Compramos los nuevos termostatos y sistema hace un par de semanas y sentimos la diferencia enseguida–Hemos podido mantener la temperatura estable a 77 grados Farenheit gran parte del día a pesar de la temperatura exterior de 99 grados y es increible lo bien que se siente en la casa. No tenía idea de la mucha energía (y dinero) que estábamos desperdiciando con el sistema anterior que tenía casi 15 años. ¡Recomiendo que hagan el cambio!

    English version: Our new programmable thermostants have been a blessing and the new EnergyStar cooling system goes without saying. It’s only been a couple of weeks since we’ve had the new system and we’ve noticed the difference immediately. We maintain the house mostly at 77 degrees Farenheit even when the outdoor temperature has reached 99. It’s increadible how comfortable the house feels. I had no idea how much energy (and money) we were wasting with the previous system that was almost 15 years old. I recommend that you make the change!

  5. Diane permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We do not heat or cool our home. We live in Hawaii and the windows are generally open all summer. During the winter we may close the windows at night as the air temp can get down to the low 60s. Being from New England (43 years there) I know that the low 60s doesn’t sound like a cold spell but New Englanders do try to keep their thermostats set to at least 68 in the winter which is about 4 degrees warmer than a chilly overnight in Kailua Kona in the winter.

  6. Kris permalink
    June 9, 2008

    The reason I run my AC? I live in NW Florida aka the swamp. Enough said. I do however try to keep thermostat at 75 or above.

  7. Steve C permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We work to have the house comfortable but not cold, and keep the thermostat set at 80 degrees. This keeps the house cool and combats the humidity in our area when the heat gets into the 90′s.

  8. Tanya S. permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We use a programable thermostat and make similar adjustments that others have noted re: eating old meals, etc. during time of very high heat in order to reduce A/C use/energy demands. We’ve even slept in family room/basement level in lieu of trying to cool down the top/3rd floor master bedroom in our townhouse. (Those are exceedingly difficult to heat/cool evenly with sometimes more than 10-15 degree differences between the 3 floors.)

  9. Robert Thompson permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I keep my home at 72 Degrees year round. It is the temp at which I sleep well and function best. I live in a very wet area also and unless I use the AC, mold growth has a tendency to appear. That is why my house stays this cool.

  10. Lynn permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I keep my house warm in the summer (78 day/74 overnight) and cold in the winter (63 day/heat off overnight), simply because energy is too expensive.

  11. Linda permalink
    June 9, 2008

    My house is kept at 80 deg.F when I am away, and lowered to 78 if it feels uncomfortable once I am home. At night, the thermostat is set at 85 because I use a ceiling fan if it is too hot.

  12. Annette permalink
    June 9, 2008

    Here in Lake Geneva, Wis. it gets hot and humid and I spend a great deal of time at home and I just can’t handle the heat. I cut corners in other areas, like not driving when possible. We don’t have any trees to shade our townhouse so the house just bakes in the sun all day–I would prefer to have the windows open but I am so miserable when it gets hot out, I just have to have the air on.

    Today the temperature is not high but it’s humid enough that if you balled up a piece of paper it wouldn’t even crackle! So we have the air set on 75 and it’s comfortable. I lived through that terrible heat wave in 1995 when it was in the 100s for a week and we did not have air and I swore I would never go through that again.

  13. Kaye F permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We use a programmable thermostat year round. Ironically when I lived in Phoenix was the first time I di, and that was only because the cost of electricity was half the price at night as it was in daytime. So I began using a programmable to save money.
    pretty soon, I realized that even with dual rates, I could save money. Summer settings – AC in day is 81. No one is home, but I learned if you set it any higher, then the cooling process defeats the savings. Also settings higher than 81 seem to make the Refrigerator run more, and that wasets energy as well. At 5PM as I head out from work, the AC kicks to take temperature down to 78, and at 7PM it goes to 74. then at bedtime, after the sun is long down it drops to 72. At 6AM it kicks back to 81. It takes almost all day to heat the interior back to 81 if no one is home, so rarely is the house hotter than 81 even if Im not at work.
    Winter, we reverse the cycle, with 65 being the day setting, 68 the evening settings and 62 (blankets work fine) being the sleep setting.
    I also have the bathroom exhaust fans on inexpensive rotary timers – these run the after shower exhaust for thirty to sixty minutes depending on temp and humidity – so that while I am getting dressed after the shower, that humidity is removed from the house, and I never forget to shut off the fan.
    Same with the ceiling fans – we have wall timers on those. They turn on around 1PM to start circulating the cooler air, and then they turn off around 6PM, to save energy. These are equipped with bypasses so that if we need to turn one on in the room we are in, we can.

    Basically, What I am saying is you can save a lot of money while saving energy, and the investment in controls is paid off very quickly!

  14. June 9, 2008

    I generally keep the AC off as long as possible for several reasons. One, having grown up with no AC, I honestly don’t mind the heat and humidity too much. Secondly, by taking advantage of the coolness of night, the house doesn’t usually get melting hot during the day, and I’m not ususally there anyway. Thirdly, I like not experiencing the sticker shock when the summer electric bill comes in. Finally, it just feels like I’m doing my part when one considers how most of the world copes with high temperatures – even in developed countries.

  15. Dean permalink
    June 9, 2008

    Don’t have an A/C

  16. Rose permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I try to keep it at 78 unless it is really humid then I will lower it for a bit and then raise the setting. Then again, my husband would like to keep it at 74 so it is an up and down battle since he is at home during the daytime. Also because it was such a drastic change with no room for adjusting, the heat has really inspired me to notch it up a bit.

  17. Jon permalink
    June 9, 2008

    Since this is a free country, I make the choice based on comfort for my family versus the price I can afford to pay. A programmable thermostat is very helpful. I do not want any government burocrats telling me what to do. The constitution correctly limits the powers of the government.

  18. June 9, 2008

    I live in Texas where we run our AC for 9 months out of the year. We keep our home at 82 during the day and 78 at night. I have little kids at home and they dont know any better…

  19. Jami permalink
    June 9, 2008

    In DC, I’m attempting an A/C free summer. We keep our house closed up during the days, open it up in the evenings (if the temp drops below the indoor temp – which it didn’t last night!), keep the lights off during the day, and run our ceiling fans when we’re home.

    It’s working well so far, the inside temperature has not hit 80 degrees yet and it’s been in the 90s outside for the last few days.

    We’re enjoying the challenge, feeling less wasteful, and happy about our <$25/month power bill!

    Also…. if it gets too hot in the upstairs bedrooms, we’re not above getting a futon for the basement… it’s an icebox down there!

  20. Chris permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We don’t own an air conditioner. We are lucky though, in that the city we live in rarely gets into the 90s.

    When I lived in the midwest, I had an small air conditioner that was big enough to cool my bedroom; I only used it on on evenings where it was both hot and humid, because I found it necessary to get a proper night’s sleep, and used a mat to block the gap on the bottom of the bedroom door.

    The reason for my generally low use is to minimize my environmental footprint.

  21. Pat Flanagan permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We have a programmable thermostat that stays at 78 during the day when we are not there and only changes at 10:00 pm to 74 for sleeping. The reason of course is to conserve energy and save on the cost of the energy bill each month.

  22. Diana Hammer permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We don’t use air conditioning.
    Instead, we work with nature to regulate our household temperature. We use use outdoor solar shades, close window blinds during the day to keep the heat out, and open our windows at night to bring cool air inside.

  23. Dorothy Plummer permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I use fans and in a well insulated, protected by shade trees I stay 10 degrees cooler than outside.

  24. Stephanie permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I live in Arkansas and the temps are already near 100F. So, I have been keeping the A/C temp at 74 during the day and 72 at night. A little warmer than what we used to keep it at due to the rising gas and energy prices. Trying to keep cost down.

  25. June 9, 2008

    Our thermostadt usually sits on 80 when we’re home and 85+ when we’re not. As a general rule we don’t start up the AC until July. This year was an acception.

  26. Lee permalink
    June 9, 2008

    My thermostat is at a constant 78 in the OK summer. Sometimes it gets bumped down to 76 for a couple hours at active time periods or serious house cleaning. I used to adjust the temp up and down with a programmable thermostat, but I’m not convinced it saved me anything. I have read some conflicting studies as to the real savings. I am currently looking for good scientific information on the best settings for different climates as well as house types

  27. Cindi permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We installed a window swamp cooler which costs MUCH LESS (65%) than running the AC. It is so cool and comfortable. We have ceiling fans in every room. We have two big trees covering the house with shade in the summer. We use shades on the west side windows. We do much more to conserve and have been doing so since I was a little girl. I had the most fortunate opportunity to talk to some men from Holland doing work in the USA and they told me of wonderful things I could be doing to improve my imprint on this earth that I have incorporated the ideas into my everyday life. I am American Indian and protection of this environment for multiple use sustained yield if most important to us. Multiple Use Sustained Yield – we have to live and can do so in moderation.

  28. Michele B permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I am using a programable thermostat to reduce my energy usuage, also installed solar screens on the outside of my windows and regularly use ceiling fans to move the air in my house. all of these things have helped.

  29. Sharon Triplett permalink
    June 9, 2008

    The last of May I finally turned on my A/C. I set the thermostat to 78/79 degrees when I leave at 7:15 am. When I come home at 5 pm I set it to 75 degrees. It is very hot here in Louisiana, averaging 92 – 95 degrees daily. This is working for me now. I am at work all day and my house is bearable when I get home. I am trying very hard to cut back on energy. I am in the process of getting storm windows. This should help also.

  30. Terri permalink
    June 9, 2008

    II live in Kansas and when it gets in the 90′s the AC come on and stays I do have a Programmable thermostat which helps regulate when to have it cool and when to have it warmer I love my programmable thermostat it has helped the last two years with lowering my electricity. We keep the temp around 72-75 during the summer and 68 – 70 in the winter. We do not have any down time there is always some one at home. We do keep it cooler at night than during the day. Keeping it cooler at night helps keep the house cooler longer during the day before it starts to heat up. The rooms we do not use often we block off the vents and we do not cool those rooms. It does help to cook out doors in the summer and not in the house you can put a full meal in tinfoil and put it in the coals out doors and cook so you do not have the taste of the barbecue every time you cook.

  31. June 9, 2008

    We live just outside of Philadelphia and we finally turned on the AC on Saturday night. When we’re out of the house or downstairs, where it’s naturally cooler, we keep the temp at 78. When we go to sleep upstairs, where it’s a bit warmer, we set the temp to 75. As soon as this heat wave passes, I will try to turn it off again and switch to open windows and fans for as long as I can stand it. I prefer the natural feel of open windows, but sometimes I need the AC…I just try to be sensible about setting the temp.

  32. Jennifer permalink
    June 9, 2008

    Here in NE Kansas it is hot and humid so the air conditioner has been on…. I have it programed to be 78 during the day and 75 on weekends and nights. If it is still too warm then it gets turned down to 72 only when we are there.

  33. Dave H. permalink
    June 9, 2008

    My wife has multiple sclerosis, which is quickly and drastically affected by high temperatures. If she’s stuck in the heat for any considerable period of time, she can’t walk and is in constant pain. We have added energy-saving doors and windows to our home in the last two years, but here in southeast Virginia, when the temperature gets into the 90s or above, the AC comes on.

  34. OkieK permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I had my thermostat set on 82 but had to lower it to 77 because my pet Huskie was getting too hot. She lays on the kitchen floor so that the air conditioning vent blows cold air on her but she was panting due to the heat so I had to make the house cooler for her.

  35. Farnarkelling Abit permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I run the thermostat at home about 4 degrees below ambient. Right now its at 74.

    This just knocks the humidity out of the air, and keeps the power bill down. It also means that when we walk outside the temperature isn’t so big a shock.

    At some point I will be making my own thermostat that takes care of this automatically. I have a weather station that records inside and outside humidity & temp – this will allow control of ventilation and AC.

  36. Sharon Triplett permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I run ceiling fans thruough out my house. The circulating air cools just fine.

  37. Tammy permalink
    June 9, 2008

    in my opinion it is not as much the individual homeowner, as it is the office buildings, grocery stores, and every other commercial establishment. It is hard for our bodies to adapt to the heat when it is so cold inside commercial buildings. If every commercial building turned the thermostat down by a few degrees, think of all the energy that would be saved. Their cooling costs go down and the environment benefits – it is a win win situation for everyone. I have to wear a sweater in the office all summer and bring a light jacket to the grocery store, mall, restaurant, and especially the movie theater.

  38. Tina permalink
    June 9, 2008

    If you have ever had “Hot Flashes” you would know why.

  39. Debbie permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We keep the house at 78 when the outside temp is greater than 80. We keep it at 67 when the outside temp is lower than 67. In between, the house temp varies with conditions. We think this is energy efficient but I am not sure. We run ceiling fans a lot. How to know what is better? 3 or 4 ceiling fans running all night and part of the day, or AC or heating w natural gas? We have replaced insulation, siding, and nearly all the windows with high efficiency products in recent years but our bills are still higher than I would expect.

  40. M. Lorenz permalink
    June 9, 2008

    As mentioned in previous responses, we too keep our thermostat at 78 degrees, although with our heat wave here on the East Coast (we’re in Connecticut), I admit we moved the temperature down to 76 degrees this past weekend.

    We use the AC so that we can sleep better at night and have more energy during the day (weekends). Also, we do so much work/play outside, when it’s this hot out it’s a great way to cool down quickly.

  41. Ken Booth permalink
    June 9, 2008

    There should only be one answer to that question! Comfort!
    Everyone has their own comfort level and the thermostat is set to adhere.
    If you use a thermostat that cuts the heat/air at certain times, the unit will have to work extra hard to get the climate back to normal, so I don’t know how much you would be saving!

  42. GWU MPH Grad permalink
    June 9, 2008

    Keeping the house cool at night makes for a better nights sleep so that I may avoid cranky unproductive workdays.

  43. Becky permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We keep ours at 74 degrees constant and use ceiling fans to move the air around. We also keep the blinds closed on the sunny side of the house which helps a lot. I’ve tried moving the thermostat to 76 but unless you are just sitting still, 76 is not comfortable.

  44. j Robbins permalink
    June 9, 2008

    Chicago area….I set mine about 70-72 when it is on. I do not leave it on when I am not at home (I live alone). I pick this temperature because I do not sleep well if it is warm. On the other side I put the temperature quite low during the winters, because I do not sleep well if it is warm.

  45. Sarah H. permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I live in Colorado Springs. The weather occasionally gets too hot or too cold. I keep my thermostat max at 68 degrees during the day and 60 at night. I do not have air conditioning. Most new houses here have air conditioning standard, but it’s really not necessary if you have window fans. We are lucky in that it cools off significantly in the evening. And if it gets too hot, we head to the mountains. If it gets too cold, we put on sweaters and snuggle with our dogs. I think most Coloradoians can tolerate the weather, it’s the elderly and small children that are most affected.

  46. Iowa Mom permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I am fortunate that my house sits up on top of a hill and I only need to run the A/C a few days during the summer. Open all windows and cross ventilate my house. Love every minute of it. Since we bought this house last year, we installed a programable thermostat, and signed for budget billing with Alliant Energy. The average monthly bill has dropped from $196 a month to $ 154 a month, including electricity and heating with natural gas. It is a 12 year old house, and we did a few “green” improvements (bought Energy Star fridge, changed to fluorescent light bulbs, sealed any cracks, insulated windows to the North side, changed filters frequently and changed programable thermostat). If it wouldn’t have happened to me, I might had had a hard time believing it !

  47. Barbara Laakso permalink
    June 9, 2008

    Because I want to. All these _umb_ss blogs remind me of the senior Bush’s “thousand points of light” — a diversionary excuse for failure to fund rationale social welfare programs. Now we are looking for a thousand diversionary excuses for lack of a rationale energy policy and continued corporate socialism benefiting the oil, gas and energy industries. I was born in 1940. I lived my first 6 years in a house without hot water and went to a school withiout indoor plumbing or heating. Thereafter I lived in a house with hot water but without central heating. I had no idea what air conditioning was. At the age of 40, I moved into a house that I heated with wood harvested from my own lot, where I lived until 2004. In 2004, at the age of 64, I bought a condo near work so that I could get out of my car, which was aggravating my back problems and arthritis, and ride my bicycle to work. The condo came with central heating and air conditioning. Am I using them to the max — you bet your sweet bippy! When I see the shareholders of Exelon, Exxon-Mobil, National Grid, and the like start having to make some sacrifices, I may consider adjusting the thermostat. Take your thousand points of light and shine them on our corrupt energy policies.

  48. Fred Whitehouse permalink
    June 9, 2008

    I keep my home cooled and heated as is comfortable. Electric and natural gas prices have not changed at my home for some time, so no need concerve there. It is gasoline costs I mind. But, to be honest, I am changing nothing there either. Just griping more…

  49. Patti permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We live in SE Tennessee. We can’t open windows, my son is allergic to everything outside, but to try to conserve, I keep the thermostat at 72 or 73 during the day. On really hot days, above 94, I bring it down to 70 for the evening and while I’m cooking, but at bedtime, I bump it back up.

  50. Paul W. Martin permalink
    June 9, 2008

    We have mild springs (and falls) in SE Washington State so the AC is not on for almost 6 to 8 weeks of mid spring. We do have ceiling fans, and a whole house exhaust fan that is great to use when temperatures are below 82 degrees. We also have a programmable thermostat and a high efficiency heat pump. I would like to keep the thermostat at 79 degrees during the hours we occupy the house but my wife insists that she can only survive at 77 degrees. However, it seems like the heat pump can never achieve that temperature throughout the house, especially during the summer when temperatures can be as high as 110. Then we have some rooms that are freezing (<72) and others that are almost 77, but not quite. I occassionally do discrete changes to the thermostat until she decides she’s too hot again.

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