Skip to content

78 Degrees?

2011 August 8

By Larry Teller

What temperature do you set on your house thermostat during these sultry summer days? (To clarify, I’m asking about the times of the day and week when you’re home but don’t have guests.)

I believe in 78 degree, and here’s why:

  • It feels fine to me, especially when coming into the house on a hot, muggy day (Contrast is often what counts in life),
  • The other day, when the air conditioner maintenance guy was leaving, and resetting the thermostat, he asked, simply, “78 degree?” He has no incentive to make me sweat, right?
  • My own agency offers energy-saving/pollution reduction tips for the cooling season, including
  1. Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
  2. Use ceiling fans instead of, or when needed, to supplement air conditioning,
  3. Close shade and blinds when you can,
  4. Check and replace air conditioner filters,
  5. Plug duct leaks, and (here comes my favorite),
  6. Set your thermostat higher when no one is home, and program it around your schedule

Unfortunately, I’m often the only one in the house who agrees that 78 degree is about right. (Could it be because I pay the bills each month, and $400+ gas and electric bills in the summer make me cry?) You can imagine how righteous-but-weird I feel when I’m moved to sneak a hand around a living room wall corner, or do a tip-toe walk down the stairs at night, to raise the thermostat a degree or two. Logic and charm haven’t (yet?)helped in my house and, so, stealth is often the only approach available.

How do you handle this in your house? Advice is welcome.

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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 post.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

13 Responses leave one →
  1. Paul Studebaker permalink
    August 8, 2011

    78 F feels right to us but you have to watch the humidity — we want 50% max, 40% is better. Get moisture out of the house and keep it out — use exhaust fans in kitchen and baths, do not open windows if the dew point is over 60 F outside regardless of outside temp. It takes more energy to remove humidity (latent heat) than to cool the air a few degrees. To get humidity down if it’s stubborn, set 77 F overnight, then back to 78 in the morning.

  2. Mark permalink
    August 8, 2011

    Great Post! I love the work that you guys do.

  3. Amber permalink
    August 9, 2011

    My family and I live in Texas, and as I’m sure you may know we are being slammed with non stop 105+ degree days with a side order of severe drought. We welcome humidity at this point. In fact we have our humidifier running 24/7. We all get sinus infections and headaches from the dry conditions here. We take it a step further. Our AC is set to 80 during the heat of the day and 78 at night so our AC doesn’t have to work so hard to keep our house comfortable and to keep our power consumption and cost down. Plus in my area the city has warned of citywide rolling blackouts because everyone has their AC cranked up and that everyone must reduce power consumption to prevent overloading the powergrid. 80 is much better than 105:)

  4. Lina-EPA permalink*
    August 9, 2011

    Loved your post. It’s true. 78 feels fine—especially when you get slammed with the high electric bills!

  5. Ronald permalink
    August 9, 2011

    I will try it. I feel sure I can do 78 when I am up and about, but sleeping might be another matter. Might have to calibrate between what the thermostat and the thermometors read.

  6. Larry Teller permalink
    August 9, 2011

    Ronald, Yes, give it a try, I hope with some agreement and support from your family. Paying the utility bills, at least for most of us who aren’t rich, makes a higher thermostat setting seem more reasonable. I forgot to mention in my original piece that we have ceiling fans in most rooms, and that makes a noticeable difference. Good luck.

  7. Larry Teller permalink
    August 9, 2011

    Hello, Amber, Thanks for sharing your experience. The nightly news tells the country what people in Texas and many southern states are suffering these past many weeks. It’s hard to picture how extreme weather for so long makes a person feel about facing the morning or, hours later, trying to get a good night’s sleep. Do you think this severe summer and several in recent years makes it easier for people to accept, as real, global climate change? As an northeasterner, I’m curious about how Texans’ beliefs may be affected by the past years’ weather.

  8. Larry Teller permalink
    August 9, 2011

    Lina, how do we get people who don’t pay the utility bills (e.g., kids, who should know better) to keep the thermostat where it belongs? Is there a summer equivalent to putting on a sweater during the winter?

  9. Martin permalink
    August 9, 2011

    I keep mine at 81 degrees. Consider that I live in the Phoenix area with average temperatures of 105 degrees this time of year, and low Relative Humidity – always. As long as you don’t physically exert yourself, it’s a comfortable. I do keep the ceiling fans on, especially for sleeping.

  10. Anonymous permalink
    August 9, 2011

    I wish that it did. Here in the South there are still a lot of non-believers in climate change despite the supporting evidence. Alot of the deep South is still stuck in old ways and old beliefs. I personally think it’s funny (in a non-comical way) that people trust in science to treat illnesses, fly planes, and make smart phones work, but when it comes to climate change people are still very skeptical. I have a bachelors degree in environmental science and am working on my masters in environmental management so I have studied this subject in depth. People have to look closely at where they are getting information! Politicians, the news, the family know it all, scientists, researchers, etc….. What are the agendas behind the information? I believe that it is important to research an issue by creditable, non-biased sources before discrediting a concept or idea.

  11. Larry Teller permalink
    August 9, 2011

    Martin, As a Phoenix person, perhaps you can answer a question I’ve wondered about for years: When someone out your way says “It’s 112 degrees, but you don’t feel it,” is he being honest? Thanks. Larry

  12. Lina-EPA permalink*
    August 10, 2011

    That’s an interesting question. How about using a fan?
    Personally, I’ve actually been using hand-fans quite a lot lately.

  13. Lina-EPA permalink*
    August 10, 2011

    I’ve been to Phoenix and the low humidity issue really doesn’t work for me. You feel it. Now on the 81 degrees versus 105, I think that it goes to show that everything is relative. These last couple of days when we’ve been in the triple digits, the house thermostat actually read 80 and it felt “quite cool” at the beginning.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS