“When no one is home, definitely lower the temperature—58 degrees is a good target,” says Dave Moody, who has more than 25 years experience in HVAC and is vice president of marketing at Service Experts Heating and Air Conditioning. “Don’t let anyone tell you that your furnace has to work harder to bring the temperature up from a cooler temperature. That’s a myth. No matter how cool the house has gotten, it will warm up at the same rate.” According to Moody, this rule applies to all types of furnaces, and holds true even when the temperature outside is very cold. You should turn down the heat before you go to bed, too. Besides saving energy, you’ll also be more comfortable when you’re sleeping (Find out the best temperature for sleeping.)
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The easiest, most efficient way to manage the temperature in your house is to use a programmable thermostat, which allows you to set different temperatures for different times and different days. For example, on weekdays you may want your temperature to drop to 58 degrees when you leave for work, and then go back up to 68 an hour before you get home so that your house is all nice and cozy when you walk in the door. If your thermostat is older, you may want to consider upgrading to a fancy, new wi-fi enabled model. These allow you to set the temperature remotely from your smartphone if your schedule ever changes.
And if you want to get really fancy, there are also “smart” or “learning” thermostats, like Nest, which can actually learn your habits after several days of use and will automatically set the temperature according to your work schedule and bedtime. Smart thermostats even know when you leave the house, so if you go out for brunch on Sunday for two hours when you’d normally be at home, it will lower the temperature accordingly. Moody says they’ll also give you tailored suggestions on how to save even more energy.
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Managing the temperature in your home isn’t the only way to slash your energy usage, however. Moody strongly recommends an annual furnace tune-up to make sure everything is running smoothly. “If your furnace isn’t working correctly, or if the equipment is outdated, then you won’t get the maximum energy savings no matter how mindfully you use your thermostat,” he says. He adds that a yearly service can also help detect deadly carbon monoxide gas, which could be released by a malfunctioning furnace.