April 2009
Ask the Energy Expert

Q: At what temperature should I set my programmable thermostat in winter, spring, fall and summer?
- Stephanie Jones

A: For each degree Fahrenheit you adjust your thermostat, you could save up to three percent on your energy bills. Setting your thermostat to save money doesn't have to be uncomfortable-just conservative. And with a programmable thermostat, it doesn't have to be difficult, either.

Programmable thermostats come with the ability to program temperature settings based on your schedule for maximum energy savings. These settings are based on time and are usually divided into four time periods: mornings (when you wake up and are getting ready), daytime (when you are away at work), evenings (after work, but before bed) and night (while you are sleeping).

Here are some guidelines for setting your programmable thermostat:


  • Mornings and evenings: 78 degrees in the summer; 68 degrees in the winter. Try going just a few degrees higher in summer or lower in winter for even more savings. If you do so gradually, you will probably become accustomed to it in little time.
  • Daytime: 85 degrees in the summer, 55 degrees in the winter.
  • Nighttime: As high as is comfortable in the summer; as low as is comfortable in the winter. Most people sleep best in cooler temperatures.


  • Look at your weekend schedule to determine how you should set your thermostat. Do you spend a lot of time outdoors or away from home on weekends? You can probably set it as if you are away. Like to spend the weekend lounging indoors? You'll probably be more comfortable if you set it more moderately, even though it will cost a little more.


  • This is when you should use the hold function on your programmable thermostat. In summer, set the thermostat to maintain a temperature of 85 - 90 degrees, or cut the unit off completely. In winter, turn the temperature as low as it will go, but keep it above freezing (most units won't go that low). This will keep your pipes from freezing. Ensuring you have adequate insulation will also keep this from happening and will help to hold a more moderate temperature in your home year-round.

  • Programmable thermostats allow you to temporarily change the temperature without changing the settings. For instance, if you have company over and the extra bodies make the house feel stuffy, you can go ahead and bump the temperature down a little-on most systems, it will override the program for about two hours. But if you make a habit out of overriding the settings, you will use more energy, thus canceling the benefit of a programmable thermostat.

    Hold features on most programmable thermostats allow you to maintain one consistent temperature for an extended period. Don't use this feature for day-to-day use, but use it for extended absences, such as vacations or long weekends away.

    If you're looking to buy a programmable thermostat, they are available in several models, so choose the one that best fits your schedule. Seven-day models allow different schedules for each day of the week. Five plus two-day models use one schedule for weekdays and another for weekends; five plus one plus one models use one schedule for weekdays, one for Saturday and another for Sunday.

    Have an energy efficiency related question? Just submit your questions to gasette@waltonemc.com or mail them to:

    Walton EMC Natural Gas
    Attn: Energy Expert
    P.O. Box 260
    Monroe, GA 30655

    Look for your question to be answered in a future issue of the Gasette or on our website.

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