Updated on 06.08.12

Adjust Your Home’s Temperature Seasonally (160/365)

Trent Hamm

The bigger the difference between the external temperature and the internal temperature of your home, the more work your air conditioning or furnace is going to have to do. It doesn’t matter how much insulation or how well air sealed your home is, it’s going to happen. Given enough time, your home is going to adopt the temperature of the outdoors, and the further away the temperatures are, the faster the change is going to be (at first).

Here in Iowa where I live, temperatures can range from as high as 105 F in the peak of summer to as low as -15 F in the harshest part of winter. The reality of losing heat in the winter and gaining heat in the summer is a pretty serious reality for us.

Of course, the temperature doesn’t stay there all the time. For example, the average high temperature in Des Moines in June is 82 F, and the average low temperature in January is 14 F, with peaks and valleys all around those temperatures.

Now, if we keep our house at 70 F all year round, we’re going to be trying to lower the temperature 12 F in the peak of summer and heat our home 56 F during the peak of winter.

That means our air conditioning is going to run sometimes during the summer and our furnace is going to run quite a bit in the winter, which is fine.

Adjust Your Home's Temperature Seasonally (160/365)

However, let’s say we adopt a more sensible temperature policy. We keep our home temperature at 78 F during the summer and 62 F during the winter.

Now, we’re simply trying to lower the temperature 4 F on an average day in the summer, and we’re only raising our home temperature 48 F in the winter.

Because we adjust our home temperature seasonally, our air conditioner doesn’t run much at all on an average summer day. It also runs significantly less during the winter because the difference between the outdoor temperature and indoor temperature is sginificantly lower.

Of course, the reason to run air conditioning units and furnaces is for personal comfort. That’s why we have them, after all.

Thus, in order to find the right temperature for each season, we had to experiment. We would try a certain home temperature for a day or two, then try lowering it or raising it by a degree. Eventually, we found a summer temperature and a winter temperature that provides us with comfort all year around.

The best part? During the significant part of the year where the temperatures largely hover between 62 F and 78 F, we don’t run anything at all. We just open the windows. That’s cheap climate control.

Try experimenting with “summer” and “winter” temperatures for your own home and turn off the furnace and air conditioning when the temperature is between those two numbers. Your energy bill will thank you.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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  1. Riki says:

    This is nonsense.


  2. Riki says:

    Why would you open the windows in the winter? (Coupon)

  3. Riki says:

    Unless it’s for fresh air. Coupon.

  4. Riki says:

    But that’s an entirely different issue. Coupon.

  5. Riki says:

    My god, it really does take the word “coupon” to get a comment through.

  6. lurker carl says:

    We’re try to lower the humidity for much of the year.

  7. lurker carl says:

    That’s where a dehumidifier along with A/C gets the job done.

  8. lurker carl says:

    A home with 30 per cent relative humidity at 80 degrees is much more comfortable than one with 90 percent RH at 70 degrees.

  9. lurker carl says:

    The same is relevant in the winter, a home with higher humidity will be more comfortable at a lower temperature than the opposite.

  10. Johanna says:

    Riki, where does he say to open the windows in winter?

  11. Donald says:

    Trent became a millionaire writing drivel like this. Not fair. Coupon.

  12. Johanna says:

    Donald, if it’s any consolation, Cut Media could still end up taking a bath on it. Coupon.

  13. Peggy says:

    This doesn’t work if you have asthma or hot flashes.

  14. Tracy says:

    This has got to be the worst series in the history of the internet. I can’t believe we still have 150 more of these gems to go. Coupon.

  15. Andrew says:

    205 to go, Tracy…coupon

  16. Karen says:

    coupon…picture was extremely dull….coupon

  17. Evita says:

    Coupon. Freezing in the winter when you can afford heat is just miserly. Coupon.

  18. Johanna says:

    @Evita: Good thing Trent’s not recommending that, then.

  19. Evita says:

    Johanna: coming from work/school/subway/car where the temp is kept at 70 to home at where it is kept at 56 is not confortable for most people. But what do I know…. Coupon.

  20. Johanna says:

    @Evita: Again, Trent does not say to do that. I’m all in favor of criticizing Trent when it’s called for, but there’s enough to criticize without making stuff up.

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