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Tackling the Thermostat – The Lifestyle Project, Part 1
By Kathryn Stofer   View more articles by this author
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July 09

One of the biggest expenses of energy and money in a residence (or any building) is climate control - heating and cooling, sometimes consuming over half the building's energy. Yet one big mistake people make in trying to cut back is doing too much, too soon. Dropping or raising the temperature five or ten degrees all at once can be a big shock to human, animal and computer systems. Suddenly your feet are freezing and you don't have proper slippers, or your robe doesn't keep you warm enough after a shower, or the kids or roommates or spouse have other concerns. So instead of working to alter those routines to suit the new energy savings, the change is quickly abandoned as uncomfortable or untenable.


What if you started with a plan to gradually change the temperature, to make sure you get household or office buy-in. Be sure, first of all, that everyone knows the change is happening and that they need to make their concerns known so solutions can be found. In summer, that might mean a lower-energy dehumidifier, but in turn, you might not need as much use of a humidifier in winter. The Lifestyle Project had undergraduates lower (in winter) or raise (in summer) their thermostats by two degrees each week for three weeks to have time to adjust.


If that six degree adjustment works over three weeks, see how far you can go – can you go another two or even four degrees? If it didn't work, try adding an additional week to the adjustment period or changing the temperature by only one degree each time. Of course, this is for your daily awake and at home time; while you're away or asleep, you can have save even more money by using heating and cooling even less. A programmable thermostat makes this easy, but even a note by the door and by the bed could prompt you to make adjusting for the time you're gone more routine. These periods might need their own adjustment periods – you might want an extra blanket on winter nights or lighter pajamas and a fan in the summer. 


The most important reminder is that this process will take a little getting used to. As each season changes, you might find yourself optimizing your temperature savings differently, and even starting the adjustment process again if you've made any improvements to your home or the residents or their habits and schedules have changed. Remember to forgive yourself if you forget to change the thermostat when you leave for the day. Treating the process like a habitual change rather than an abrupt one will make it integrate into your lifestyle that much more readily and soon it will become a part of your routine, complete with necessary revisions every once in a while.

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Comment by loria17
13 Mar 2016 07:59 PM
Totally agree, and love the smart thermostats that are out there to help make this an easier exercise for most folks! Of course, going green energy also helps and is even easier to do to help the environment. Way more effective than recycling...
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