Part of the LEAP family

Let the Household Thermostat Battles Begin!

by Chris Meyer, LEAP Executive Director

Twice a year, my lovely wife accuses me of either setting the thermostat too hot or too cold. My response to her is that the cool-looking, digital Nest thermostat has a mind of its own and sets the temperature… Yeah, that doesn’t get me very far, and I make an adjustment as the “owner” of this house function.

Programming the thermostat and the household battles around it allow me to get on my soapbox and wax nostalgically about “when I was a kid.” Long, long ago, I do remember that my ground floor bedroom had poor central heating. I was always wearing a stocking cap to bed, having at least flannel sheets, a comforter, AND an afghan blanket on my bed to sleep with, and occasionally waking up with the ability to see my breath. It was always cozy in my bed’s warm cocoon. However, my wife isn’t interested in recreating that experience for our children. 

I’m not trying to complain about my wife – she is a trooper for dealing with my rather aggressive thermostat settings. I consider her sensitive to energy use, with an above-average understanding of what can be done to reduce energy (among many things at which she is ‘above-average’). As part of her advocacy, using the, “my husband is crazy, look what I have to live with” strategy, she posted a photo of our Nest programmed at 80 degrees for summer sleeping, which yielded amazement from friends and family on social media. Winter sleeping will be set at 59 degrees in our house, and I’m sure that photo will be shared soon enough.

All of the thermostat setting, related nostalgia, and social media posting made me wonder what  the actual best practice for winter heating is. Turns out, best practice is a 68-degree setting when the house is occupied, and lower when unoccupied or sleeping, according to the Department of Energy. Our house has a geothermal system with a heat pump, which, as I learned from LEAP’s Technical Director, Wilson Ratliff makes it a little trickier. Heat pumps require more moderate settings in order to realize the efficiency gains, which is something I’ll now have to consider.

As fall turns into winter, I’m sure my wife will focus more and more on the thermostat setting. I’ll continue to set the thermostat aggressively, and will have my hand slapped for taking it too far. However, in the end, these minor battles do serve a larger purpose to educate our children, friends, and neighbors about the topic. I hope you might be able to use them too, and good luck in your own thermostat battle!

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