Keep That Air Conditioner at 78 Degrees or Above?! Here’s Why…

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Nest Thermostat showing 78 degrees

This new recommendation will save you money if you can take the heat! 🔥

With many of us home during the Coronavirus pandemic, you might be noticing a spike in your AC bill. While it’s not exactly new news, the federal government has come forward with some recommendations for air conditioning our homes in the summer.

Energy Star, a partnership between the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, now suggests that the coolest your air conditioner should ever be set is 78 degrees. 😱

White air conditioning wall unit

For maximum efficiency and reduction of energy costs, Energy Star recommends keeping the inside temperature of your home as close to the outside temperature as you can comfortably do so. More specifically, the agency recommends keeping your air conditioner at 78℉ when you’re home in the summertime, 82℉ when you’re asleep, and 85℉ when you’re away.

Needless to say, these suggestions felt the heat from readers who prefer to be in control of their thermostats:

“Keeping the temperature as close as possible to the outside temperature in Las Vegas?! I don’t think so!”  Gary

“When the Federal Government wants to pay my electric bill, then they can make suggestions. Until then, I’ll keep my thermostat set where I want it. Less Government, More Fun.” – Doug

“We leave ours between 69°-71° in the summer and 72°-73° in the winter. There are many things I save money on, clothing from thrift stores, using coupons, etc. so if I have to spend a little more to stay cool or warm throughout the year I’m gonna do it.” – Laura 

“I would love for whoever is making these ‘rules’ to come spend the summer in south Georgia next year. I’ll eat PB&J and ramen noodles every day – but I’m not going to be hot in my own house.” – Kristina

“Here in Florida, it’s such wet, humid air that if your AC doesn’t run enough, your home will be damp and it could create mold. I don’t think those recommendations would work for my climate.” – Kim

“I’m with y’all – I sleep at 68°-74°. I can handle a bit warmer during the day, but I don’t like to wake up sweating – my sleep is more valuable than saving a few bucks a month.” – Katrina

“I think 82° is too warm for sleeping. I would rather have it cooler at night and a little warmer in the day.” – Ana

So clearly, a lot of us are not too thrilled about these recommendations…but here’s the catch:

exterior AC unit

According to the Department of Energy, reducing the use of your AC saves you about 3% on your utility bill for each degree increase. Energy officials say that these savings could add up fast, on both a personal and a global scale. Air conditioners use about 5% of the electricity produced in the US every year, at a cost of over $29 billion.

Not to worry, if sleeping in a 82° room doesn’t sound dreamy then Energy Star has other recommendations to reduce utility costs and still stay cool.

Here are some ways to reduce the heat in your home:

1. Use a ceiling fan for better air circulation.

celing fans hanging from celing at Home Depot

A ceiling fan will allow you to raise your thermostat as much as four degrees without sacrificing comfort and speaking of fans, you should always make sure to use the bathroom fan when showering or bathing.

“We use ceiling fans in rooms where we are sleeping, watching TV, or hanging out, and we all sleep with stationary fans blowing on us. Is it worth it? For us, it absolutely is!” – Brenda

2. Install a programmable thermostat to have more control over the temp.

Hand holding a thermostat box with nest thermostat on wall in background

This helps automatically optimize the temperature for each time of day, and many smartphone-compatible options let you control your home’s temperature from anywhere.

Hip Tip: If you’re thinking about buying a smart thermostat, be sure to check with your gas or electric provider first. Many power companies offer cash back rebates whenever you buy certain models of energy-saving thermostats!

3. Add more insulation to your house.

woman sitting at window with laptop

Adding more insulation to places like your attic or sealing cracks on large windows or other areas that allow warm air to come in from the outside will help keep the warm air out when you’re trying to keep things cool.

“We put in extra insulation in our attic to retain cold air in the summer and to prevent hot air from the attic from making our living space warmer.” – Betty

4. Cook outdoors more to avoid heating up the kitchen.

hand sticking thermometer in meats on grill

Using an outdoor grill or smoker to prepare food rather than heating up the oven or stove will keep heat out of the house. If you’re in the market to buy a new grill, Lina’s husband is obsessed with this one!

Hip Tip: Don’t have a grill? Check out these easy crockpot recipes that we love as they’ll be sure to keep that hot oven off. However, if you must use the oven or stovetop, just be sure to use the kitchen range hood at all times.

5. Install insulated window coverings and keep the sun rays out.

hand holding a pair of curtains in store

To prevent the sun from heating your home, hang blackout curtains or some light-blocking shades. This will ultimately help cut down on cooling costs since your window treatments will be blocking the sun and heat from coming in.

“I also leave my blinds closed in summer and made heavy curtains out of thick fabric for my bedroom to keep the sun out better.” – Mary 

6. Invest in a high-efficiency unit for better cooling power.

White air conditioning wall unit

While it’s not the cheapest alternative, upgrading to a high-efficiency AC unit will cost less and work better at cooling down your home.

Hip Tip: Speaking of AC units, make sure you’re regularly cleaning and replacing your AC unit’s filters.

7. Take it one step further with a bed fan.

bedroom with bed and white comforter

A bed fan will be a sure way to stay cool at night if you can’t bear the heat. Here’s what one of our readers said about hers:

“I have a bed fan and as someone who has to sleep with covers on but likes to stay cool, it’s perfect. It’s a slim fan unit that sits at the foot of your bed and you tuck your flat sheet around it so it blows the air under the sheet. Even with mine turned down pretty low, I get so cold partway through the night, I often just turn it off.

It’s not cheap by any means, but it would probably pay for itself after a year by saving you electricity costs by running your AC aggressively all night.” – Nicole 

Bonus Tip: Just change your AC or heat by a couple of degrees for big savings!

Finger pushing screen on thermostat

If you’re struggling to comprehend how some people are living in such hot homes or you simply don’t live in a climate that allows for you to make these recommended changes, consider gradually raising the temperature by a degree or two to start.

Here’s what Emily on our team did with her heat over the last few months to combat the cold, rather than the heat. While it’s the opposite temperature application, it can make a similar difference in the warmer months, too:

“I’ve been trying to keep our heat down because our bill was astronomically high in March. After dropping the temperature from a consistent 68° down to 62°, we saved about $120 the next month.

We have an older heating unit and it felt significantly colder to us, but it really does make a difference in your bill! We’re going to shoot for a happy medium of 65º next month.” – Emily 

Stop buying all of these things to save your household money.

Join The Discussion

Comments 115

  1. Momma of 8

    I live in San Diego. I am on the coast so no need for AC. Summers are mid 70s to low 90s. 90s would be during heatwaves which usually only last 3-5 days. Winters we can get down to mid 40s in the middle of the night, but it is mostly in the 50s at night. Daytime temps during the winter can be anywhere in the 60s. I love where I live.

  2. CindyKP

    Thank you for such useful information! I agree with most; I also like it cooler, but it is a good thing to at least fully understand the consequences of our decisions 🙂

  3. daisy-0

    I place box fans in front of my air ducts. This circulates the cool air throughout the room better helping to keep it cooler. By doing this I’ve gone from keeping it at 70-72 to 74-75. Also blackout curtains, grilling out doors and other things mentioned here.

  4. Jackie Martin

    So in Texas if we kept inside temperature close to the same setting as outside, that would be 95 to 110 degrees. Nope to that! lol. We keep ours at 73-74 day and 68 at night.

  5. Savannah

    When I did this before..MOLD started growing in my apartment! Not good ..especially if you live in Florida.

  6. Cassie

    I live in PA. We’re aloud to shop for our electricity providers. It’s so easy to do there’s actually a website you can go to to compare prices. The catch is that all the prices are introductory prices. So they will give you a good deal from anywhere from 3mo to sometimes a year before upping the rate. I then change electric providers before that special rate is done. I’ve been doing it for years and have saved a lot of money. I’ve recommended it to others but they don’t seem to want to be hassled with having to keep changing providers and or they have been burned by people who have called them or have stopped by there home offering them good deals on there electric and they get a good deal for awhile and after a few months they get a huge bill so there to worried to have that happen again. The tip is look for companies who don’t charge any fees to do things like cancel your contract and who have set rates that are not variable. I always put a reminder in phone when I need to shop for a new provider but they usually send me a letter in the mail letting me know when my introductory rate is up so it’s nice to get that also. Believe me it is so worth it. I went from around $350 in the summer to averaging $200 or sometimes even less.

  7. eileenmccartybranham

    Central Fl here. We have 2 ACs, one upstairs, one down. 78 when not at home, 76 when We are, 75 at night. It’s perfectly comfortable but we have done all of the other things on the list(blackout curtains, fans, etc). Had a friend new to Fl who turned off her AC when she went out of town for extended period and came home to mold all over everything,

  8. Tombeamenderfer

    Why have air conditioning, if ur putting it at 78 no way it gets too hot an humid in York pa during the summer I would be dying 🤪

  9. Natalie

    I’m surprised trees weren’t mentioned in the article. Houses with large trees nearby stay much cooler without using AC as often. They can also block the wind and save on heat in the winter too.

    The most frugal way to save on heating and cooling is to buy the smallest possible house that suits your needs (surprised this wasn’t mentioned too). Having a 5000 square foot house that you cool to 78 is a lot more expensive than having a 1000 square feet house that you cool to 72. You get the benefit of less cleaning too.

    You could also relocate to a more comfortable climate. The high today is 53 where I live.

  10. Sarah

    Umm if it’s gotta be 78 why do I have an air conditioner in the first place hahaha
    It’s not even 78 in here with the air off

    We are in the midwest

  11. Michelle Murphey

    There is no chance in hell I’m keeping my house at 82 degrees in the summer. I’ll just pay the extra money!

  12. Bree

    These recommendations are crazy! Keeping a cool and comfortable home helps those with asthma, allergies, thyroid issues, women in their change of seasons or even a lady enjoying the regular monthly joys or hey a pregnancy… people get cranky, stinky and irritable if they are sweaty!! I’d much rather cut my costs elsewhere and stay sane and healthy. Apply for energy assistance if you qualify…offer a monetary gift if you think that’d help out a family member rather than something store bought…or you can do like our mother and she actually offers to help with a bill directly of your choosing for Christmas. This doesn’t sound like the most exciting gift, but struggling young families or even divorcees, maybe those pursing an education and not working as much can surely appreciate the gift of heating & cooling😁🌞

  13. BJMeadows

    The flaw in this is the more energy we save the more they allow the electric company to raise their rates to make up the difference. Appalachian Power has got 10% increases the last two years.

  14. Jo

    My daughter has health issues and when it’s warmer outside I need to keep it cooler in the house. We are on a plan that averages out our payment so we have the same bill even in the high of the summer season. It makes it nice for budgeting knowing your bill is the same and no surprises. I also have a medical discount for health condition for both our electric bill and our gas bill which helps also.

  15. nancy

    no way! we live in the desert and oh how I love my solar panels!! Best purchase we ever mde

  16. Jamie

    Imagine making yourself uncomfortable just to save 3% per degree you raise your ac.. No thanks.

  17. Roller Blinds Sydney

    Air-conditioner temperature set in summer have been discussed here . Things to be consider includes many options listed in this link .It is very useful article and would suggest others too. I am sure many people will come to read this in future.

  18. Teabag

    Comments show the usual. America at it’s finest. Consequences? Who cares! A single point difference is oft too much for a mere Millennial!

    Of course it depends on climate! Do you even know what an average is or how an average is calculated? Apparently not! Do they need to say “salt to taste”? Are you the type of people who blame the recipe for being too salty despite that?

    It’s also possible to acclimate yourself to higher temps by gradually increasing it a single degree at a time. You’d think more people would try this.

    Considering throughout history humans had to get by with as little as possible, and the long period of time where ACs didn’t exist, my god you people are whiny babies. I can’t sleep if it’s not 68! Can you imagine a world where life was a single degree higher? No?

    82’s apparently too high for a few snowflakes. It’s absurd. Millennials at their finest. What if it’s 82 outside temp, still too much?

    There’s also a difference between a hot 80 and a cool 80.
    Do we even need to address the science of heat vs cool? The point of the temperature and AC in general is to cool air. Literally in the name, people. Air CONDITIONER. A hot environment can negate the purpose of attempting to change the air’s condition based on temperature. Hot weather obviously is just that.

    The cooling we get is just an ice cube. The ice cube may last a while, but it’s never permanent.
    The house is just a cooler, an ice box. You’d think all this would mean something, huh?

    • Kevin

      Try that in south Georgia bud. 82 with high humidity requires you to sleep almost naked. Unless you’re skin and bones.

  19. Kevin

    The problem with all of this is also that it costs more to lower the temperature from high to low. The AC unit works less if it’s set at a reasonable temp when you leave. If you turn it up when you leave, and then turn it down when you arrive, it can run consistently for hours to attempt to cool the area. Also, sleeping at 82 degrees is not possible in humid climates.

    I have to sleep at 82 because my roommates set it to that based on reading stupid articles like this. I have a fan blowing on my body and can’t even use a simple sheet or I will get hot. There are too many body types and varying climates for a “1 size fits all” solution.

  20. Matt96

    Nah, living in Georgia, there’s no way I would ever do this, my parents wouldn’t put the A/C on until it was around 80 even if the humidity was awful, I never got used to this and it also made it hard to sleep. Now that I’m on my own, it stays around 71-72 during the day in the summer and 69 F at night, I will flip it off when leaving the house for a long period of time, if I’m going to be gone for days, I will leave it on a setting (depending on the time of year, usually high 70’s though) so that it will run a decent amount to prevent mold though. I’d rather buy cheap food and clothes or even set my heater lower in the winter and wear a jacket to save money. Also a ceiling fan doesn’t make the room comfortable if the humidity is extremely high and it frequently is in my area and unless it’s a heatwave, the A/C won’t run enough to lower the humidity well with it on 78 and a dehumidifier would also use energy and create heat so might as well just use the A/C.

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