If you have a summer vacation coming up, you’ve probably been daydreaming about travel and relaxation, not lower utility bills. But you don’t have to choose -- by adjusting your thermostat before you leave, you can take a big bite out of your bill while taking some well-deserved time off.
How High Can You Go?
The most important consideration when adjusting your thermostat for vacation is whether any pets will be staying in the home. Pets need fresh air just like we do and are susceptible to heat-related illness, so it’s imperative that you leave the air conditioner on. But unless your pet has a medical condition that would put them at increased risk, it’s fine to set the thermostat as high as 80 degrees fahrenheit. Draw the shades in sun-facing windows to help the house stay cool during the day.
If you don’t have pets, you can set the thermostat even higher, but you still shouldn’t turn it off completely. Stagnant air in the middle of summer can turn the inside of your home into a sauna, potentially causing serious damage to drywall, sheetrock, wallpaper and even wood. It can result in accelerated wear in your refrigerator’s compressor and may even cause it to break down. Delicate artwork, houseplants, makeup, bottles of wine and other household items can all fall victim to several steamy days.
To avoid this, set the thermostat to 85 degrees. If you live in an especially humid climate, you might want to set the temperature a few degrees lower so that the air conditioner runs a little more often. That’s because your air conditioner not only cools the air, it removes humidity at the same time. Excessive humidity might cause mold or mildew to develop while you’re away.
What About Winter?
If you plan on taking a trip during the late fall or winter, the same basic principles apply. A home with pets will need to be kept warmer than an empty home, but 65 degrees will be comfortable. An empty home can be set as low as 50 degrees. The major concern with extreme low temperatures is not the deterioration of materials in your home, but frozen water pipes. If you have any pipes that extend beyond the treated air inside your home, you should take steps to prevent them from freezing.
Go High Tech
There’s nothing wrong with just adjusting the temperature as you walk out the door and lowering it as soon as you return, but you will come home to a hot house. If you have someone feeding your pets or collecting your mail, you could ask that person to lower the temperature on your return date to avoid this.
But a more convenient way to ensure a comfortable homecoming is to use a programmable or smart thermostat. Some, but not all programmable thermostats will allow you to program a lower temperature for a specific date in the future. A smart thermostat connects to your home Wi-Fi network, allowing you to control it from anywhere using your smartphone. Smart thermostat apps also provide the most user-friendly interface for programming your heating and cooling schedule.
If you’re thinking about upgrading your thermostat or just want to give your system a tuneup before you head out on vacation, contact your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.