What’s the best air conditioner temperature setting in the summer? You want to keep your home cool, but also want to keep control of your electricity bills. Here are our best thermostat settings for summer to set your A/C when you’re home, away from home and sleeping. Plus the best thermostat setting when you’re away on vacation, and ways to keep your house cool without touching the thermostat.
What Temperature Should I Set My Air Conditioner in the Summer?
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends 78° as the best temperature setting for your air conditioner during the daytime. And 82° for sleeping in the summer. Wait. What?
That sounds a little toasty to us too.
If you want to get the maximum energy efficiency in the summer, that’s the correct setting. But if you want to sleep soundly, the National Sleep Foundation recommends a temperature of 66° to 72°.
With all this conflicting information, what’s the best temperature setting for the A/C?
Here are our recommended settings for your thermostat during the summer:
- Best Summer A/C Temperature When at Home: 76° is a good target for your thermostat setting when you are at home. If you are used to having your home at 72°, that likely sounds too hot. Your family won’t protest as much if you increase the thermostat setting by 1 degree each day. That allows everyone to acclimate to the higher temperature.
- Best Summer A/C Temperature When Away from Home: 80° is the recommended setting when you are away from home. For the 8 hours that you are at work, raising your air conditioner by 5° can save 5-10% in your energy consumption.
- Best Summer A/C Temperature For Sleeping: 72° is the maximum sleeping temperature recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. If that’s too warm, try using a ceiling fan at night to cool your body down.
This handy chart makes it easy to see the best settings for your air conditioning during the summer.
To manage your thermostat, we recommend a programmable thermostat, preferably a wifi version that you can control remotely. A Nest learning thermostat is a good option, as is the ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control. Texas consumers can choose an electricity plan with free smart thermostat.
Night time cooling is more energy efficient, so you could even lower your sleeping temperature a bit. Since the temperature difference between inside and outside is lower at night, your A/C system won’t be working as hard to cool your home. If you like to sleep with the temperature really cold, and don’t work from home, consider a free nights electricity plan.
If you have a 2-story home and 2+ air conditioner units, set your thermostat so the air conditioners don’t fight with each other all day. Set the downstairs a degree or two below the upstairs. If the upstairs is set lower it will try to cool the whole house in a losing battle, as it basically becomes the downstairs attic. That’s according to Fort Worth-based Poe Air.
The best thermostat settings for winter are very different, of course. We cover those in our blog post on the topic, Best Thermostat Settings for Cold Weather.
Best Thermostat Setting When Away on Summer Vacation
Summer is the traditional time for vacations in the US. School is out, parks are open. And travel experts think that summer 2021 will be big for travel, due to more people being vaccinated.
So when you leave on vacation, should you turn your air conditioner off?
Energy.gov recommends setting your thermostat at 85°-90° on vacation, or to even turn it off. That may be fine in more moderate climates. But if you live in Texas or another humid climate, you should never turn your thermostat completely off when you leave.
In addition to cooling your home, your HVAC system removes moisture from the air when it runs. Turning it off could create mold conditions. Your house will smell musty when you return home.
A better idea is to set it at 85° when you leave on vacation. That’s a moderate temperate that will allow air to circulate properly.
If you have a smart thermostat or one you can control with your phone, start the cooling process about 4 hours before you return home. Don’t have a smart thermostat? Ask a neighbor to help out! With either approach, you’ll be nice and cool as you unpack from your summer vacation.
Ways to Stay Cool Inside Without Lowering the Thermostat
If you want to save on your energy bills this summer, here are some ways to keep cool without changing the thermostat.
- Dress appropriately for the outside weather, even if you are inside. If you’re too hot, put on a pair of shorts instead of adjusting the temperature.
- Close the blinds to keep out the sun and heat. Consider investing in thermal window film for windows that face south. These can block UV light and keep your home cooler.
- Use ceiling fans. Data shows that ceiling fans can make a room feel up to 4 degrees cooler. (One of our team tried the 76° setting and fan approach. And needed a sweater because it was too cold in her office. It works.)
- Position your home office in the right place. If you’re working from home, your electricity bills are 8-10% higher than normal. One tip? Keeping your office on the north side of your home can help you stay cool. Your office will be on the side of your house with the least sun exposure.
You also want to make sure that your A/C is running efficiently. Some ways to make sure you keep your A/C running cold include:
- Change your air filter monthly
- Check that your ductwork isn’t leaking air into your attic
- Keep grass clippings and other debris from clogging the condensing unit outside your home.
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