Some Like it Hot… and Some Sweat When the AC Isn’t On

Posted on by Taylor Moellers

Having a roommate is great. Besides the obvious benefit of splitting the rent, a roommate is there to lounge on the couch with, to unlock the door when you forget your keys, and to help you eat all those extra cookies. Because, really, who goes through the hassle to bake just one cookie?

At the same time, living with a roommate can sometimes be hard. My roommate, Pat, is from Arizona and considers 90°F great weather. I, on the other hand, spend such days burning to a crisp while simultaneously trying not to melt. So here comes our disagreement: what temperature do we set the thermostat at?

We’ve found ourselves in a debate between comfort and cost savings. Before moving to Denver, I taught students about the importance of energy conservation, and even preached about giving up a little comfort by setting the thermostat back a few degrees to save energy. But hey, I don’t like to sweat in my home either. I’m a low 70s girl, whereas he’d rather punch it to the high 70s. Right now we’ve agreed to keep it at 75°F, but still… I’m a little uncomfortable. Whether you have a roommate or not, the balance between comfort and cost/energy savings is one we all have to strike.

According to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) page on energy saving thermostat settings:

By turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill — a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long. In the summer, you can follow the same strategy with central air conditioning by keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away, and lowering the thermostat setting to 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cooling.

78°F when you are home and need cooling? Clearly whoever wrote this is one of Pat’s old neighbors from Arizona. Sure, if you were sitting perfectly still all day 78°F might be fine. But if you do anything, say get off the couch, 78°F is not comfortable. And don’t even get me started about sleeping. How do I know this? In our first few weeks as new roommates — before which we were perfect strangers — I didn’t put up a fight about the thermostat settings. Instead I sweat it out and complained to friends. I’ve since wised up and now, thanks to ERGY, I can see just how much a few degrees matters.

Using my ERGY system, I’m going to find out just how much we’re saving by setting the AC at the DOE recommended 78°F compared to my preference of 73°F. Check back on Monday 8/26 to see how the debate unfurls.

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