Richard Trethewey programs thermostat wars
Photo: David Carmack
Richard Trethewey programs a thermostat so that it will save energy by automatically setting itself to a lower temperature at night.
Q: Every heating season, my husband says we should we keep our forced-air heating system at the same setting all the time. I say it's better to lower the temperature at night and when we're not home. Who's right?

—Monica Smith, Jermyn, PA.

A: Richard Trethewey replies: It's not easy acting as the referee in these marital disputes; someone always ends up being upset. But in this case, I'm happy to say that you're both right.

A heating system does have to work harder to bring a house up to temperature than it does to maintain a steady temperature. But you begin to reap savings when your house reaches that lower setback temperature and stays there for a while, such as when you're sleeping at night or on vacation.

Just how much you'll save depends on the kind of heating system you have, how tightly insulated your house is, and how long the setback lasts. But according to the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit group that promotes energy efficiency, lowering the temperature and leaving it there for 4 hours a day can save you up to 10 percent on your heating costs. Suffice it to say that the more hours your house stays at that lower temperature, the less fuel you'll use.

So as your self-appointed marital adviser, I ask you to refrain from using the words turn down the thermostat and say instead, "Honey, let's switch to savings mode."
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