With cooler weather comes a heftier heating bill — which makes many homeowners wonder, "Does turning down the thermostat save money?" It's certainly a popular theory: If you Google "how to save money on electricity bill," lowering the thermostat is near the top of any list of money-saving tips. But is this cost-saving measure really worth it?
The good news is that yes, turning down the thermostat to save money does lower your overall heating bill. How much money do you save? Well, that depends on how low you're willing to go. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates you'll save between five and 15 percent on your electricity bill if you lower your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees for an eight-hour period. If eight hours seems like a long time, think about it this way: Your kids may go off to school around 8 a.m., which means by 4 p.m. when they come home, eight whole hours will have passed.
If you're home a lot and would find sitting through eight hours at 58 degrees instead of the usual 68 totally miserable, there's a less painful option. “The rule of thumb is that you can save about three percent on your heating bill for every degree that you set back your thermostat” full time, says Bill Prindle, who works for Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a nonprofit focused on practical solutions to combat climate change. The thinking here is that if you're willing to sit in a room that's only slightly cooler than normal all the time, you can save money steadily all month, rather than working on eight-hour cycles.
So how much money do you save by lowering the thermostat? Well, let's say your electricity bill sets you back roughly $200 per month. In this example, we'll go with a five-percent savings to be conservative. You'd save $10/month if you drastically lowered your thermostat for eight hours. Over a whole year, that would add up to $120 dollars — which is nothing to sneeze at. As for Prindle's scenario, let's say you set back the temperature three or four degrees. That would put your savings at nine to 12 percent. If we split that roughly and go with a 10-percent savings, you could shave $20/month from your bill for a whopping $240 each year.
When it comes to saving money by lowering your thermostat, it all comes down to how chilly a house you can tolerate. If you're willing to keep the house cooler all the time, you could actually double your savings compared to just cooling the house when people aren't home. If you're willing to suck it up and wear a few extra layers during the winter, you could have enough extra money lying around to buy yourself something nice.