Comfort vs. Savings: Where to set the thermostat?

As a heating and air conditioning professional, I am often asked “At what temperature should I set my thermostat?” Unfortunately, there is not a singular answer.

Since central air conditioning can account for 40% – 60% of a home’s monthly utility bill, it’s important to know how energy savings and comfort come into play with your decision on what to set the thermostat to.

I can tell you in my home, my wife keeps the thermostat at a chilly 71 degrees, which makes our bill higher in the summer months, but we also keep it 65 degrees in the winter, which balances things out. I’ve also learned to wear layers in the winter in the house, but that’s the topic of another article…

save energy

As I mentioned above, there are two considerations to keep in mind: energy savings and comfort. Below, I will go over each part so that you can make the right choice for your personal comfort.

Energy Savings

The U.S Department of Energy recommends that you set the temperature at 78 degrees Fahrenheit in air conditioning mode during the summer. For heating, the recommended temperature is 68 degrees in the winter.

An old “rule of thumb” says that you save 10% on your power bill for every degree you go above 78 degrees and spend 10% for every degree you go below 78 degrees.

There are more energy saving tips available on the Dominion Energy Website. A heating and cooling system with a higher energy efficiency can allow you to keep your home at a lower temperature, and keep your power bill the same, or lower than you are used to.


Everyone has a different opinion on what is the ideal temperature for their comfort level. Due to the high humidity we have in the Midlands, 78 degrees can often feel muggy.

This is because the heating and cooling system simply will not run long enough to pull the humidity in the house down below 50% relative humidity, which is ideal for most people due to our body temperatures.

Since our body temperature is around 98 degrees, any air that is below this temperature will feel cool against our skin. This is why running ceiling fans can make us feel more comfortable.

By running the ceiling fans in your home, you will move the cool air around; also, the air movement will help eliminate hot and cold spots that can be present in the home.

Energy Savings AND Comfort?

According to, the average household spends more than $2,000 a year on energy bills – nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. Homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings.

A properly installed and programmed thermostat can help you save money on your utility bill. By running the air conditioner at a temperature that makes you comfortable while you are home and cutting back to a higher temperature when you are at work to give you the best of both worlds!

Hopefully, I’ve answered the question by not answering it, but showing that there is no one “right” answer. Say you find that the recommended 78 degrees in air conditioning, and 68 degrees in heating aren’t comfortable, set the thermostat where YOU want and see what happens!

Maybe your bill is out of control? Try setting a program on your thermostat. You may find that with some trial and error, you can find the perfect balance between energy savings and comfort. If you don’t have one, there are some fantastic Energy Star thermostats that can give you that perfect balance, and by better controlling your heating and cooling system you can hopefully experience increased comfort without sacrificing energy savings.

If your air conditioner seems to run all day and night and doesn’t make you comfortable, it might be a sign that your central air unit needs to be serviced or repaired.

It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, or even what day it is. When your AC unit needs repairs right now, then our emergency HVAC technicians are ready 24/7 to help. If you have an AC emergency that just can’t wait, then call us to get the best emergency service in South Carolina.


5636 Bush River Rd.
Columbia, SC 29212
SC License – #M104545
NC License – #32356

Phone: (803) 794-5526