How to Select the Best Air Conditioner Temperature Settings

Heating and cooling account for more than half of all energy used in the average home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, so the right cooling strategy can have a big impact on both your utility bills and your environmental impact. When deciding where to set your thermostat, strike a balance between comfort and efficiency to keep your cool without blowing your budget.

Person turning thermostat
credit: Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images
Person adjusting thermostat on wall

Setting Suggestions

The smaller the difference between interior and exterior temperatures, the lower your cooling costs will be on average. To maximize efficiency without sacrificing comfort, set your thermostat at a base temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you're home, suggests the U.S. Department of Energy. If you can take the heat, try nudging the thermostat up by a degree or so to save even more. Consumer Reports reveals that for each degree you turn up the thermostat, you'll save about 2 percent on cooling costs. You can adjust the temperature as high as 85 degrees Fahrenheit when you leave the house to save even more, according to the South Bend Tribune.

Myth Busting

Contrary to myth, turning the temperature up when you're away doesn't waste energy by forcing your system to work harder to cool the home when you return, according to the DOE. The higher the temperature in the house, the slower the heat gain into the home. Dialing up the temperature when you leave the home results in a net gain in efficiency, making it the smart choice for those looking to save money and energy.

Fan Assistance

Running a ceiling fan allows you to set your air conditioner temperature 4 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal without sacrificing comfort, according to the DOE. You can also save energy and improve comfort using the built-in fan on your air conditioner. While many homeowners allow the fan to operate on auto so it runs when the system is cooling, leaving the fan running continuously is actually the more efficient option. Allowing the fan to run without interruption creates more balanced air flow, resulting in lower overall energy use, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Smart Thermostat Use

Even perfect temperature settings do little to improve efficiency if your thermostat isn't properly placed. To ensure the thermostat can operate as intended, place the unit on an interior wall away from direct sunlight, windows, doors and drafts. Avoid blocking the thermostat with furniture or other objects as this can interfere with operation and performance.

Emily Beach

Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.