Whether it’s the dog days of summer or the dead of winter, every homeowner hopes to balance two competing interests: the desire to remain comfortable, and the need to keep energy costs down. This balancing act is challenging no matter where you live, but especially when you have a multi-story home with two or even three levels. How can you make sure that you enjoy a comfortable environment in every room of your house without breaking the bank on your monthly power bills? With the right energy-saving tips, such as how to set your thermostat effectively, finding the right balance is easier than you might think.
The key? One thermostat won’t be enough to get the job done. If you’re trying to make your AC unit keep an entire multi-level home at the same temperature, not only will you stress the hardware, but you’ll drive your monthly costs out of control. So, where do you begin?
Split Your System into Multiple Zones
Zoned HVAC is common in commercial buildings, and growing more common in residential applications. Although commercial setups may use more than one air conditioning unit, it is possible to create multiple zones in a home with only one unit. By using separate blower fans and a series of dampers to redirect airflow, you can control each floor of your home with a different thermostat.
If you don’t already have different thermostats in your home, you can ask your AC contractor to modify your system for zoned control. Once you have this setup, you can think about the best thermostat settings for saving money and staying happy year-round.
Energy Saving Tips for Non-Zoned Multi-Story Homes
What if you can’t afford to modify your system for zoned control, or your home isn’t a good candidate for it? There are still ways you can set your thermostat in a multi-story home to try and save energy. The right strategy uses a combination of strategic thermostat settings and other measures to keep rooms cool. Keep these tips in mind:
- Use ceiling fans to promote the circulation of air. Even if you have your thermostat set a bit higher, fans will help keep the air circulating, which leads to a difference in the perceived temperature.
- The most energy-efficient thermostat setting for the summer is generally around 78 degrees, though some may find it to be more comfortable at 76 degrees. Remember, hot air rises, so upstairs rooms may be warmer during the day.
The Best Thermostat Settings for Effective Summer Cooling
With a zoned system, you can easily find energy-saving tips that are easy to apply. Your goal is to create a flow of cool air throughout your home that allows for a roughly equal temperature from top to bottom throughout the day. Here’s how to do it:
- Choose your ideal temperature — 76 degrees, for example. Set your thermostat on the very top floor of your home to this desired temperature.
- If you have a three-story home, go down to the second floor and set the second thermostat two degrees cooler, for 74 degrees.
- On the ground floor of a three-story home, again set the thermostat for two degrees less — now 72.
Cold air will gradually sink across the different levels of your home. Your top floor will help to regulate the temperature of the other two as air moves between then. Your goal is to create the conditions that allow cool air to sink into other areas of the home.
Saving Money in the Winter with Thermodynamics
Remember from physics class that heat rises? Higher temperatures always prefer to flow towards lower temperatures. You can use this principle in tandem with the reverse of the strategy described above. In other words, set your ground floor to your ideal temperature, then decrease the setting two or three degrees as you go higher. Warm air will rise through the home to reach the upper levels, allowing you to equalize the temperature. Instead of running your furnace all day and super-heating a few rooms and leaving others chilled, you can enjoy consistency throughout the home.
Experiment to Find the Optimal Settings for Your Home
All energy-saving tips are ultimately subject to the differences that make every home unique. A temperature setting that works for one home may not work for another that has a different thermal profile. Use the ideas outlined in this guide as a baseline, and explore tweaks to them to discover what maximizes your comfort while keeping your bills as low as possible. It might take some work to save money on your energy bill, but the results are worth the effort. Consider contacting a local HVAC contractor today to discuss transitioning your home to a zone control system with multiple thermostats to make it even easier to save monthly, and don’t forget basic maintenance to keep your AC cooling properly.