There’s nothing like returning to a cool house on a scorching day. But summertime electric bills can be shocking. Finding the right temperature setting for your air conditioner is a delicate balance between comfort and economy. While we can’t tell you what to do when one family member prefers to be warm and another wants to be artic cold, we do have some information to keep in mind.

What The Experts Say

You may be shocked to hear that the Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat at 78 degrees during the summer for peak energy efficiency. That may work in Southeast Pennsylvania for most of the summer, but many prefer to be cooler.

Your home is your haven. Instead of settling on an arbitrary number, you can experiment to see what temperature keeps you comfortable. Start at 78 degrees. If that’s too warm, lower your thermostat by a degree. Give yourself some time to acclimate, and then lower it again (and again) until you find the perfect temperature. Being comfortable means you should be able to wear seasonably appropriate clothing inside – if your house is so cold in August that you need to pull out those winter cardigans you may want to reconsider your strategy.

Comfort is only half the story. According to the Department of Energy, air conditioners use about 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States. Thankfully, there are many ways that you can reduce your environmental footprint and lower energy costs while still staying cool.

Raise the Temperature When You’re Not Home

The best way to lower your electric bill is not to park your thermostat at 78℉, but to vary it throughout the day. Did you know that you can save up to 10% on your cooling costs just by regularly raising the temperature by 7-10℉ for eight hours? If your whole family leaves for work, this is a perfect solution—why pay extra to cool an empty house?

Please note, the amount you raise your thermostat should depend on your starting temperature – and whether you have pets (or kids) in the house. Fido won’t appreciate it if your home is over 80 degrees. Your houseplants may not either. But if you like to keep your home at 70℉ while you’re there, raising it to 75℉ or 78℉ while you’re gone is good for your wallet and the environment. And because your system won’t be working as hard during those hours, it won’t wear out as quickly, which is good for your service bills.

It’s also important to note that most people find 78℉ uncomfortable to sleep. Experts recommend between 60 and 67℉ as an ideal sleeping temperature. Because outside temperatures typically cool down overnight, especially in Southeast Pennsylvania, it’s fine to drop your thermostat before you go to bed—but if you keep it there all day you’ll be in for a rude awakening. Consider giving the system a rest and opening your windows instead, and turning it back on when you wake up in the morning. You’ll trap cool air in the house when you close the windows, making it easier to keep the temperature down.

If adjusting your temperature multiple times a day seems like a pain, there are many programmable and app-based smart thermostats that can do this for you. Reach out if you’d like Reliance Heating and Air Conditioning to upgrade your thermostat. When we install a new cooling system, a programmable thermostat comes standard.

Utilize Ceiling Fans

If your home has ceiling fans, turn them on! Fans don’t actually change the temperature of the air, but the moving air makes you feel cooler. Yes, fans do use energy, but not as much as your air conditioner. If you don’t have ceiling fans, consider purchasing standalone fans for rooms where you spend the most time. Just remember, since fans don’t lower the temperature, they aren’t benefiting you when no one is home, so turn them off before you go out.

A fan doesn't change the temperature, but it does make you feel cooler!

Cover Your Windows

That beautiful summer sunshine turns into heat when it streams through your windows. There are many types of window coverings that look great and help keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Shades, blinds, or curtains can all help—but only if they’re closed. Feel free to open them when you want to enjoy the natural light, but close them when you leave the room or your house so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard to sustain your chosen temperature.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

Air conditioners have several parts that can wear out, clog, or get dirty. This can make your system run harder than it should to reach the temperature you want. Regular maintenance can decrease your energy bills and prevent a stressful surprise when your system breaks down on the hottest day of the year! Reliance Heating & Air Conditioning offers maintenance plans to keep your system running smoothly and efficiently.


78℉ may be the perfect temperature for you—or maybe not. With a little trial and error, you can find what works best for your family. But no matter how cool you’d like to be when you’re in your home, adjusting the temperature when you’re not there is an easy way to keep your energy bills under control.

Contact Reliance today for all your heating and air conditioning needs!