Need help setting heat on thermostat

This is a discussion on Need help setting heat on thermostat within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; The problem is that I have one heating/ac unit for my house. It is controlled by a thermostat on the first floor. I have two ...

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Thread: Need help setting heat on thermostat

  1. #1
    Member Array joepa150's Avatar
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    Need help setting heat on thermostat

    The problem is that I have one heating/ac unit for my house. It is controlled by a thermostat on the first floor. I have two story ceiling in my living room. I don't want my my bill to be super high but I also want my family to be comfortable. I have read that it is energy efficient to turn down your thermostat at night. This way when it gets cold, your heat isn't coming on and going off all night as much. Also at night most people are covered with blankets or comforters so the cold isn't a big deal to most.

    I have a little one that isn't old enough to keep a blanket on her all night. Most of the time she kicks it off and when I check on her she is curled up like a ball because she is cold. I think that she is so cold that she as a restless night. We do try and dress her in warm PJs but she is still cold.

    Right now I have my heat set to this. It always is a bit chilly in the house especially at night. My house is poorly insulated. I am paying a fixed rate of 63 cents per therm.

    6 am 67F
    10am 66F
    4pm 66F
    8pm 67F
    11pm 66F

    So is there a better way to set my thermostat so we can be more comfortable without jacking up my bill?

    I am afraid if I jack up the temp by 2 degrees at night and maybe 1 degree during the day, my bill could be much higher. In the middle of the winter my bill is around $300 with the above settings. I do not want it to jump to say $400 or so.

    By the furnace there is a diverter(don't know the actual name) that I can close off and divert all the heat to the downstairs. Heat will then rise so this makes sense BUT last time I tried this it seem to always be a tad bit cooler upstairs since no heat would come out of the vents upstairs.

    I also tried using ceiling fans and even switching the rotation of them. Didn't really have any effect either.

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  3. #2
    Member Array muddy's Avatar
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    This is a personal thing that is hard to say because it depends on your house and family but I have to say a 1 degree temp change between day and night is not going to effect your bill at all. Is any one home during the day? My temp is set at 64 for middle of the day, as no one is home, and night any lower then this and the energy used to rewarm the house is about the same as just keeping the temp at 64. I do not have a small child to keep warm at night, we all sleep with a couple blankets and find 64 degrees is a good sleeping temp. During the time we are at the house the temp runs 69 degrees which is ok most times but if its extra cold we might bump it up to 71 for the evening. In your case you need to make sure your little one is warm enough no matter what it costs.

    Ceiling fans set on low and pulling the air up help a lot when you have high ceilings. Heat rises so all the heat in the living room is on the ceiling, if the upstairs is open to the high ceiling then some of the heat is going there. If your second floor is open to the living room try closing the diverter during the day and using the living room ceiling fan to help mix the second floor air with the warm first floor air.

  4. #3
    Member Array joepa150's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muddy View Post
    This is a personal thing that is hard to say because it depends on your house and family but I have to say a 1 degree temp change between day and night is not going to effect your bill at all. Is any one home during the day? My temp is set at 64 for middle of the day, as no one is home, and night any lower then this and the energy used to rewarm the house is about the same as just keeping the temp at 64. I do not have a small child to keep warm at night, we all sleep with a couple blankets and find 64 degrees is a good sleeping temp. During the time we are at the house the temp runs 69 degrees which is ok most times but if its extra cold we might bump it up to 71 for the evening. In your case you need to make sure your little one is warm enough no matter what it costs.

    Ceiling fans set on low and pulling the air up help a lot when you have high ceilings. Heat rises so all the heat in the living room is on the ceiling, if the upstairs is open to the high ceiling then some of the heat is going there. If your second floor is open to the living room try closing the diverter during the day and using the living room ceiling fan to help mix the second floor air with the warm first floor air.
    Good point about keeping the little one warm regardless of cost.

    I will try to set ceiling fan in living room on low and reverse the blade direction. The 2nd floor is open to the high ceiling so hopefully some heat will go there.

    I am also thinking of other options such as buying so long underwear she can put under her PJs or buying a space heater. Space heaters worry me though.

    What about closing off some vents in unimportant areas such as unused rooms and bathrooms. Wouldn't that result in more warm air flowing out of the open vents?

    How about switching the fan from auto to on?
    Will that help circulate the air in the house without costing more to run the fan?

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    The only way to know is to do it and keep track of you bill. Natural gas prices are down about 80 cents from what I paid last year.
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    Member Array Shawn89's Avatar
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    I used to install hvac and closing off vents only makes your system work harder, it creates back pressure and doesnt let your unit work as efficently which will cost you more money in the long run. The best bet is to lower your temp during the day when no one is home and raising it back up by the same amount when your home, i.e. if lowerd 5 degrees during the day raise it 5 at night this will keep your bill pretty close to the same. The little one is the most important maybe a space heater in their room will help, the newer ones have several safty devices on them now that turn them off if even bumped

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    VIP Member Array Gene83's Avatar
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    I'll tell you what I did and you can see if it will work for you. I have a townhouse with an electric heat pump. The thermostat that controls the heat for both floors is downstairs in a hallway. The thermostat obviously is controlled by the temperature in the hallway. I bought two of those oil filled space heaters at Lowes. These are the ones that look like an old fashioned steam radiator. They have thermostats, tip-over switches, and they don't get super hot so they reduce the fire hazard. I put one downstairs where I watch television and one upstairs in my bedroom. When I'm watching TV, I turn the one on downstairs. I turn it off when I go to bed and turn on the one in the bedroom. I keep the thermostat in the hall set at 62. I knocked $145 a month off my electric bill the first month I used them. I'm now going into my third winter with the same setup.
    "The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come." ~ Confucius

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    Member Array joepa150's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene83 View Post
    I'll tell you what I did and you can see if it will work for you. I have a townhouse with an electric heat pump. The thermostat that controls the heat for both floors is downstairs in a hallway. The thermostat obviously is controlled by the temperature in the hallway. I bought two of those oil filled space heaters at Lowes. These are the ones that look like an old fashioned steam radiator. They have thermostats, tip-over switches, and they don't get super hot so they reduce the fire hazard. I put one downstairs where I watch television and one upstairs in my bedroom. When I'm watching TV, I turn the one on downstairs. I turn it off when I go to bed and turn on the one in the bedroom. I keep the thermostat in the hall set at 62. I knocked $145 a month off my electric bill the first month I used them. I'm now going into my third winter with the same setup.
    I read that space heaters use a lot of energy and it may be cheaper to run your central heating. I guess there are a bunch of variables to take into considerations such as type of space heater, watts/btus, setting you set your central heat thermostat on, setting you set your space heater on, etc

    If I lower my central heat at night to maybe to 64F and run the heaters in the bedrooms, it may actually save some money.

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    VIP Member Array Gene83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joepa150 View Post
    I read that space heaters use a lot of energy and it may be cheaper to run your central heating. I guess there are a bunch of variables to take into considerations such as type of space heater, watts/btus, setting you set your central heat thermostat on, setting you set your space heater on, etc

    If I lower my central heat at night to maybe to 64F and run the heaters in the bedrooms, it may actually save some money.
    Space heaters do use a lot of energy, but my heaters have a thermostat and are only heating a small area, not the whole house. Right now, it's about 74 in the bedroom where I am. Downstairs the thermostat says 62. The temperature outside dropped to 42 last night and the heat pump never kicked on. As a matter of fact, I've not even switched it over to heat yet. My total electric bill this month will probably run about $85.
    "The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come." ~ Confucius

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    VIP Member Array Gene83's Avatar
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    I should also toss out one big caveat here. I live alone, so it's easy for me to bring the room that I'm in to a comfortable temperature with a space heater while letting the rest of the house stay cold. If you have family members in different parts of the house trying to stay warm with space heaters, you will probably find that just running the central unit would be more efficient.
    "The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come." ~ Confucius

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    First, I want to suggest that the temps you have mentioned are too cold for your child. You've already indicated that you know she is cold and so you need to find a way to keep her comfortable. That is your job.

    You could place a safe electric heater (oil filled) in the child's room-- but electric heat is quite expensive even as compared to electric heat from a heat pump.

    You mentioned that your home is not well insulated. Maybe you should look into fixing that.

    I tend to pay attention to various insulation boards and materials when I meander around Lowes or Home Depot. There are a number of ways to get things done and as DIY--depending on your home's construction-- and even a small effort on added insulation and caulking can cut an energy bill in half.

    IF you have access to your attic above most of your ceiling (I know there may be places where you don't have access or can't add insulation) R 30 bats are running 50 cents a square foot. R19 is a little less but you can add that on top of what is already in there. Let's just say you are in a two story with a 1 K ceiling area. Getting up there and adding about 400 dollars worth of insulation will save you money all year long.

    It works this way--- Going from no insulation or R1 to R2 cuts you energy use in half.
    To R4 cuts it by 75%. Most homes built since the mid-70s started out with R 13 walls and R 19 ceilings.
    That should be pretty good. If you have that, adding insulation may not help. If you don't, you need to guess what you do have and double that. E.g. To cut your bill in half from heat lost in the attic you might need to go from R19 to R 38 (R 36 as a practical matter). So figure out what you have and then figure out if it makes sense to spend the money on adding insulation.
    Last edited by Hopyard; October 20th, 2011 at 12:38 PM. Reason: spelling correction
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    Add little footed sleepers that are fleece or quilted to the little 'uns shopping list.
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    We keep it around 63 at night in the house and stay warm with down comforters and fleece footie jammers on the kiddo. A warm bath and then footie jammers and tucked in bed and in the morning he is fine.

    Kids will often curl up in balls against the side of the bed just because they like to be snuggled up to something or they roll into it and are stopped, it doesn't necessarily mean they are cold. The best way to tell is to feel their hands, cheeks, nose and ears (and toes if they are exposed). If they are cold then the child is likely cold. If they are warm then they are comfortable. If there is sweat around the brow or back of the neck/down the back and their cheeks look flushed they are hot.

    I don't know how old your child is but remember that keeping a room too hot is a big SIDS risk. It's better to keep the room cool and dress the child warmly rather than try to heat the room.

    Sometimes, even with the thermostat being set so low, if I put my kid in fleece footie jammers he will wake up sweating and crying to take off his jammers. I'll switch out the fleece for cotton footie jammers and he's out again. If the thermostat is above 63 then I dress him in cotton jammer bottoms and long-sleeve shirt and he sleeps very comfortable and not cold at all. Every time I check on him his hands, ears, nose and everything else is nice and warm.. give him kisses cover him back up (cause you're right, kids just don't keep covers over themselves) and then go back to bed myself.

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    I agree with Hopyard's and Lima's post, here is some more. Keep in mind that I'm not a HVAC guy, just another home owning Dad trying help out another home owning Dad.

    First things first; add insulation to your attic. Its not all that expensive, but it helps a lot. Pay particular attention to the attic access hatchs that are typically in a bedroom closet. Outlets are and often surprising source of drafts too. Typically there is no insulation behind the box. Good news is, you can buy insulated plate covers for a few bucks each. I also insulated my garage door. I was skeptical at first, but gave it a whirl as it only cost me $60 bucks to do; it made a big difference especially in the room right above the garage.

    On to the thermostat; Its going to be impossible to try and tell you what your exact needs are going to be, but I can tell you what works for my house. I have a programmable thermostat. I do not let the temp fall lower than 62 in the winter, simply because my house is not empty long enough on any given day to make it worthwhile. The lower you allow the temp to drop, the longer and harder the furnace has to work to bring it back to a comfortable range. When the temp does drop to 62, say at noon for example and I want to bring it back up in time for the kids and wife coming home, I'll gradually bring it up, about a degree an hour. So if its 62 at noon, it goes to 63 at 1300, 64 at 1400 and so on. That way, the furnace is not trying to play catch up in a short amount of time.

    Also, I moved my thermostat to a more central location in the house. Many newer homes have the thermostat just slapped up in the easiest spot, never mind finding a good central location that will give a good idea of what the actual temp is in the house. Mine was put in the family room, which is in the back corner of the house, where there is a gas fireplace that see's a lot if use. When the fireplace is on, the thermostat assumes its that warm all over the house, which really just allowed the rest of the house to get very cold, causing the wife to crank it up and have the furnace burn through the kids college fund.

    The ceiling fans will help with you vaulted ceiling. Keep them on the lowest setting, and that will help keep the warm air lower. Do not reverse them unless you want to suck some of the warm up higher and get better distribution... but as you pointed out, warm air rises so that might be wasting more energy depending on your particular house.

    I have a youngin much like yours. She is also not old enough to keep blankets on her. So, on cold nights I put a humidifier in her room. This keeps her room toasty, doesn't dry out her nasal passages, and the small humidifier is a lot cheaper and safer to run than a space heater.
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    Sixto is right about the ceiling fans. Put one on that vaulted part and flip the little switch to make the blades go in reverse. That drives warm air accumulating at the ceiling downward.

    Also-- get a room thermometer or two. Put one in your kid's room next to the bed at about the same height as the mattress. You might find that the temperature at that spot is quite cooler or warmer than at the thermostat. And, sometimes thermostats are not correctly calibrated. I have one that is just always off 2-3 degrees. If yours is reading high, the house might be colder than you think.

    (Long story for another board, but I've been through 7 thermostats and 4 different thermostat models in 5 years. My HVAC guy is on my list. Got no meaningful help from Carrier. Probs continued even after they changed out a circuit board in the furnace. )
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    All good suggestions but I'll add one more. A few years ago we found an electric mattress pad. We drop the heat to 60 at night. I turn the pad on 30 minutes before we get in and it's so nice to get into a warm bed. We can then turn it down or off as needed (dual controls so she can be warm without me feeling like a chicken on the grill).

    This might be good for you and the little one.
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