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What Temperature Should You Set Your AC To?

Written by Cameron Bates

Published on August 9, 2023


What Temperature Should You Set Your AC To?

Finding the right air conditioning temperature is important for comfort and energy efficiency. Here's a guide to help you determine the ideal AC temperature for different situations.

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As the temperature outside heats up, we depend more on our air conditioners to keep our homes cool and comfortable. But, before homeowners turn on their AC, they must decide the right temperature. 

Setting the thermostat too low could make your utility bills unmanageable. If you set it too high, you may no longer feel comfortable in your home. The question is: are you more concerned with lowering your electric bills, increasing your home’s comfort levels, or having a balance of both?

To help you decide, we’ll teach you how to keep your home comfortable while still controlling your electric bills.

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The best temperature to set my AC

While at home

Two factors sit at the front of everyone’s mind when setting the temperature on their air conditioner: what temperature will be most comfortable, and how will it affect my electricity bill?

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees during the summer while at home. This is the optimal temperature for energy savings and maintaining a cozy internal atmosphere.

Keep in mind that the perfect temperature is subjective and can vary from person to person. While 78 degrees is recommended to balance energy savings and cooling, you can still opt for temperatures above or below to keep comfortable.

While away

It may come as a surprise to learn that when leaving your home for the day, it's more energy efficient to leave your AC on and set to a higher temperature than to turn it off completely.

If you turn off your AC before you leave home, you may find yourself getting hit with a blast of hot air and a high energy bill. While out of the house, it's recommended that you set your thermostat 5 to 7 degrees above your usual temperature. For most households, this means setting your thermostat to around 85 degrees while not at home.

While you can set a regular thermostat’s temperature when you leave, installing a programmable or smart thermostat can make the process simpler and more efficient. Unlike a manual thermostat which will require regular adjustments, a programmable thermostat allows you to set your temperature preferences based on the time of day.

While sleeping

If you like to leave your AC running while you sleep, you probably have your opinion about a comfortable temperature. The right temperature for sleeping is also likely to change from person to person, with each individual having wildly different temperature preferences.

However, The National Sleep Foundation recommends that the optimal temperature to promote sleep is between 60⁰ and 67⁰ F, regardless of the time of year. Having your AC set between this range helps to lower your body's core temperature and initiate sleep.

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Tips on keeping your home’s temperature comfortable

Upgrade your window shades

If you are currently using old, worn-out window shades that are ineffective at blocking out the heat, it might be time for an update. During the summer, your old window shades will struggle to keep out the intense sunlight and UV rays from entering your home, affecting its interior temperature.

Installing high-quality shades or blinds helps maintain your home’s indoor temperature while filtering harmful UV rays. There is also a vast selection of window blinds or shades, so there are bound to be options that fit your budget and style.

Install a programmable thermostat

If you are looking for ways to maintain your home's temperature and comfort level, investing in a smart or programmable thermostat is a great solution.

An old, outdated thermostat can result in soaring electric bills and unregulated home temperatures. With a programmable thermostat, your home's temperature controls are automated, which allows you to set the preferred temperature for any time of day. For example, your programmable thermostat can be set to a lower temperature 30 minutes before you arrive home so that your home is cool and comfortable when you walk through the front door.

Some programmable thermostats can also learn and adjust to different patterns, meaning they can recognize when it is most important to keep your home cool. This improves the performance of your cooling system and causes it to be more efficient with its energy usage.

Install an energy-efficient AC unit

There are several benefits to installing an energy-efficient AC, but for this instance, we are talking about their cooling capabilities. As well as using 8% less energy than conventional AC units, new energy-efficient systems typically cool your home in less time.

Along with cooling your home faster, installing an energy-efficient air conditioner will also help you to save money by cutting up to 20% of your utility costs. A good way to make sure an AC is energy efficient is by looking for an Energy Star certification. These products must meet strict requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to gain certification.

Maintain your AC unit

Whether your HVAC system is brand new or nearing the end of its life, regular maintenance is required to keep your system running effectively and efficiently. Depending on the type and brand of AC unit, most manufacturers will recommend that your air conditioning system be serviced annually or biannually to maintain its performance.

During an AC service appointment, your HVAC technician inspects and cleans the inside and outdoor units, changes or cleans the filter, and cleans the unit’s drains. The HVAC technician also checks the system’s coolant levels to ensure the unit functions properly. To get your AC serviced by a professional, it’ll cost between $462 and $860.

Stop the drafts

If your home suffers from multiple drafts or air leaks, controlling the temperature in your home can be even more of a challenge. With a draft pushing the cool air in and taking the warm air out, your HVAC system has to work overtime to regulate your home’s temperature. This will also result in higher energy costs and a worn-out AC unit.

Drafts are usually manageable and can be fixed with a bit of DIY. Whether it involves resealing a window or weatherproofing your exterior doors, stopping the drafts can help create a more energy-efficient and comfortable home.

How to stay cool in your home

Setting the optimal temperature for your AC is all about finding the right balance between comfort and cost. Setting your thermostat a couple of degrees lower may be more comfortable, but you risk running up your electric bill, and on the other hand, setting it too high can leave you sitting in a hot and stuffy house.

To keep your home cool this summer and keep the energy costs down, we recommend setting your AC to 78 degrees while at home, 85 degrees while away, and between 60 and 67 degrees while sleeping.

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Written by

Cameron Bates Content Specialist

Cameron Bates is a Content Specialist at Fixr.com.