Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Bureaucrats and temperatures

There's been a certain amount of hilarity hereabouts - not to mention anger - at the latest bureaucratic advice on how to deal with hot weather.

The coolest temperature Americans should keep their thermostats set to is 78 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Energy Star, a federal program aimed at energy efficiency and cost savings for consumers. But many on social media do not agree with that recommendation.

And social media users were even more vocal in objecting to Energy Star's recommendation for nighttime thermostat settings.

. . .

Energy Star, a joint federal program run by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recommends that for optimal cooling and energy efficiency, the coolest temperature consumers should keep home thermostats set to is 78 F -- and that’s only when they're at home and awake.

When consumers are out of the home, Energy Star recommends to keep thermostats set at 85 F and suggests 82 F as the optimal temperature for sleeping.

There's more at the link.

Sounds good . . . except that here in north Texas, I don't think the temperature's been as low as 78 degrees since sometime last month!  We've had over-100-degree days non-stop for the past few weeks.  At night, the actual air temperature outside may drop to the low 80's or high 70's, but indoors, in heat-soaked buildings that haven't lost the warmth of the day, it's usually at least ten to fifteen degrees warmer than that without adequate air-conditioning.  Even at sunrise, if I walk into our attached (non-air-conditioned) garage, it's at least ten degrees hotter than the rest of the house.  The building simply doesn't cool down at this time of year.

Standard domestic central air-conditioning units don't cope well with such temperatures.  We'll start the day with ours set to 72 degrees, but by late afternoon it'll be ten degrees hotter than that, and stay at the higher level right through till bedtime.  The only way we can cool the house further is to run a window A/C unit in our master bedroom, which pours cooler air out of its door into the main air intake to the master A/C unit.  That, in turn, means the main A/C receives cooler-than-ambient air, which it can cool even further before spreading it to the rest of the house.  By running the two in combination, we can get the house down to the mid-seventies by bedtime . . . and that's the only thing that makes it bearable to try to sleep.

I can only doff my hat in real respect to the original settlers here, who had to deal with such temperatures without even electricity, let alone air-conditioning.  I know they built their homes to be as cool as possible in summer, but even so, I simply can't imagine going through an entire summer of such heat without any escape.  As for working outside during it, in the fields or on cattle drives, the thought just boggles my mind!

If I ever have the opportunity to build a home to my own specifications, it's going to be over-climate-controlled for its size, so that no matter what the outside temperature, hot or cold, it'll hold the internal temperature I want.  If Energy Star doesn't like that, well, that's just too bad!



C. S. P. Schofield said...

Energy Star really needs to talk to sleep experts, who maintain that the optimum temperature for deep, uninterrupted sleep is 69.

Fatuous pinheaded leftovers from he Carter era. I'm beginning to accept the position that Climate Change fanatics should be clubbed like baby harp seals.

Also; the 'I'm not a robot please check thee pictures that contain' system seems to have gone berserk. Just saying.

Noname Smith said...

I'll not contest the basic concept that minimizing energy use is worthwhile. That said, "energy use" must be taken in context; there are reasonable ways to minimize energy consumption and there are stupid and insane ways to try to achieve it.

As far as residential energy use goes, there's "comfort" and "health" and the two are not disparate interests (and "productivity" should also be part of that list). Design and construction of houses can greatly assist in minimizing energy consumption but cannot totally eliminate it. So-called "net zero" houses are largely frauds because they depend on accounting legerdemain and burden offsets (grid-tied solar systems are excellent examples of that - they may "save" dollars for one homeowner (for particular values of "save") but only because they're grid supported - without a fully functional electric grid AND a government mandated buy-back program they Do. Not. Work.).

As long as buyers are greatly more interested in putting their money into fancy plumbing fixtures and marble countertops over insulation and air sealing we won't make much progress because builders can't sell the unsexy stuff buried in the walls but they can make bank on marble, chrome and spiffy trim; that extra $50-75/month on utility costs never gets discussed until it impactss the family budget years later.

Orvan Taurus said...

Ah, everything old is new again. This is merely the 2019 Summer version of the Carter-era "65 F" Winter nonsense.

JimR said...

maybe I'll listen to the bureaucrats when their offices are set to 78deg in WashDC

Inventive said...

I think some of the blame falls on the cookie cutter home designs. There's really not a huge difference between a new home in the UP of Michigan and a new home in South Texas, despite the fact that they face entirely different challenges as far as weather and temperatures. (I know there's code differences, and suggestions for insulation levels and whatnot).

I do think it's admirable to reduce energy use, from a financial side of things, as well as just being a good steward of resources, and building an appropriate house for your location is a good start.

I really don't think the government has any business suggesting what temp my thermostat is set at though. Let the market influence things... If someone can afford to run the AC 24/7 at 62 degrees, more power to them.

Himself said...

First thing I learned when I moved to Texas was that buying a two story house was a huge mistake. The sun blasts it, and even if it has decent insulation, it's still very tough to keep cool.

The second lesson was that each house has a set temperature that can be maintained. Go below that temp, and the AC will struggle all day, vacuuming out your wallet.

The third thing I found is that there was a period here when they were slapping houses together. With these, the venting looks like it was build by apes. Apes on the take. They use empty space between walls as return vents. So Peter, if you haven't already, have the intake temp tested at the unit. It should be the temperature of the inside of the house. If it isn't, your unit is sucking in attic air. Happened to me. Twice. Unless the return has it's own pipe to the register, it's probably leaking.

We downsized to a smaller house, one story, that has it's roof shaded for a good part of the day, mostly the hottest point, which is 3-5 pm here. 78 degrees is where I have things set during the day, and it stays that temp easily. Then I ramp it down, in stages, at night.

Most units I've seen can handle 1 degree an hour. My son put in a progammable thermostat in his place, and set it to like 80 degrees when he was away, expecting it to cool off when he got home from work. Had to explain that in Texas you aren't saving a nickel by turning your thermostat way up, then having it go down. Have to use small steps, over hours.

McChuck said...

Efficient electricity usage is complete divorced from comfortable living.
Don't tell me what to do and how to live. Build more power plants!

Margaret Ball said...

"each house has a set temperature that can be maintained. Go below that temp, and the AC will struggle all day, vacuuming out your wallet."

Easy to see in a Texas August. Our neighbor can't get her house more than 20 degrees below the outside temperature, so she proclaims that nobody should be allowed to set their thermostat lower than that. Loudly desires a "smart grid" system which will enforce our all living according to her house's limitations. Meanwhile, through no virtuous pre-planning of our own, our house will happily maintain temperatures so low that after our daughter the Ice Princess has had a go at the thermostat, I have icicles forming on my toes.

I am continually amazed at the Left's ability to ignore individual differences and issue blanket prescriptions. Next week they'll probably want to regulate how often we fill the squirrel feeder. (I've given up calling it a bird feeder.)

Beans said...

Heh. One of my friends who tries to stay 'efficient' keeps her house at 85 or so during the summer. She also believes in those magic rocks for antiperspirant, so she smells like a moldy goatesse.

This is gonna sound weird, but windows, even modern 'efficient' windows, are a great loss of cool. I took the styrofoam sheet insulation with the foil backing and cut chunks to fit my windows. The insulation works best with a dead air space so you can put it between your curtains and your blinds. Did this to one 'hot' window and it cut our bill by $30 in the first month, more than covering the cost of the foam.

Close those windows, cover them, especially ones that face south and west.

Margaret Ball said...

Putting an awning over the south-facing back porch, so that the windows along that wall no longer get hit by direct sun, substantially decreased our bills. Perhaps I will suggest to my neighbor that back porch awnings should be mandatory.

Old NFO said...

Jim R- You REALLY need to post a beverage warning... sigh... And HELL NO, the swamp is at a cool 72 degrees... sigh

Bruce said...

Pete, find a good HVAC guy in your area and have them come look at your system. If you're AC system can't handle cooling your house without the help of a window unit, something is wrong. It could be the system is low on freon (it isn't freon anymore, but as a generic term it works), it just wasn't sized right, or (as suggested above) you're pulling return air from somewhere you shouldn't be.

If the unit was simply sized too small for your home, the easiest long term solution is installing what is known as a mini-split. Relatively easy for the DIY types, but also should be much cheaper than having a complete central air replacement done.

Note, I'm an IT guy not HVAC, but I've been THE guy responsible for all of the physical plant for a ISP/Hosting data center.

Paul, Dammit! said...

I'm with Jim R. When the folks who publish this tripe are the first to do as they suggest in their offices, we can then require the government who promotes their BS to do the same. After, and only after, should they open their mouths.

EH, FWIW, I have a 2-story house in S. FL and there's 25-ft ceilings. Oversizing the AC units and then running them so they don't short cycle makes sense in the tropics. I have a 15-ton AC serving downstairs and a 10-ton unit serving upstairs. I can hang meat in my bedroom if I want, but at 76 in the day and 71 at night (upstairs) it still runs me like $400 a month in the summer. 71 at night sucks to sleep in, but it's better than friggin' 82.

But you know, no heating bill. That helps.

Stan_qaz said...

Many things can go wrong to cause your house to be too warm or cool, many are cheap to fix and make a big difference.

Here it was easy to spot insulation issues in the roof with an IR thermometer. The wind coming in the soffet vents had blown the insulation back several feet from the side wall. Moving it back wasn't hard, better would have been installing some air diversion pieces but my back wasn't up to that so I may have to do it again at some point.

Walking around with the IR thermometer is great for spotting any other weak spots in the insulation too. Find an inexpensive one, Harbor Freight or whatever, you don't need fancy or accurate to 1/100 degree.

We take a simple route to cool sunny windows, we slip a sheet of Reflectrix in under the screens. It is inexpensive, works well and is easy to remove and store once things cool down. It works as well as the sheet foam/foil stuff placed inside and is less hassle.

Our power company has a nice program to check your house and cooling/heating system for leaks. Not free but does have a big subsidy to reduce the cost.

Dave said...

I live in central Texas (Brazos County), and I run my house at 75 or 76 during the day, and drop it to 74 at night. With the fan on low and just a light blanket, I sleep fine.

One thing that this advice seems to ignore, especially folks in the South is the A/C's secondary function as a dehumidifier.

I actually dread it when it gets to the point that it cools off enough at night that the A/C stops running around 2 or 3 in the morning. Because as the temp drops, the humidity goes up (cooler air doesn't hold moisture as well) and even though the temp is actually lower than what the thermostat is set at, I wake up sweating because of the humidity. So I have to bump the A/C down some more to stop the swampy.

PM said...

"As far as residential energy use goes, there's "comfort" and "health" and the two are not disparate interests ...".
This! See also:, Somewhat hyperbolic, but very much on-point about central government diktats.