Here is the offending thermostat. Check out the mercury switch under the dial! Thank goodness we don't make them the way we used to do.
Our motto at Home Energy, especially today, could be, We Love Houses. We do, and I have to admit to being a little house-proud. I feel good about the simple lifestyle we live at home, and the low amount of energy we use compared to our neighbors. But “pride goes before the fall,” paraphrasing Proverbs 16:18.
Since moving into our home seven years ago, my wife Michele and I have proudly kept our thermostat set in the winter to 68F during the day and 64F at night. I know, it’s not that great given that we live near the coast in Northern California, but it still allowed us to feel superior to our less-virtuous neighbors. It all changed when we decided to swap out our thermostat. My wife noticed that the temperature on our old thermostat didn’t match the temperature on an inside-outside thermometer that we have at home. Turns out we weren’t being so virtuous.
The usual 68F felt a little chilly after the thermostat swap. So we checked it against the freestanding thermometer and found out that when the old thermostat said 68F, it was really 72F. It seemed so easy being an environmental hero before, and now I knew why.
I’m still not quite adjusted to the true temperature and the ego bruising, but our heating bills are down significantly from last year; that sooths my pain. We still very much love our house. And the lesson learned? Pride does go before the fall—in utility bills.
(Check out Alan Meier’s editorial on a shift in the way we think about thermostats in the upcoming, March/April issue of Home Energy. It may not be what you think.)