On a cold day like today, I am reminded of something that I’ve been thinking of on and off — a practice that seems intuitive to me, but I think is not widely used: adjusting one’s thermostat based on outside temperature. Now, clearly people do this to some extent, for instance, in the fall, waiting until it gets pretty cold before officially turning their heat on (in the case that they don’t just use central air year round). But my inclination is to go further, to not just set the thermostat at a given daytime temperature and forget it, but to correlate the rise and fall of the inside temperature with the outdoor temperature within a certain comfort zone, both to save energy and to be more attuned with nature. For instance, on a day like today when the high is only supposed to be in the mid-30s(F), I am choosing to put on long underwear and keep the thermostat lower than is normally comfortable (say 64 instead of 68). In this way, I can save on heating costs, feel less of a shock when I go outside, and lessen the dryness of the air inside the house. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, after all, the less your heating system has to work to get your home to the thermostat-set temperature. Similarly, if it’s a warm day, like we have seen much of this January, with highs in the 50s or even low 60s, I don’t feel as bad about bumping the thermostat up a couple degrees to keep comfortable inside the house. I don’t feel the need to bundle up in sweaters and long underwear when the temperature outside is not much colder than inside — the amount of energy it takes on those days to heat my home to a comfortable setting is much less.
(I apply this strategy, too, to what I see are often called “thermostat setbacks” — setting a thermostat lower at night and when no one is home. I will set the heat down much lower when I leave the house on a cold day than I would on a warm day.)
Adjusting the thermostat based on weather makes sense, for me, not only from a financial and energy conservation perspective but also as a gesture, however small, toward lessening the bubble of artificiality separating modern human existence from the natural world. I would be interested to see electronic thermostats that implement this feature!
What do you think? Give it a try and let me know how adjusting your indoor home temperature in correlation with the outdoor temperature sits with you.