Set Your Thermostat Right to Save Money and Energy
While I have the good fortune of living in Seattle, with a fairly even climate and temperature plus, even when you do need to use the heater in winter, electricity costs little... others are not as fortunate, living in places with bitterly freezing winters, blazing hot summers and expensive electricity: running the air conditioning (A/C) and heater constantly pushes many monthly electric bills into the hundreds of dollars.
I feel your pain. I grew up in Las Vegas, a place where, if you didn't have air conditioning in the dead of a 115 degree summer day, you got cooked. Literally. The desert winters felt surprisingly harsh, dropping temps into the 20's and 30's, a bitter cold for people accustomed to blazing summers.
I learned over time how to manage your thermostat and, ultimately, your electric bill, developing these key principles:
If you're not home, leave the air conditioning off
Air conditioning is designed for your comfort, but what good does that comfort do you if you aren't home for it? Granted, coming home to a cold home in winter or a hot house in summer can feel miserable, but the unpleasantness is temporary as turning on the air conditioning improves the temperature within a few minutes.
Throw it on once you get home, if you need it, and it shouldn't take long for the home's temp to normalize. People who work during the day in hot locales benefit most from this approach.
Set the thermostat at 78 degrees in the summer
The normal comfort zone temperature sits around 72-73 degrees, but an air conditioner isn't a highly scientific machine. In hot weather, air conditioners only blast cooling freon with air into the room until its internal thermometer reaches the indicated temperature, then stops until it goes a couple degrees above, then starts again until it returns to that temperature, and back and forth it goes.
The difference in where you set the thermostat only affects how much cold air it blows into the room. The lower temperature at which you set the thermostat in summer, the more air it blows in.
Setting the thermostat at 78 degrees typically keeps enough cool air in the room for comfort. Unless you developed a keen temperature sensitivity, you won't likely notice the difference between 73 degrees and 78 degrees. But your electric bill will certainly show it, as your A/C will not run as frequently, and as long. And if you spend the day outside in the heat, coming inside to 78 degree indoor air feels a lot better anyway.
Set the thermostat at 60 degrees in winter
Basically as I said above, except replace the cold freon of the air conditioner with the heated air of the heater.
You won't notice the cold while asleep as long as you have sufficient blankets. Buy a down comforter for bed, and how warm it keeps you may surprise you.
Some recommend shutting the heat completely off before bed. While normally sound, I understand that in places where the temps drop precipitously low at night, below the teens and such, this can make the room temperature dangerously low. If you live in such a place, please wear layers at night and, if you must, keep a heating source on.
Make sure air circulates during the summer
Buy oscillating fans and use them in each room. On milder days, shut off the A/C, crack the windows and try to get by on just circulated air as long as you can. Often, air feels hotter simply because it stagnates indoors and doesn't circulate.
Find inexpensive excuses to go out
Since you won't use your A/C when you're not home (right?), try to spend time away from home during your free time, so you have an excuse not to use the A/C. Go to a bookstore. Go out to dinner. Go to a concert, go run some needed errands, go hang out with friends... anything to get out of the house... and remember to shut off your thermostat before you leave, of course. (Obviously, if you drive, try to multitask so you don't drive too much, or you may use so much gas that it offsets any cost savings)
One added bonus: most of these places have air conditioning.
While by no means a comprehensive guide, these starting suggestions should help you save electricity and, utlimately, money on your electric bill.
Below are materials that can further help you save energy and lower your energy bills: