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Let's do the Thermostat Limbo

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"If it were this cold outside, you'd make me wear a jacket!" I exclaimed as I looked at the thermostat.

As a teenager I would complain frequently about how cold it was in our house during the winter. Trying to keep our energy costs as low as possible, my mother was extremely stingy with the temperature setting. I promised myself that when I grew up my home would be warm and toasty throughout the winter.

It's January and in the Midwest it's cold outside. However, now that I'm the adult and responsible for paying for the heating bill, I'm much less interested in keeping my home at a tropical temperature. But I'm also not interested in having the same arguments with my family about the thermostat setting.  

So I like to play a little game I call The Thermostat Limbo.

The Limbo is a popular party game where a bar is suspended in the air, while people twist and contort their body to pass under the bar without touching their hands on the ground. As the game goes on, the bar is gradually lowered making it more difficult to successfully pass below the bar. 

In my version of the game, as we progress through the colder months, I gradually lower the temperature setting of the thermostat over time such that we don't notice. My method is to decrease the normal air temperature in our home by one degree every three weeks starting in November. The goal is to let the members of my family become fully adjusted to the new temperature before again "lowering the bar" just slightly. Decrease it too quickly or by too much, and family members notice, and complaining occurs.

But does it work?

I've found that it does. I've seen my wife walk down the hallway, glance at the thermostat on her way by, and suddenly stop and do a double take. She stares in disbelief at the number illuminated on the screen and comments on how low the number is, but how it doesn't feel that cold.  

For each degree you turn down your thermostat full time, you save about 3% on your energy cost. Think of your own wintertime energy bill, do a little math, and you will quickly find out just how much a game of Thermostat Limbo can save you. 

So the question is: how low can you go?

Related Links:

Don't Let Winter Energy Costs Put You in a Frigid Mood

10 Super-Easy Ways to Reduce Your Energy Usage and Save Money

7 Easy Ways to Save Energy

Travis Pizel, Debt Management Plan customer with leading provider of debt relief, CareOne Services, Inc. Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • I love this idea Travis!! It reminds me of when you get new fish to put in an aquarium and you have to acclimate them :)

    I am the one who is always cold at our house...but, I have learned to live with the "brisk" 65 degree setting. It is worth it to see lower energy bills!

  • Great idea!  Now what to do when company that stops by notices? :)

  • How interesting! I never would have thought of that. I have noticed that in the 3 years since moving out of the Mojave Desert I can tolerate much cooler weather than before. I also struggle much more when going to visit in the summer. We just have blankets stashed around so people can wrap up. The boys are hot blooded and think 55 is comfortable while we girls start to feel it when it dips below about 68.

  • Exactly, Suzanne!  In fact, the next time I get asked why it's so cold in the house, I'm going to tell them they're just fish.....give it time, you'll get used to it.  I can almost imagine the look on Tori's face now.  LOL.

    You've got us beat by a degree, our temp is currently set at 66.  I think you've just challenged me to drop another degree.  :)

  • LOL, great question, Lindsey.  :)  There are really two different situations here.  

    The first one is when we have people over for entertaining.  In that instance, we usually end up turning our heat down anyway because just having a lot of people in the house tends to spike the temperature to a "too high" point.  So, nobody notices a cold environment in that case.

    The second situation is when just a few people are over - we had this instance when my brother and his family, and my parents stayed with us for the weekend after Christmas.  We bit the bullet and increased the temp setting for the weekend.  :)

  • Oh, Kimberly, you've got the extra challenge of having family members that have different "cold thresholds."  My son never complains, but my wife and daughter definitely like to be "snuggly" warm.  I got my wife an electric blanket for Christmas, and now they both use it.  :)   I think the energy needed to power the blanket would still be less than the energy needed to heat the whole house.

  • I just had the "heat fight" the other night. I do 67 starting at 6:30 a.m., down to 62 at 8:30, up to 66 at 3:30, and down to 64 at 8:30 p.m. The redhead asked the other night if I'd turn it up a few degrees since it was going to be "really cold outside" that night. I tried to explain that it didn't matter if it was -10 or 30 outside, the whole point of the thermostat is to keep it the same temperature in the house. I lost that argument (sigh) and turned it up to 66 for the night. About halfway through the night she had no covers on and the next day on our car ride to work I asked her if she was more comfortable sleeping the previous night. "I sweat my butt off," she said. Back to 64. Case closed.

    As far as the kids go--they can be cold. Put a sweatshirt and some darn socks on. :)

  • Oh, I've had that same discussion, Mike!  If we're comfortable at a certain temp inside, it doesn't matter what the temp is outside, right???  It's true, once you get used to a temp, turning UP the heat will be uncomfortable.  We went to my parents house  for Thanksgiving.....remember my mother from the story who kept it "so cold" when I was a teenager?  Well as they've aged apparently they now have determined they need it warmer.  They had their thermostat set at 68 to 70.  

    My entire family thought they were going to self-combust at any second.

  • Absolutely. My in-laws house during the holidays is almost unbearable. I always wear a short sleeve shirt.

    The other night I even busted out the "If it were 64 degrees outside right now you'd all be running around in the grass in your bare feet with shorts and t-shirts on, so don't sit here and tell me that now you're 'freezing' because it is 64 degrees in the house!"

  • Hey Travis - I can't imagine a single family that doesn't have this same problem and mine is no different.  However, we have a bit of a different twist.  One of our daughters and our 4-year old granddaughter moved in with us.  Prior to that, my husband and I had settled on a chilly 68 degrees for heat.  He was comfortable and I was wrapped up in a 100-year old wool buggy blanket.  Then, our family grew.  Sometimes, in the middle of the night I would wake up sweating (which just is not me).  Often, in the late evening, my husband would mention that the house really seemed almost hot.  Neither of us thought to check the thermostat.  We have recently learned that our granddaughter knows how to work the thermostat and secretly changes it.  All it takes is her Mamma mentioning that she's cold.  We've all had a good laugh and Grandpa gave her a stern lecture about the thermostat and not to touch but now, before we go to bed we make sure to check the reading.  Who would have thought!!

  • Haha, tiquie, your story brings back memories of my brother and I sneaking into the hallway to push the the temp up.  My mom would get SO MAD when she'd discover that one of us had turned it up to 72.  I wonder how hard it would be put a plastic case around it with a lock and key.  :)

  • LOL Tiguie your story tickled me! We have blankets strategically tucked away all over the house.  I just want to point out - in defense of all the cold ones - Summer is coming and this argument will be the exact same with the rolls reversed! My males are such babies about the heat!  By the way - I am currently wearing a jacket and have a heavy blanket over my legs because I am the only one home during the work week. I pay the bills so I never turn up the heat LOL! In fact, now that I think about it almost all my winter clothes have jackets that I wear with them LOL. I never noticed that. When the kids get home I will turn on the pellet stove (about $5 a month on pellets) in the family room to take the chill off this room. In the summer my son is always getting in trouble for turning the AC on. If fact we started charging him!

  • What an awesome way to handle the thermostat.  I am always cold during the winter and have blankets around to keep me warm.  I like your idea much better as it sounds so much more comfortable.  Nice thinking.  :-)

  • We have blankets laying around too, mdavis1964.  But I think it's more of a snuggling technique with the kids. :)

  • Love it!!!

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