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How To Achieve Optimal Cooling And Energy Efficiency When It's Really Hot Out

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right. It is August, and it is hot as heck in much of the U.S. So if you've got central air conditioning, you're probably doing that summertime dance around the thermostat. How low can you set it without sending your utility bill through the roof?

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Well, according to Energy Star, the federal program, in order to achieve optimal cooling and energy efficiency, you should set your thermostat to 78 degrees while at home, 85 degrees while away and 82 degrees while sleeping.

CHANG: Wait. What?

CORNISH: Yeah.

CHANG: Eighty-two degrees while sleeping.

CORNISH: That's right; 82 degrees while sleeping.

JENNIFER AMANN: We've seen a lot of people with their hair on fire on the Internet this week (laughter) as a result of these numbers.

CORNISH: Jennifer Amann is the buildings program director for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

CHANG: People were especially outraged by that recommended sleeping temperature. Eighty-two degrees is really hot, Audie. Natalie Dautovich is the environmental scholar at the National Sleep Foundation.

NATALIE DAUTOVICH: A cool bedroom environment is conducive to better sleep. But by cool, we know that it has to be actually really quite cool, so room temperature's between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit are optimal for sleep.

CHANG: Maybe that sounds pretty cold to you, but science backs these numbers up.

DAUTOVICH: Unfortunately, if you have a warm bedroom environment - and definitely, 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is warm - what will likely happen is that you'll experience arousals during sleep so that even if you don't remember waking up, your sleep will actually be less restorative. And you'll wake up feeling less refreshed.

CORNISH: So what can you do if you don't want to melt but you also care about saving energy and money? Jennifer Amann says you can try to make yourself comfortable at a higher temperature.

AMANN: By using ceiling fans, which will move air and can make you feel five or more degrees cooler than the thermostat setting.

CORNISH: But once you leave a room, make sure to turn the fan off.

AMANN: They don't cool rooms. They just cool people.

CHANG: You can also minimize using things in your home that create heat.

AMANN: Try not to cook with the oven. You know, go outside. Grill your food. Have a cold salad.

CHANG: Or maybe experiment a little bit.

AMANN: What you can do is maybe, you know, turn up the thermostat one degree overnight. See how you do. Give yourself some time to adjust to that. Over time, you might find that you can actually increase the temperature setting a few degrees and still be comfortable.

CORNISH: And if you need some motivation...

AMANN: Maybe spend some of that energy savings on a nice, cold six-pack to help stay comfortable and enjoy the rest of the summer.

AILSA CHANG AND AUDIE CORNISH: Cheers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MEGAN THEE STALLION SONG, "HOT GIRL SUMMER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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