Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our office is open to visitors by appointment only. Please call or email from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
703-324-7136 TTY 711
12000 Government Center Pkwy, Suite 533
Fairfax, VA 22035
John Morrill

Take the “Two-Degree Challenge” to Save Energy and Money this Season

Heating your home can take a lot of energy, which often means higher electricity bills over the fall and winter months. In fact, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated that more than 40% of annual energy consumption in American homes is for heating! 

Read on to learn why it’s worth challenging yourself to turn your thermostat back by a couple degrees (or more, if you please) until warmer weather returns.

thermostat showing 68 degrees being turned down

Save Money

According to Energy Saver from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), having a lower indoor temperature in the winter reduces the speed at which your home loses heat. This means that your heating system won’t have to work so hard to keep the indoor temperature stable. By turning your thermostat back just a couple of degrees, you’re helping save all that energy that would have been used to maintain a higher temperature. 

Going by DOE’s estimates, you can save between 1 to 3 percent on your heating bill for each degree that you turn your thermostat back in the winter, depending on your home and your heating system. This might not sound like much, but as the totals add up, so do the savings. Plus, you can save even more (up to 10 percent) by turning the thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees from its normal setting for an eight-hour period each day—such as when you’re away at work or at bedtime.

Reduce Your Environmental Impact

Energy consumption is a source of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. Unless your home is powered by renewable energy, fossil fuels like oil and natural gas are used to generate your electricity.  In 2020, electricity accounted for about 35 percent of Fairfax County’s total greenhouse gas emissions. When you save energy on heating, you’re helping to reduce your household’s environmental impact. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency even has a handy carbon footprint calculator available to estimate how many pounds of carbon dioxide you could save by just turning your thermostat back at night in the winter. (The savings are even greater if you also opt to turn it back by two degrees during the day.) With about 400,000 households in Fairfax County, when we all take action, we can make a big difference!

screenshot of carbon footprint calculator

Heating Tips

You may by surprised by how little you notice a two-degree difference in your home’s temperature. Still, here are a few additional tips to help you maximize the heat in your home during cooler months: 

  • Open the curtains on south-facing windows during the day to let the sun naturally warm the room. When the sun goes down, close the curtains to help retain your indoor heat at night. 
  • Give your indoor heat fewer opportunities to escape by properly (and safely) sealing air leaks around your home
  • Regularly change your air filter to help your HVAC run smoothly and efficiently, maximizing its benefit. Schedule routine “checkups” for your system to make sure it’s working well.
  • Dress warmly. Get cozy with sweaters, socks, and blankets. 
  • Circulate warm air with your ceiling fan (yes, really!). During the summer, you probably want your fan running counterclockwise, which provides a cooling effect. But in the winter, check if your ceiling fan has a “reverse” option to run clockwise—if so, this will help recirculate the warmer air that moves to the top of a room. 
  • Consider a programmable thermostat, which will allow you to pre-set your home’s temperature for different times of day. This can make it easier to automatically dial back the heat when you don’t need it as much, like when you’re usually asleep or not at home.

Learn More

Take the two-degree challenge when it’s cold outside to help make a difference for the environment and your electricity bill. Visit our Home Energy page to explore more ideas on how to save energy, water, and money at home, all year round.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant