KPRC 2 News: Ask Amy – Is turning up the A/C to conserve electricity bad for your home?

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Thermostat

You may be making changes around your home to help conserve energy as this sweltering heat continues in Houston. We’ve been told to crank up the A/C up when we’re away but is that good for your home? That’s what one viewer wants to know.

Question: A viewer asked, is it safe or ok to put his thermostat at 85 degrees when he leaves on vacation. Some say that if you put it too high, mold could be a problem in our area. Not sure if this is true.

Federal guidelines recommend setting your thermostat to 78 degrees during the day and 85 when you are out of the house. Jaime asked if setting your thermostat that high is safe – he’s worried about mold or other problems that may come up.

Technician Adjusting Thermostat

Answer: We called Abacus Plumbing, Air Conditioning and Electrical to ask about this. HVAC service manager Matt Lopez says it’s true that a cooler temperatures help remove the humidity in your home – so it makes sense that someone might be worried about it getting too hot.

Lopez recommends setting the thermostat 15-20 degrees below the high temps outside. So if it’s 100 degrees outside, 80-85 while you are away would be okay.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) there are a few things you can do to help prevent mold from growing in your home.

Preventing mold in your home

  • Check the ventilation in your kitchen and bathroom. These are the two most likely places for mold to develop first.
  • Keep your air conditioning drip pans and drain lines clean.
  • Cover cold water pipes with insulation so they don’t sweat.
  • When water leaks or spills occur indoors – act quickly. If wet or damp materials or areas are dried 24-48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases mold will not grow.
  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation, so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation.
  • Keep indoor humidity low. If possible, keep indoor humidity below 60 percent (ideally between 30 and 50 percent) relative humidity. Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter, a small, inexpensive ($10-$50) instrument available at many hardware stores.
  • If you see condensation or moisture collecting on windows, walls or pipes, act quickly to dry the wet surface and reduce the moisture/water source. Condensation can be a sign of high humidity.

Most modern, top of the line HVAC systems have built in sensors and controls to manage and set humidity levels from the thermostat. Purchasing dehumidifiers and/or a professional grade, whole-house UV Air Purifier, like the REME system that are installed into your HVAC equipment, are excellent at keeping mold spores and different types of microscopic organisms under control.

Another helpful tip: Just a few weeks ago we told you about programs that can help you manage the temperature inside your home. Certain electric providers give discounts if you allow them to remotely change your smart thermostat.