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The Costs of Comfort: How Much a Degree Will Run You

Use the three degree rule to manage the cost of comfort

A single degree of temperature can build up the costs of your heating, and building operations, significantly? Learn “the three degree rule,” and learn the true cost of comfort.


With some really cold days upon us, there’s a lingering temptation for tenants to continuously pump up the temperature on your building’s thermostat. But, as a facility manager—responsible for both comfort and costs—how does such a decision end up impacting the bottom line?


Says EnergyHub.com:


“…the DOE’s Energy Savers website says that you can generally save 3% on your heating bill for each degree that you turn your thermostat down during the winter.”


So, for every $100 you spend on heating in the winter, an extra 1 degree should increase costs by $3. Of course, these numbers represent averages that vary based on the efficiency of building furnaces, insulation for spaces being heated, and the outside temperature being corrected (as lower temperatures always require more heat to correct). But, as a rule of thumb, being careful to reach comfort levels without exceeding them can make a notable difference in energy expenditure.


But, if your tenants are still reporting chills while thermostats are set at reasonable levels, there may be other factors contributing to deficits in comfort.


Such factors could include:


  • Workflow & Building Openings: Warehouses that require constant entrance/exit for shipments can contribute to a great deal of heating loss. High-traffic lobbies, too, can see constant influx of cold air. Consider using energy-efficient space heaters to supplement these losses.
  • Window Seals & Insulation: Older buildings, in particular, can see problems as windows separate from the sealants surrounding them. As gaps widen, more and more warm air escapes from indoors (and more cold air enters from outside). As a result, the temperature gains from your heating system last for shorter periods of time, and those near drafts are unlikely to ever feel completely comfortable.
  • Outdated or Failing Furnaces: Replacing your building’s furnace is pricey—there’s no getting around it. But, efficacy of these systems can deteriorate over time, and paying exorbitant amounts each year on repairs (in addition to overpaying for heating) adds up; eventually, a furnace goes from being an asset to being a liability.


Because pinpointing these issues can feel like finding a needle in a haystack, we recommend leaning on your “Human Sensor Network.” If, for instance, reports tend to come from only one corner of one floor, there’s a good chance that area has an airflow issue (whether caused by doors, failing insulation, etc.).


Conversely, if reports come equally throughout the building, you may be looking at furnace failure or a mismatched temperature. Often, of course, temperature deficits are caused by a combination of issues, making the first few days of winter quite busy.
How is your company staying warm for the winter? Have you found the 3% rule to be accurate?

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