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You have a heat pump, too? I've been told (I think on the TMF Home Maintenance board) that one shouldn't change the settings on a heat pump often--eg, not set it lower over night. Is that wrong?

Pretty much everyone out here has a heat pump. There used to be a lot of homes with evaporative coolers in AZ. They are by far the most cost effective solution, but they tend to be less effective once the humidity goes above about 20%, and they require a lot of airflow (ie whole house fan and windows open). Heat pumps are the next most efficient solution for our weather.

As far as setting thermostats for variable temps, the truth is that it is of very questionable energy saving value for any type of heating/cooling system. Changing the temperature of a house takes a lot of energy and when you try to raise the temp several degrees all at once in Winter or lower it all at once in Summer, the actual energy balance could go either way. Whether you win or lose that balance battle depends on a lot of variables. A variable speed system is actually more likely to save energy and is less stressful on any type of system.

But other than that, I have never heard, and certainly don't see any reason, that heat pump thermostat adjustments would be any different than other heating/cooling systems. But that's not really much of an issue for us. There are very few days in the year in Phoenix when any heating at all is needed. Open up the thermal drapes to the sun and the house is warm almost any day of the year. Sometimes we light several candles in the fireplace in the morning to accelerate the heat-up process. So the only time the heat pump is pumping heat into the house, is in the evenings. We don't have to set the thermostat to go up and down during Winter. Just set it at 57 degrees and some evenings it might kick on. During the Summer, we used to modulate the temperature upward during the day when we weren't home, but now that we're retired, that doesn't really work for us. And when outside temps run between 80's in the evening and 110's during the day, you pretty much have to keep the A/C on. The only difference between day and night time is the percentage of time the system is on. We program the thermostat for a modest decrease in temp during in the evening.
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