Programmable thermostats are a great way to save money (and energy). But you won’t automatically save energy or money simply because you have one installed. You’ve got to understand how they work, and program them to maximize your savings.
Savvy homeowners choose programmable thermostats that meet specific criteria to maximize their savings, learn all about their programmable thermostats and how they work, develop strategies for using them, and make sensible adjustments based on the information their thermostats provide.
How to Pick the Right Programmable Thermostat
Thermostats have different capabilities, and you should study your options carefully to make sure you select one with the right features for you and your home.
Here’s a few things to consider:
Diverse Scheduling Options
Some thermostats let you program each day individually, while others only have separate settings for weekends and weekdays, or even one single setting to cover the whole week. If your schedule varies for each day of the week, you’ll save more money and more energy if you can program each day of the week individually. But if you have a consistent day-to-day schedule that may not be necessary, and you can save considerable money with less options.
So-called “smart” thermostats can learn your habits and program the operation of your HVAC system automatically (with override options available, of course). This could be ideal if your activities and home comfort preferences are stable and predictable, or if you worry that you’ll forget to program your thermostat on your own.
For example, if you consistently turn up the heat because you’re cold at night, your smart thermostat can learn that and automatically start increasing the heat all on it’s own.
Smart thermostats with Wi-Fi connectivity give you 24-hour control of your home environment, regardless of where you are in the world. All you need to do is install the appropriate app on your smartphone or tablet, and once you learn to use it you’ll be all set to go.
Wi-Fi capability makes a thermostat more expensive, but if you are a detail-oriented person you’ll likely gain maximum energy efficiency from having a unit that gives you minute-by-minute control over the functioning of your heating and cooling system. This is perfect if you have an unpredictable schedule and are often uncertain about when you’ll be home or away.
Theoretically, a programmable thermostat with Wi-Fi capability offers peak energy and money savings, but that is only true if you are disciplined enough to adjust your thermostat’s temperature and/or settings frequently from your app.
Some smart programmable thermostats can also monitor the activity of furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps, and can give you warnings if there is a decline in performance or any other sign that suggests maintenance or repairs are needed. In addition to connecting with home heating and cooling equipment, many smart thermostats can also be connected to humidifiers or dehumidifiers, allowing you to customize their operations as well.
Before purchasing any programmable thermostat, you should familiarize yourself with all its capabilities to see if it offers any extra benefits you might find attractive (and profitable).
Tips for Using Programmable Thermostats
Most programmable thermostats come with factory settings, but you must take control of them yourself in order to gain maximum benefits.
Here are some tips that will help you maximize your savings:
- In winter, set your thermostat 7-10 degrees lower than you normally would for at least 8 hours a day (10 degrees higher in summer), typically during your working hours when no one is at home anyway. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you’ll save 10 percent on total energy costs by following this advice.
- Program your thermostat to keep the home at least 5 degrees warmer or cooler than normal while you sleep (depending on the season). You can add blankets in the winter and remove them in the summer to make sure you’re still comfortable!
- When programming the thermostat for the overnight hours, set it so it will begin reducing or raising temperatures an hour or so before you go to bed, and set it to begin reversing the process 30 minutes or so before you wake up in the morning.
- For the best combination of money savings and comfort, the Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat at 78 degrees during waking hours when you’re at home in summer and at 68 degrees during waking hours when you’re at home in winter.
- Temperatures should be kept 10-15 degrees higher or lower than normal when you are away from home. To make sure this doesn’t compromise your comfort, program the thermostat to activate your HVAC system 30 minutes to an hour before you arrive back home in the evening. Of course, if you have a programmable thermostat with Wi-Fi connectivity you can make those adjustments from wherever you are.
Many people are intimidated by what they perceive to be the complexity of programmable thermostats. But if you take the time to read the user’s manual and experiment with the different features, you’ll soon figure it out.
Your HVAC contractor is a valuable resource as well, and you shouldn’t hesitate to ask them questions about how to use—and get the most out of—your new programmable thermostat. At Controlling Systems, our skilled technicians are experts in basic and advanced thermostat programming, and we invite you to contact us today if you have any questions.