Do you want to save money on your energy bill without sacrificing comfort? Do you want a device that links home comfort, energy savings, and convenience all in one? No, you don’t need a magic wand to achieve all this. You just need to install a programmable thermostat in your home.
What is a programmable thermostat?
A programmable thermostat can automatically monitor and adjust your home temperature throughout the day. It stores multiple daily temperature settings of your choosing that it cycles through based on your schedule and preferences—for example, overnight, morning, daytime, and evening.
When the temperature reaches the preset limit, a heat sensitive switch turns off the heating or cooling system to maintain the temperature. Advanced models can even alternate between heating and cooling throughout the day during seasonal transitions. Like right now, when your feet are freezing when they hit the floor in the morning but you’re pulling off your sweater by mid-afternoon. This feature alone can save you as much as 33% on heating costs and up to 10-20% on cooling.
Use It or Lose It
While today’s programmable thermostats use smart home technology to provide a wide range of cool features like voice command, most families already have a programmable thermostat—they just don’t know how to use it.
According to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, as many as 90% of Americans have never programmed their thermostat because they don’t know how. That’s a missed opportunity to save as much as 15% a year on energy costs!
The easiest way to overcome the “use it or lose it” barrier is to make sure you choose a programmable thermostat that fits your budget and needs.
Tips for Selecting and Installing a Programmable Thermostat:
- Select a 7-day programmable thermostat if your schedule varies throughout the week. This type of thermostat allows you to program different settings for each day of the week. It is typically the most expensive option.
- A 5-1-1 programming thermostat allows for one heating/cooling schedule for the week, with a different schedule for both Saturday and Sunday.
- 5-2 programming thermostats are the same as 5-1-1 except that Saturday and Sunday share the same schedule.
- 1-week programming thermostats follow the same schedule every day of the week. These are the cheapest option.
- Install your programmable thermostat on an interior wall that faces away from direct sunlight, drafts, and lighting.
- Make sure the thermostat you choose is compatible with your heating or cooling system before buying.
Types of Programmable Thermostats:
Single-Stage Heat or Cool – For HVAC units that have separate heating and cooling units.
Multi-Stage Heat or Cool – For HVAC units that have a high and low speed setting.
24mV Programmable Thermostat – Compatible with fireplace, wall, or floor furnace.
Zoned HVAC Thermostat – Compatible with HVAC system that controls heating and/or cooling in different areas individually.
Most homeowners in the US use heat pump systems. If you also have a heat system in your home, you should try to select a heat pump-compatible thermostat with intelligent recovery startup. Heat pump-compatible thermostats put a stop to automatic activation of backup electric-resistance heating after a turn-back period thus preventing increase in home energy bills. Please call a professional technician to install this properly.
Best Practices for Saving Money With a Programmable Thermostat
Even the most expensive programmable thermostat may not save you money if you do not use it correctly. Follow these essential tips for using programmable thermostats to lower your electricity bills.
- Start with moderate turn-back/up temperatures, and adjust accordingly according to your requirements.
- Do not be tempted to override program settings by using the “hold” feature.
- Program your thermostat for each individual zone if you have a zoning system. This will maximize savings from reduced energy bills.
- You save 1% on energy costs for every degree you set your thermostat down during the turn-back/up period while you’re out of the house. So if you set program your thermostat to increase the temperature by 100 while at work, you’ll save 10% on your energy bills.
- Program a 4o-7o increase in temperature overnight for additional savings.
- During the summer, manually shut off your AC on days when you don’t need it. The thermostat’s heat sensor will automatically turn the AC back on if it gets too hot.
- Schedule your thermostat to adjust heating and cooling settings 20 to 30 minutes before you leave in the morning or arrive home at night.
Pro tip? If you want to make life even easier, choose a thermostat that can learn your habits for you—no programming required. For a limited time, Bonfe is offering a special deal on Nest Learning Thermostats. Click here to learn more.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2014 but has been updated to include the latest information.