Get the Most From Your Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat is one of the most affordable and effective ways to reduce your energy bills. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that it can save you up to $180 a year or more. To optimize savings, it's important to select the right unit and use it according to the manufacturer's instructions.
You've got options
Programmable thermostats are affordable, ranging in price from around $30 to more than $200. Most units offer four pre-programmed periods (mornings, evenings, nighttime and daytime) as well as settings for weekends and vacations. Some models offer more advanced features, such as multiple settings for each day of the week. Newer "smart" thermostats offer remote control through your mobile device; some models program themselves based on your habits. The type of thermostat you choose will depend on your budget and the features you want.
Installing your new unit
Installing a new thermostat is a fairly simple project you can do yourself. Use the same wiring that is connected to your old unit and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Remember to shut off the power to the circuit before starting. Hire a qualified technician if you don't feel comfortable performing the work.
The location of your thermostat can affect its performance. Place it away from any heat sources or drafts, including fireplaces, vents, windows and doors. If your existing thermostat is in a poor location, install your new unit in a better setting.
A programmable thermostat is easy to install, but it is also easy to forget. Remember, it will only save you money if you use it. Program the unit based on your household schedule. There are no specific rules regarding temperature settings; it depends on your comfort level, the local climate and the condition of your home.
Although it's important to follow manufacturer's instructions, these general usage guidelines will help you save energy and maintain comfort:
Maintain energy-saving temperature set points when your home is unoccupied for long periods during the day and late at night.
Avoid using the override feature—it defeats the purpose of programmed settings and reduces savings.
Use the vacation feature when you're away. Recommended vacation settings are 55°F during winter and 85°F in the summer.
If your home has multiple heating and cooling zones, install a thermostat to control each zone.
Maintain temperature at the desired setting—adjusting temperatures higher or lower will not heat or cool your home faster.
What about heat pumps?
Programmable thermostats are not recommended for use with heat pumps. Setting back the temperature can cause the unit to operate less efficiently in heat mode. Some companies do offer specialized programmable models for heat pumps.