Programmable thermostats are one of the most popular home energy savings investments. A programmable thermostat means that once set, your heating and/or cooling systems will work automatically based on what you've told them to do, i.e. raise the temperature at 7am in the morning Monday through Friday but not until 8am on the weekends.
Many people don't know which thermostat to buy, or how to program it after it's installed. This short video from the EPA, Program Your Programmable Thermostat, provides a nice overview to help you through some of these concerns.
Buying a Programmable Thermostat
There are so many choices in programmable thermostats, it's difficult to provide specific recommendations. We can offer these tips to prepare you for a trip to the store and you might find the service reps more knowledgeable at an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) or building supply store.
There are many new technologies coming on the market to reduce energy use. One exciting new technologies is the introduction of talking thermostats for anyone who is visually impaired. Talking thermostats at the push of a button, will announce the time, day, temperature setting and room temperature. One of the most attractive features are audio instructions for setting up the thermostat. Another new technology is the telephone thermostat which lets you control your thermostat remotely, via the telephone. A separate phone line isn't necessary and the telephone thermostat will coexist with your answering machine or voice mail.
- Only buy a programmable thermostat with an Energy Star label.
- Programmable thermostats offer a variety of programs. Some let you program all 7 days while others offer 2 settings (weekdays and weekends) or 3 settings (weekdays, Saturday and Sunday). Your family's schedule will help you determine which model is best.
- Some thermostats warn you when it's time to change the air filter in your heating/cooling systems. This feature is worthwhile as proper air flow will allow to these systems to run as efficiently as possible.
Installing and Programming Your Thermostat
It might seem obvious but just to be sure, here are some tips to get the most from your thermostat.
- You should install your thermostat in a location where you spend the most time at home. It should be on an inside wall, away from vents, drafts or stairways that don't represent the room's temperature. Ideally the thermostat should not be exposed to any heat sources like sunlight or hot water pipes.
- Where appropriate, replace batteries once a year to insure continued operations.
- Most thermostats are pre-programmed for your daily life cycle (4 periods) to include – waking up, leaving the house, returning home and going to bed. Here are the EPA's recommended temperature changes (video link above).
|Away from Home||Sleeping|
|Winter||Lower by 8 degrees||Lower by 8 degrees|
|Summer||Raise 7 degrees||Raise by 4 degrees|
Turning down the heat just 1 degree Fahrenheit for just 8 hours a day, can save roughly 1 percent of your home's heating costs. Turn the heat down 8 degrees and that's a savings of 8 to 10%. The same savings apply to air conditioning.