Choosing and Using a Programmable Thermostat
Keep a lid on energy expenses with a programmable thermostat
By Kaye Morris
As a homeowner you're probably already aware of the fact that heating and cooling costs are a major drain on your pocketbook. In fact, according to Energy Star -- a joint program between the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S Department of Energy (DoE) -- approximately half of the average home's energy costs can be attributed to heating and cooling resulting in an estimated $2,200 a year on energy costs alone. Fortunately a simple step, such as using a programmable thermostat can save you money every year. Before you buy one, though, learn more about these devices and their features.
- What You Need to Know
- You'll need a programmed setback thermostat for each heating or cooling zone in your home to maximize energy savings.
Thermostats generally come in three different schedule types, so you should decide which thermostat schedule works best for you based on your lifestyle. Seven-day models are great if your schedule is varied because they let you set different programs for different days of the week. A '5+2' model allows you to program different settings for weekends versus weekdays. Similarly a '5+1+1' model lets you program one set of weekday settings and a different set for Saturdays and Sundays.
Programmable thermostats come with a variety of different features. Most have four pre-programmed settings as a standard feature, but other optional features include digital backlit displays; touch pad screen programming; voice and/or phone programming; hold/vacation features; and indicators that tell you when it’s time to change air filters.
Select a location for the thermostat. Programmable thermostats should be on an interior wall with minimal exposure to heat sources or drafts. Heat sources include items such as electronics, skylights and windows. Never place the thermostat near heating or cooling vents.
Shut off the breaker to the area where you are installing the thermostat. Remember to have an alternate light source available in case you do not have enough natural light for the installation.
Wire the thermostat, and attach it to the wall. Follow the installation instructions included with your thermostat. Thermostats usually have 2 to 10 wires, depending on the features of your heating and cooling units. If your old thermostat had fewer wires or you are uncertain about the installation instructions, consider hiring a certified HVAC professional install the thermostat.
Program the thermostat according to your schedule. It is more cost efficient to maintain temperature settings for several hours of time than to change it constantly. The DoE recommends a setting of 78 degrees for day use during warm months. If you are not home during the day, set the thermostat for a higher temperature, and program it to adjust prior to the time you return home.
If you like your home cooler while sleeping, program the thermostat to lower the temperature prior to your usual bedtime. For heating, the DoE recommends a setting of 68 degrees for normal daily use. You can save an estimated 1 percent on energy costs for every 1 degree you decrease heating temperatures for a period of at least eight hours.
About the Author
Kaye Morris has 20 years of real estate development experience and is a regular contributor to DexKnows.
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