Save Money and Energy: Programmable Thermostats

Save Money and Energy: Programmable Thermostats

Install a no-fuss thermostat that can be set to your personal schedule

By Kathryn Keep

Digital Thermostat
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Programmable thermostats can save you up to 10 percent on your heating and cooling costs over the course of a year. These devices automatically save you energy, without requiring you to remember to reset your thermostat. They also prevent your home from becoming too hot or too cold, because they know when to shut off and stop heating or cooling your property. This is an especially useful feature at night when temperatures can change drastically while you're asleep.


A programmable thermostat allows you to adjust temperatures according to a preset schedule so you aren't wasting energy on heating or cooling when you are asleep, at work or away from home. You want to install these thermostats indoors, but away from any major source of heat or cold, as this will skew the thermostat's temperature reading.


Consider features such as back-lit digital displays, touch pad screens, voice or phone programming, hold or vacation settings, malfunction warnings and adaptive recovery features that sense how long it takes to reach a given temperature and ensure the desired temperature is reached by the preset time.


Programmable thermostats come in 7-day models, which allow the greatest flexibility in programming;, 5+2 day models that allow for only weekday and weekend schedules; and 5-1-1 models that allow a weekday schedule and different schedules for Saturday and Sunday.


Generally, you want to set temperature changes to occur slightly before bedtime to ensure a stable room temperature when you are going to sleep. If there is any time when your house is routinely unoccupied for 4 or more hours, it makes sense to include it in your program. If you have a particularly large house, or if certain rooms are isolated from the rest by long hallways or closed-off rooms consider getting another thermostat for that part of the house. This can save energy and guarantee a comfortable temperature.


Programmable thermostats do not work as well with heat pumps, electric resistance heating, steam heat or radiant floor heating. Also be aware that the placement of your programmable thermostat will affect its performance. Lastly, many people falsely believe that cranking the thermostat much higher or lower than they want will result in the house cooling or heating faster. This is not true, however, it will simply waste energy.

About the Author

Kathryn Keep is a regular contributor to DexKnows. She is an eco-consultant, with expertise in environmental issues, home decorating, green building, and general sustainable living.

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