Programmable Thermostats

You can save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10°- 15° for eight hours.  You can do this automatically without sacrificing comfort by installing an automatic setback or programmable thermostat.

Using a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the times you turn on the heating or air conditioning according to a pre-set schedule.  As a result, you don’t operate the equipment as much when you are asleep or when the house is not occupied.

Programmable thermostats can store and repeat multiple daily settings (six or more temperature settings a day) that you can manually override without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program.

General Thermostat Operation

You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68° F while you are awake and setting it lower while you are asleep or away from home. By turning your thermostat back 10°-15° for eight hours you can save about 5% – 15% a year on your heating bill (a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long).

In the summer, you can follow the same strategy with central air conditioning, too, by keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away, and lowering the thermostat setting to 78° F only when you are at home and need cooling.  Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal as you awake or return home.

A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings.  In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly.  The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. The longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature.  The same concept applies to raising your thermostat setting in the summer; a higher interior temperature will slow the flow of heat into your house, saving energy on air conditioning.

Choosing and Programming a Programmable Thermostat

Most programmable thermostats are either digital, electromechanical, or some mixture of the two.  Digital thermostats offer the most features in terms of multiple setback settings, overrides, and adjustments for daylight savings time, but may be difficult for some people to program.  Electromechanical systems often involve pegs or sliding bars and are relatively simple to program.

When programming your thermostat, consider when you normally go to sleep and wake up.  If you prefer to sleep at a cooler temperature during the winter, you may want to start the temperature setback a bit ahead of the time you actually go to bed. Also, consider the schedules of everyone in the household; is there a time during the day when the house is unoccupied for four hours or more?  If so, it makes sense to adjust the temperature during those periods.

Other Considerations

The location of your thermostat can affect its performance and efficiency.  Read the manufacturer’s installation instructions to prevent “false readings” or unnecessary furnace or air conditioning cycling.

Place thermostats away from direct sunlight, drafts, doorways, skylights and windows.  Also, make sure your thermostat is conveniently located for programming.

Be sure to check the website of the company that supplies the energy for your heating and cooling.  Many utilities offer rebates for upgrading your heating/cooling systems and some of those may include rebates for setback thermostats.

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