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Programmable Thermostats – Save Money While Keeping Cool


According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a programmable thermostat can save you approximately $180 per year in heating and cooling costs for the average American single-family home. It does this by raising or lowering the temperature automatically at different times of the day to keep you cool while you’re active at home and to save you money while you’re away or sleeping.
These thermostats come pre-programmed with recommended settings for different times of the day and night. Most models are set to adjust the temperature four times per day:

  1. The hour you wake up.
  2. The time you leave the house in the morning
  3. The hour you return home from work
  4. The time you go to bed at night.

However, you can adjust the settings to match your family’s schedule and desired indoor temperatures.

When purchasing a programmable thermostat, it’s important to consider your family’s typical schedule because there are three basic types that are available. Choosing the one that most closely matches your family’s schedule helps ensure maximum savings and ease of use.

  • The 7-day model is the best programmable thermostat for families with erratic schedules. It allows you to set a different cooling schedule for each day of the week. For example, you can set it to raise the temperature at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, and at 3:45 on Thursday to match your child’s afterschool schedule.
  • The 5+2-day model is ideal for people who follow a standard weekday and weekend schedule. If you work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and stay home Saturday and Sunday, this is the model for you.
  • However, if your weekend schedule varies, select the 5-1-1 model. This one maintains the same settings throughout the week and allows you to select different cooling schedules for each weekend day.

Some models are even designed to maintain different levels of heating and cooling in different areas, or zones, of the home as well.

Switching from a manual thermostat to a programmable thermostat is usually a straightforward process, and in some cases, you can even do it yourself. Most models use low-voltage wires and require fewer than 10 connections. When installing or uninstalling thermostats, you must first shut off the main breaker. Simply follow the instructions provided with the model when doing a standard replacement.

If you’re not comfortable installing the model, or if you wish to have your cooling system inspected for energy efficiency, contact an HVAC professional to complete the installation and inspection. A professional can also help you determine the best settings for your programmable thermostat and ensure that it’s used properly for maximum savings.

Now that you’ve selected and installed the model that is most appropriate for your lifestyle, it’s time to set your custom schedule. When doing so, keep in mind that a difference of one degree is equivalent to 2 percent in energy costs or savings. By experimenting with different schedules and temperatures, you can determine which settings keep you at your optimal comfort level while keeping your energy bills within budget.