Guide to your programmable thermostat

Guide to your programmable thermostat

Are you looking for a way to save money on heating and cooling bills without sacrificing comfort? An automatic setback/programmable thermostat might be the answer.  This handy device resets your thermostat for you when you are asleep or out of the house.

The programmable thermostat

Setting up a preset schedule is easy! Programmable thermostats can store and repeat daily settings. You can even program six or more temperature settings for any 24 hour period. Programmable thermostats have options to set heating or air-conditioning temperatures for many days.  Sometimes schedules change.  But don’t worry if you need to override the settings. Manually changing settings will not cancel the preset schedule for the rest of the day or week.

How will a programmable thermostat save me money?

Just adjusting your thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees can save consumers as much as 10% per year on heating and cooling bills. Note, though, that buildings in severe climates do not yield as much savings as buildings in milder climates.

For optimal energy savings during the winter months, program your thermostat to maintain 68°F while you are awake. Then, adjust the settings to the lowest comfortable setting for when you leave the home or when you are sleeping.

When summer rolls around and your central air conditioning system is doing the work of keeping you comfortable, try a new strategy. By keeping the indoor temperature as close to the outdoor temperature as possible, you can achieve a lower cooling bill. Set your thermostat to 78°F (26°C) when you are at home and need to stay cool.  It is important to choose a temperature that allows you to stay comfortable while also controlling the humidity in your building.

There are some common misconceptions about thermostats. One is that, if you set your thermostat back you will have minimal or no savings. The assumption is that the furnace must work harder than normal to get the building back up to a comfortable temperature.  This could not be further from the truth.  Actually, when the interior temperature is lower, it loses heat more slowly than when the temperature inside the building is at a higher temperature. Heat loss is actually diminished when there is a lower temperature within the interior of a structure.  In the summer months does this same theory ring true?  Absolutely, it is just the reverse.  To diminish the transference of heat into your home increase the temperature on the inside to save energy on your air conditioning bill.

Does your home have a heat pump, electric resistance heating, steam heat or a radiant floor heating system?  If your answer is YES, consider these limitations.

If you have a heat pump in your home, a programmable thermostat may not be the best choice for energy savings. But this is only true when you are heating your home.  Setting back a thermostat on a heat pump is actually inefficient when it is in heating mode.  The best strategy for optimal energy savings when using a heat pump is to set your thermostat to a moderate setting. It is important to note that in the summer months when you are using a heat pump to cool your home, a programmable thermostat could be valuable.  Turning up the thermostat using a manual method or a programmable thermostat on a heat pump has the same effect as using the same method on an air conditioner. New programmable thermostats use special algorithms to diminish the use of back up electric resistance heat systems.  These new programmable thermostats are designed specifically for use with heat pumps.

Steam heating and radiant floor heating systems sometimes take several hours to heat up.  This slow response time has led some to infer that using a programmable thermostat to set back temperatures in an effort to save on energy costs is not the appropriate course of action.  To overcome this, some manufactures are offering programmable thermostats that determine when to turn a heating system on by tracking performance.  This allows for optimal comfortable temperatures at the time programmed into the unit, while still optimizing energy usage.

Another energy saving solution for steam heating and radiant floor heating systems might be achieved with a little trial and error.  Try programming your thermostat to starting cooling down well in advance of the departure from your home and before you go to bed.  Then set the thermostat to resume its operation to achieve regular temperatures two or three hours before you rise or arrive home from work.

How do I select a programmable thermostat?

There are a variety of types of programmable thermostats. Electromechanical systems are typically the simplest to program, because they just involve adjusting pegs or sliding bars. Digital varieties offer the most features.  Some of the features on a digital programmable thermostat include multiple setback settings, overrides, and adjustments for daylight savings time.  Increased functionality brings with it increased difficulty of use.  Keep this in mind when choosing the type of programmable thermostat that is right for you.  If you can’t decide some manufacturers even offer thermostats that are a mixture of electromechanical and digital.

What should I think about when programming my thermostat?

  • Schedules of EVERYONE in the house
  • Times when the house is unoccupied for four or more hours
  • Time EVERYONE normally goes to sleep
  • Preferred temperature while sleeping

Where should I install my programmable thermostat?

The performance and efficiency of your programmable thermostat are greatly affected by its location.

  • A thermostat must be located on an interior wall to function properly
  • Avoid the following:
    1. Direct sunlight
    2. Drafts
    3. Doorways
    4. Skylights
    5. Windows
  • Find a spot where there are natural room air currents (warm air rising, cool air sinking)
  • Do not place furniture in front of or below your thermostat because this will block natural air movement
  • Also make sure your thermostat is located in a spot where it will be easy to program

And when in doubt, break out the user manual and READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Careful use will avoid the so-called “ghost readings”. For more information, consider visiting the Department of Energy website for more in-depth information on programmable thermostats and other energy saving tips.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *