Getting the Most Out of Your Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats have the potential to improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system, and reduce your overall utility bills. However, you have to use your thermostat wisely in order to reap the potential savings. If you use your programmable thermostat in unintended ways, you may actually find your energy bills growing instead of shrinking.

Programmable Thermostats Offer Potential Savings

Fundamentally, reducing the amount of energy that you use to heat and cool your home comes down to using your HVAC system less. There are two basic ways to accomplish this—the first is to turn your HVAC system off whenever possible, and the second is to set your thermostat for moderate temperatures that your system won’t have to work overtime to achieve.

Programmable thermostats can help you to do both of these things consistently, which will almost certainly mean energy savings. These devices allow you to turn your system off automatically while you’re at work or sleeping, and program energy efficient temperatures for different times of year. Many such thermostats will even allow you to program different settings for weekdays and weekends.

Irresponsible Settings Can Be Costly

However, studies have found that many people use their programmable thermostats in ways that largely eliminate potential savings or even cost them money.

One study of 400 Florida homes found that people with programmable thermostats saved cooling energy while they were away, but used more when they were at home because they set their systems to much lower temperatures.

Many people also use their programmable thermostats to pursue extreme comfort at the cost of energy efficiency. They may run their air conditioner during the day and their heater at night in order to keep their home at one perfect temperature at all times, which uses a significant amount of energy.

Overall, research has shown such minimal average savings with programmable thermostats that the EPA suspended the ENERGY STAR certification for these devices in 2009.

You Are Your Most Important Energy Saving Tool

If you are motivated to reduce your energy consumption and lower your energy bills, programmable thermostats will probably help you to do so. These devices can guarantee smart energy use on a daily basis, and take human error out of the equation. Instead of having to remember to turn your system on and off several times each day, your thermostat will take care of it for you.

Programmable thermostats are energy saving tools, but as with all tools the way you use them is important. Simply purchasing a programmable thermostat is no guarantee that you will lower your energy bills—it’s up to you to program them in a way that will maximize the efficiency of your HVAC system.

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