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Ask Mr. Tight-Watt: Programmable Thermostats  Smart Choices Archive

Ask Mr. Tight-Watt: Programmable Thermostats

A programmable thermostat provides automatic energy savings.

Ask Mr. Tight-Watt

Question: What are the benefits of a programmable thermostat? –from Charles, a Smart Choices reader

Mr. Tight Watt checked with Energy Star to find an answer for Charles.

Answer: The primary benefit of a programmable thermostat is that you can save about $180 per year in energy costs. In addition, the programmable feature of the thermostat means that the savings are automatic. In other words, you don’t have to remember to turn the thermostat up or down each time you leave for work or head to bed. In addition, you can set the thermostat so that the house is comfortable when you get out of bed or return home from work.

The key to using a programmable thermostat is to establish a program that automatically reduces heating and cooling in your home when you don’t need as much.

Energy Star steps to energy savings with programmable thermostats

  • Choose the right thermostat for your lifestyle. There are three basic types of settings: a 7-day schedule is appropriate if you keep the same schedule every day of the week. A 5-2 thermostat works best if you have a weekday schedule and a weekend schedule. A 5-1-1 thermostat is best if you have a weekday schedule and different schedules on each weekend day.
  • Look for an Energy Star model with the appropriate features for your home. These might include digital, backlit displays; touch-pad programming; voice and/or phone programming; hold/vacation features; an indicator that tells you when it’s time to change your air filter; an indicator that tells you if there is a problem with your furnace/air conditioner system; and adaptive or smart recovery features that sense the amount of time it will take to reach the set point and operate to reach that temperature at the correct time.
  • Install your programmable thermostat correctly. It should be installed on an interior wall away from vents and drafts from windows, doors; and light from windows, lighting and skylights. For best results, you may want to have an HVAC professional do the installation.
  • Use it properly for top savings. This includes keeping the settings low (for heat) and high (for air conditioning) for at least 8 hours at a stretch, such as when no one is home. Use the “hold” feature—to keep heating and air conditioning at a minimum—when you’ll be on vacation so that you can reap higher energy savings. If your unit runs on batteries, be sure to change them at least once a year and if you have multiple thermostats in your home, be sure to replace all of them with a programmable one.
  • If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you can still gain energy savings with your current thermostat. Just be diligent to adjust the temperature 5–8-degrees before leaving the house for several hours, before bedtime, and before leaving on vacation.

Here is a downloadable xls from Energy Star to calculate savings with a programmable thermostat: Energy Star calculator (xls).

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