How to Program and Operate your Thermostats

We’ve been talking about programmable thermostats, and how they can help you save money on your energy costs.  In order to get the most out of your programmable units, however, you need to know how to choose the right one and how to operate it efficiently.   Homeowners here in Southwest Florida can potentially get not only savings but increased comfort with their programmable thermostats.

For more information, check out our Home Comfort Solutions Guide to learn more about programmable units.

Most programmable thermostats are either digital, electromechanical, or some combination of the two.  It’s a personal preference as far as which one you’ll be more comfortable with.  Digital thermostats offer the most features, such as multiple setback settings and overrides, but these units may be difficult for some people to program.  Electromechanical systems often involve pegs or sliding bars and are relatively simple to program.

Programming your Thermostat
When programming your thermostat, think about your daily and weekly routine.  For example, if you prefer to sleep at a cooler temperature, you might want to start the temperature setback ahead of the time you actually go to bed.  That way, the home will be at the pre-set temperature by the time you’re ready to sleep.  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.

In cooler weather, you can easily save energy by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you’re awake and setting it lower while you’re asleep or away from home.  Simply by turning your thermostat back 10°–15° for 8 hours, you can save about 5%–15% a year on your heating bill!  This means 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.  As a guideline, you should keep your house warmer than normal when you are away, and lower the thermostat setting to 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cool air.  Programmable thermostats eliminate the need to remember to adjust the temperature, as they automatically keep the air comfortable based on your schedule.

Many people wonder if their furnace works harder than normal to warm the house back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back.   This misconception has been dispelled by years of research and numerous studies.  You still get savings by setting back your temperature, mainly because the fuel required to reheat a building to a comfortable temperature is roughly equal to the fuel saved as the building drops to the lower temperature.  You save fuel between the time that the temperature stabilizes at the lower level and the next time heat is needed.  So, the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save.

Programmable thermostats are a good idea for many people.  However, next time we’ll talk about the limitations of programmable thermostats, and if they are a good idea for you.