October 30, 2018

Does a programmable thermostat really save money and energy?

Programmable thermostats have been steadily gaining popularity over the past few years. You’ve probably walked into your local Home Depot or Lowe’s and noticed the sleek and modern NEST Thermostat* proudly displayed on its own end cap. But given the price tag,  is it really worth it? Will you recoup your money? And if so, how quickly? Do you really need a smart thermostat vs a programmable one?

Just installing a programmable thermostat won’t automatically shave money off your heating/cooling bill. Sorry, but the secret is really in how you use them. To effectively save energy and money, you need to use the thermostat a certain way. One of the biggest ways people waste money on energy is by heating/cooling unoccupied areas of the home the same way they heat occupied areas. You also don’t need to heat or cool your home the same way when you are awake vs. sleeping.

Did you know that half of your total utility bills are spent on heating and cooling? For every one degree you adjust your thermostat down in the winter or up in the summer, you will use 1% less energy. It might seem small, but it adds up, especially if you can adjust the temperature several degrees at night. Adjusting your setting while you are out of the house can also greatly reduce your energy usage as well. And this is where the programmable thermostat comes into play to save you money. You can set the temperature accordingly while you are sleeping or at work/school, and then have it automatically adjust to a more comfortable temperature when you will be in the home and active. When used correctly, programmable thermostats can save homeowner quite a bit of money on their heating and cooling bills.

Some tips for using your thermostat:

  • Set your schedule. You’re going to need to take the time to figure out a realistic schedule. When are you sleeping, at work, at home – and what is comfortable for you during those times?
  • Be patient. Actually learning how to use the thermostat can be frustrating to some people. Read the manual and take the time to test and tweak as needed.
  • Be consistent. The presets for occupied and unoccupied rooms need to be set and then left. Large swings in thermostat temperatures and constant changes will use more energy.
  • In the Winter, set your programmable thermostat to about 68 degrees Fahrenheit when you are home and about 10 degrees lower when you are sleeping or away.
  • Get your thermostat to turn on the heat about an hour before you get up or get home.
  • During Spring and Summer, set your thermostat to 76 degrees while at home, and warmer when you are not home or when you are asleep.

How a Smart Thermostat can make a difference

Since almost everything connects to your smartphone these days, why not connect your thermostat! Some of the cool features of the NEST* or similar smart thermostats are that it allows you to adjust your thermostat when you aren’t home or near the wall unit, all with the power of you phone. You can also view your usage history and see when your system kicked in to heat or cool your home. It’s a great tool if you like data and want to see what times your system is running and how often. But the biggest selling point of the Smart Thermostat is that it can learn from your adjustments. Over time, it can learn when you are home or away, and how you like the temperature set during those times. It will adjust accordingly so you don’t need to manually program it. Adjust the thermostat as you want it, and it learns from those habits.

Just like with the standard programmable thermostat, it can take time to get it right and much of the savings will rely on the user making the right adjustments from the start. Have you found success using a programmable thermostat, including a smart one? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks!

*Baribault Fuel was not compensated for mentioning the NEST Thermostat, we are simply using it as a reference for this article.

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