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Proper Use Guidelines for Programmable Thermostats

Thermostats are extremely important because they are your interface and control system for your heating and air conditioning equipment. This is the device that will give you the information on what the equipment is doing, when it needs to be serviced, and allows you to set the exact temperature and humidity you want to maintain in your home.

When using the pre-programmed settings of a programmable thermostat properly, you can save about $180 in energy costs every year!

Rules of Thumb for Proper Use:

  1. Keep temperature set at its energy saving set-points (approximately 68 degrees in winter & 74 degrees in summer) for long periods of time, at least 8 hours.
  2. It’s possible to temporarily raise or lower the temperature without erasing the pre-set programming. However, this override is automatically canceled at the next program period.  It uses more energy, resulting in higher costing energy bills, if you consistently over-ride the pre-set program instead of just re-programming it.
  3. There are typically two types of hold features on your thermostat: (a) hold/permanent/vacation; (b) temporary. It’s best to avoid using the (a) feature to manage day to day temperature settings, and use it only when you’re planning to be away for extended periods of time. Setting this feature to a constant, efficient temperature of several degrees warmer/cooler when going away for a weekend or vacation will eliminate wasted energy and keep costs lower than if you were to leave the setting to “hold”.
  4. Drastically increasing or decreasing the temperature will not speed up the process of heating or cooling your home; for instance, raising the temp to 90 degrees will not get it to 74 degrees any faster than it would if you set it at 74 degrees. Most thermostats begin to heat or cool at a set time, to reach set point temperatures sometime thereafter.
  5. Generally the entire home is controlled by one thermostat. If the home has multiple heating or cooling zones, however, it’s necessary to have a programmed setback thermostat for each zone to maximize comfort, convenience and energy savings throughout the house.
  6. If your thermostat runs on batteries, make sure to change them out at least once every year. Some will even indicate when the battery is getting low.

It’s important to remember that a programmable thermostat can save you both energy and money by tailoring your system(s) to your schedule, but only when programmed properly.  Setting it incorrectly can negatively affect your energy and utility costs.  We can help you choose a programmable thermostat and maximize its benefits.

There are three types of programmable thermostats to choose from.  Deciding which one works best for you depends on your schedule and how often you are regularly away from your home for extended periods of time.  The government’s Energy Star program suggests the following:

  • 7-day models are the most efficient if your schedule tends to change day to day.  They offer the most flexibility by allowing you to set different programs for each day of the week, usually with four possible temperature periods each day.
  • 5+2-day models are set to the same schedule during the weekdays and another schedule for weekends.
  • 5-1-1 models are used for keeping the same schedule during the weekdays and different schedules on Saturday and Sunday.

When determining what temperature settings give you the most comfort, remember that, on average, every degree you raise in summer or lower in winter saves two percent on your energy bill.  To get the most from your thermostat, follow these tips from Energy Star:

  • Install your thermostat away from heating or cooling vents or registers, heat-generating appliances or electronics, open doorways and direct sunlight.
  • When programming the thermostat, keep it set at a constant temperature for long periods of time, such as eight hours at night when you’re sleeping and the same period during the day when you’re at work.
  • When on vacation, set the hold button at a constant temperature.
  • Resist the urge to override your settings. Every time you do that, it costs you money.
  • If your home has zoned heating and cooling, install a programmable thermostat in each zone, especially if parts of the house, like a college student’s bedroom, are unoccupied for long periods of time.
  • If your thermostat runs on batteries, change them at least once a year.