Best Practices for Programmable Thermostats

Used properly, a programmable thermostat can help save as much as $180 a year on energy bills.

Used properly, a programmable thermostat can help save as much as $180 a year on energy bills.

Want to slash your energy costs? One of the least expensive investments you can make is a programmable thermostat. This appliance can be purchased for as little as $20 at your nearby home improvement store — yet it can help save as much as $180 a year on your energy bills.

Of course, the trick to getting maximum savings is making sure it’s used properly. While programmable thermostats have become commonplace, a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory indicates that as many as 90 percent of them are never programmed properly — which obviously defeats the purpose.

Programmable thermostats come with preprogrammed settings, which you can adjust to suit your household’s individual lifestyle. The idea is to keep temperatures at energy-saving set points for long periods of times — such as during the day when nobody is home, or at night when everyone is in bed.

Once installed, your thermostat is simple to program:

  1. Set the temperature for weekdays by setting the switch to either “heat” or “cool.” Select “Monday,” and set the time and temperature you’d like the home to be. You can set it for different temperatures at different times of the day, depending on whether or not the house will be occupied. (Keep in mind the comfort of your pets when you choose your settings!)
  2. Repeat this for the rest of the days of the week. Most units will let you set up to four different settings per day.
  3. For the weekend, when the home is most likely to be occupied, you will probably want the heat and air to run more frequently. (Some models even have a “weekend” mode.) Set the times and temperature for Saturday and Sunday.

It is possible to override these settings temporarily and make the area warmer or cooler, but be aware that you’ll use more energy every time you override the programmed settings.

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