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Program Your Thermostat To Save Energy

Programmable thermostats are fantastic tools to help you save on energy costs.   In fact according to  programming these settings properly can save you as much as $180* per year.  However, just like any other tool, unless it’s used properly it won’t get the job done as efficiently as it was designed to do.  A programmable thermostat is designed to adjust the temperature of your home according to programmed settings for the day of the week and time.

Your biggest challenge may be getting everyone to agree on the same temperature.  I suggest taking about a week and track times when there is nobody home, or when everyone has gone to bed for the night.  Once you have that figured out, find the average temperature that everyone including your pets will be comfortable at.  Then follow these simple guidelines and start saving today.

Guidelines for Programming Your Thermostat

  1. Energy savings kicks in for set-points that are kept for long periods of time (best at eight or more hours).  For example, during the day while everyone is at work and/or school and at night when everyone is snuggled in bed under warm blankets.
  2. Refer to your furnace owner’s manual to find the minimum temperatures for optimal operation allowed for your unit.  This is usually in the 58-62 degree range.  Setting the thermostat to hold at a temperature lower than the minimum temperature the unit was designed for can damage the heat exchanger, a very costly repair.
  3. Set it and Forget it- Thermostats will allow you to temporarily make an area warmer or cooler without erasing the programmed temperatures (they will automatically set back at the next programmed time), however consistently overriding the programmed settings may end up costing more in energy bills not less.
  4. If you have pets don’t forget to take them into consideration.  For example, many small dogs need additional warmth.  If they are going to be left at home during the day with a low temperature setback consider getting them a heating pad or small space heater.
  5. Thermostats generally have a “hold/permanent/vacation” feature and a “temporary” feature.  Try to only use the hold feature for when you are going away for the weekend or on vacation.  When you will be away for a few days or more, set the temperature for several degrees warmer than usual in the summer time and several degrees cooler than usual in the winter but no lower than the recommended minimum temperature settings for the furnace as noted above.
  6. Don’t crank the unit temperature drastically up or down, it will not heat or cool your home faster.  Most units begin heating or cooling at a specific time to reach their programmed temperature at the appropriate time.  You may need to adjust your set-point times to start earlier so it will reach the desired comfort level at a better time (plan for approximately 30 minutes to reach the next temperature).
  7. Most homes have just one thermostat for the whole house.  If your home has more than one heating or cooling zone (a zone is an area of the house) you will need to program each zone individually to maximize optimal comfort and energy savings throughout the house.
  8. Don’t forget to change the batteries each year.  Some units have indicators when the batteries must be changed but not all of them do.  Note: Not all programmable thermostats run on batteries, check the owner’s manual if you aren’t sure.

Using these guidelines and keeping in mind that it’s mid-winter, I’ve set my home thermostat as follows:

There’s a common misconception that a furnace works harder to warm a space back to a comfortable temperature after a thermostat set-back resulting in little or no savings.  But according to an article on it states that, “In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly. The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature. The same concept applies to raising your thermostat setting in the summer — a higher interior temperature will slow the flow of heat into your house, saving energy on air conditioning.”

Please keep in mind that to operate properly, thermostats should be installed on an interior wall where the natural air currents occur. Avoid locating them in direct sunlight, drafty areas, near doorways, skylights, or windows.  Also avoid placing furniture in front of or below the thermostat as they will block the airflow and make it inconvenient to access for programming.  Don’t like the way your thermostat wall looks? Check out our blog post on 5 Ways to Camouflage Your Thermostat.

I hope this helps save you money and gives you a little peace of mind when it comes to making sure your thermostat is set properly.  As always, if you have any questions or need assistance programming your thermostat contact your local service technician, they’ll be happy to help you set your unit correctly for the most energy savings possible.  A great technician will even teach you how to do it yourself.  So setback your thermostat and start saving today.

*Per The $180 savings assumes a typical, single-family home with a 10 hour daytime setback of 8◦ F in winter and setup of 7◦ F in summer, and an 8 hour nighttime setback of 8◦ F in winter and a 4◦ F in summer.

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