If there isn’t already one installed, adding a programmable thermostat is a great quick upgrade for any home. According to Energy Star, about 45% of a home’s energy is utilized for heating and cooling (that averages about $2,100-$2,500 annually). Unfortunately, a large portion of that money goes to heating or cooling unoccupied spaces. It’s also not necessary to heat or cool a home as much when sleeping. Since a programmable thermostat offers more options for controlling temperature, it can help save on a homeowner’s cooling and heating bills. In the winter, it can set itself at a lower temperature during working hours and set to warm up a little while before returning home. The opposite can be done in the summer months. That way, the air conditioner or furnace doesn’t have to work hard all day when no one is home.
The idea of the programmable thermostat is to reduce energy usage when the home’s occupants are away at work or when they’re are sleeping. For every 1 degree Fahrenheit the thermostat is turned down, the furnace will use 1% less energy. That means by reducing your heating by 10 degrees at night, and the furnace uses 10% less energy. The greater the difference between inside and outside temperatures, the greater the savings.
When used correctly, programmable thermostats are touted as saving the homeowner 10-30% on their heating and cooling bills. However, these figures are difficult to achieve. Some studies show that programmable thermostats actually save between 6.2 and 6.8%.
The defining elements of success seem to be the attitude and consistency of the homeowner. The occupants must be determined to save energy even when they are home and awake. 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.
A good guideline for winter is to set a programmable thermostat to about 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) when home and lower (about 10-12 degrees Fahrenheit or 6-8 degrees Celsius) when sleeping or away from home. Set the thermostat to turn on the heat about an hour before getting up or getting home.
During warmer months the base temperature should be around 78° F or 26° C and warmer when not home or asleep.
Installing a programmable thermostat is pretty simple. If a homeowner can follow the instructions for making a boxed cake mix and knows the handle end of a screwdriver from the blade, installation should not be a problem. Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and safety. Contact a licensed electrician if there are any doubts or questions about the connections, or if the home’s wiring doesn’t appear compatible with the changes being made.
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