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Thermostat Tips For Each Season

programmable thermostatAs we get closer to Spring, fluctuations in the weather may have you switching from heat to air conditioning within the same week depending upon where you live. Constantly monitoring and adjusting the temperature inside your home can become cumbersome during these months. The good news is, there is a way to make it easier on you, and save you money: a programmable thermostat.

Programmable thermostats help you manage your energy usage for when the cooling or heating system is needed most, and they take the guess work and human error out of the mix. Shockingly, a Lawrence Berkeley National Lab study showed that nearly 90% of Americans say that they’ve rarely, or never have, programmed their thermostats because they don't know how. The good news is it's not hard and its worth learning to do as it can save money on your energy bill. According to, you can save as much as ten percent (10%) a year on heating and cooling costs by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.

The first thing to do is figure out the right thermostat to fit your scheduling needs. The goal is to “set it and forget it,” enabling you to get the maximum amount of savings.

Programmable Thermostat Types

7-day programming: This type of thermostat lets you program a different heating and cooling schedule for the entire week. It is by far the most flexible option, so if you have a busy schedule, this one is worth considering.

5-1-1 programming: The programming on this thermostat breaks apart the 5 weekdays from the 2 weekend days. You set one heating and cooling schedule for Monday through Friday, and then different heating and cooling plans for Saturday and Sunday individually.

5-2 programming: This follows the same programming functionality as 5-1-1 except Saturday and Sunday cannot be scheduled separately - they will have the same heating and cooling schedule.

1-week programming: Here you set one schedule and that heating and cooling plan will be used for the entire 7 day week.

With all of the programmable thermostat types above, you'll also need to set a program for the heat in the cooler or chillier months as well as the air conditioning in the warmer months. You also want to be sure to figure out what type of equipment your HVAC system uses. If you choose a programmable thermostat that is not compatible with your equipment, you may end up actually causing damage and not see any of the energy savings that the correct thermostat could provide.

Programmable Thermostat Tips

Update the Factory Settings

When you purchase a programmable thermostat, it usually comes with pre-programmed settings. These settings are based on the typical American family, which may or may not fit your family's needs. This may seem intimidating, but the good news is that you'll only have to do this once. Again, set it and forget it!

Programming options are based on:

  1. Wake Time
  2. Sleep Time
  3. Leave Time
  4. Return Time

The Department of Energy suggests the following settings as an energy-saving rule of thumb:

Winter months:
Set the thermostat to 68°F while you're home and awake. When you are asleep or away from home, lower the temperature by at least 10°.

Summer months:
This follows the same strategy as the winter months - just flip flopped. You'll want to keep your house warmer than normal when you are away and cooler when you are at home. While you are home, set the thermostat to 78°F. When you are away, set the temperature as high as comfortably possible, keeping in mind that you also need to control the humidity. Note: The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.

Set-It-And-Forget-It Tips:

  • Turn off the heat or air conditioning 20-30 minutes before you leave
  • Turn on the heat or air conditioning 20-30 minutes before you come home
  • Reduce the heating or cooling temperature 1 hour before you go to sleep
  • Increase the heating or cooling ~30 minutes before you wake up in the morning

It may take a few days of tweaking your program to get it exactly where it needs to be to fit your needs. Also, it's important to note that lowering the temperature while you're away does not cause your furnace to work any harder to warm up your house when you arrive back home.

Consider a Wifi-Enabled Programmable Thermostat

Wifi-enabled programmable thermostats allow you to control your home's temperature from anywhere. This is especially useful when you're on vacation and you need to create a new program. Two of the newer Wifi-enabled thermostats available are:

Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat: This thermostat has a large color interface that has a simple menu that literally walks you through the custom heating and cooling  programming steps. It's also a smart device! The thermostat learns when your home and also sends you personal notifications if the temperature isn't right or if the power has gone out. Price: Ranges from $70-$200 depending upon features and model selected.

The Nest Learning Thermostat: This thermostat uses motion detection technology to create a custom heating and cooling schedule for your home and will automatically adjust itself to your comfort level. It now also includes Farsight technology. When this technology spots you across the room, Farsight will light up and show you the target temperature or the time, in a digital or analog clock view. The Nest Thermostat also alerts you on you systems safety status. Price: Around $250.

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