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A Programmable Thermostat Can Help You Save, Even When You're Away From Home

Resetting your thermostat when you no longer need the heating or cooling function is an excellent way to save money on your energy bills, yet you need to remember to do it. A programmable thermostat allows you to set up an automatic system that will adjust the temperature away from your comfort setting when you are at work or asleep at night. This takes away the pressure of trying to remember to make the change, so your energy savings become automatic. The Department of Energy indicates that the savings are substantial if you are able to change the thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees when you aren't needing the more comfortable setting.

A Common Myth Debunked

Some people have avoided these drastic changes because they believe that the heater or air conditioner will work twice as hard to reheat or cool the home when the away period is over, thus negating the energy savings. The Department of Energy indicates that this is not true. In fact, the opposite is likely true, as the home will lose less energy to the outdoor environment when the temperature is closer to the outdoor temperature.

Features of Programmable Thermostats

As you shop for a programmable thermostat, knowing the basic features these units offer will help you make the best decision. All programmable thermostats have at least four programmable settings and will maintain the temperature within two degrees, provided your HVAC system is capable of doing so. All units also have some sort of override function you can use if you temporarily need to adjust your programmed settings. You will also find units with additional features, such as:

  • Touch screens
  • Backlit displays
  • Ability to program over the phone
  • Touch-free voice programming
  • Ability to program wirelessly
  • Indicators when the system malfunctions
  • Indicators when the air filters need to be changed
  • Hold or vacation settings
  • Adaptive recovery systems that ensure the desired temperature is reached at the specified time

In addition, you can choose from three basic types of thermostats. Seven-day models allow you to set a different program every day of the week. Five-plus-two models allow for two different settings, one for the week and one for the weekend. Finally, five-one-one models allow for one setting during the week, and two different ones for Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

A final option to consider is a "smart" thermostat. This type of programmable thermostat does more than just run your programmed settings. These thermostats actually learn from your behaviors, and they also can be controlled remotely. Some even show you your energy consumption in real-time, so you can make adjustments accordingly. While pricey, these give you the ultimate control over your home's energy settings.

Using Thermostats Effectively

As with all energy-saving items you can add to your home, a programmable thermostat must be used appropriately if it is going to help you save money on your energy bills. As you star working with a programmable thermostat, keep these tips from Energy Star in mind.

  • Turn the temperature up during the summer and down during the winter while you're gone for the day or at night when you're sleeping. Doing this will create automatic savings.
  • Avoid turning the unit to an extreme temperature in order to get it to cool or heat your home more quickly. This won't work, as the length of time it will take to reach the desired temperature is not going to change because you put in an extreme temperature.
  • Change the batteries annually to ensure that the unit works as designed.
  • Use the "vacation" feature if you'll be away for an extended period so you don't keep the house at your comfort setting when you're gone.
  • Maintain your temperature set points for at least about eight hours to maximize efficiency.
  • Install the thermostat on an interior wall away from vents and drafts. Hallways work nicely.

If you have further questions about your programmable thermostat or want help installing a new one and learning to use it effectively in your Chicago area home, can help. Give us a call to talk to one of our experienced technicians about your heating, air conditioning and home comfort needs. Serving Chicago, Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan, we are dedicated to ensuring that your home stays comfortable and runs efficiently all year long.

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