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Tips on using a programmable thermostat

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Using a programmable thermostats can save money and keep the family cozy

Using a programmable thermostats can save money and keep the family cozy

One of the best ways to conserve energy in your home is to install a programmable thermostat. These engineering marvels are a long way from the non-programmable gold circles most of us remember that set with a twist of a dial and were sneakingly reset by family members who were too hot or cold.

Early programmable thermostats merely changed the temperature at preset times but the latest digital models have more times, can be programmed differently for every day of the week, for different areas of the house, for dehumidifiers and can even give reminders to change filters. Touch screens make programming easy and some will communicate with smartphones or PCs.

Using a programmable thermostat to its maximum advantage will save you money on energy bills all year long.

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If you’re installing a new programmable thermostat, make sure it is on an inside wall – exterior walls experience greater temperature fluctuations that could affect its operation. Keep the thermostat away from areas that are drafty or windows that can expose the thermostat to direct sunlight, both of which will affect operations.

If you’re installing a wireless thermostat, consider one that doesn’t interfere with other household wireless devices.


The first step to using your programmable thermostat properly is to identify the longest periods in the day when you want the temperature to stay at a constant level. For most homes, this is during the day when no one is home and during the night when everyone is asleep.

Set the thermostat to turn the temperature down right after the last household member leaves for work or school and to heat up about 15 minutes before the first person arrives home. At night, have the thermostat lower the temperature shortly after everyone is in bed and shortly before the first person rises.

The lower temperature is not noticeable when you’re asleep but the savings will be noticeable on the next heating bill.

More sophisticated programmable thermostats offer more ways to save. If your house has zoned heating, you will want to have a zoned thermostat for each and program them according to when people are most likely to be in or out of the zones.

Thermostats that offer 7-day-of-the-week programming allow you additional options, like leaving the temperature lower longer when the family sleeps in on Saturday. Some thermostats have a vacation setting that will keep the temperature a few degrees lower both day and night while you’re gone. Using this feature even if you’re only gone for two days can result in savings.

Avoid the urge to push the temperature higher when you return from work or vacation to heat the house quicker. This puts stress on the furnace is inefficient. It’s better to start the cycle sooner and let the house warm gradually. Some top-of-the-line thermostats have memories that can “learn” your habits and program themselves.

Programmable thermostats have override functions for when you need to override the programming to adjust the temperature temporarily. Use this feature sparingly and make sure to return the thermostat to programmed mode. When used properly and with thought and planning, programmable thermostats will pay for themselves quickly and lower your energy bills throughout the year.


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