Choosing and Installing a Programmable Thermostat
Proper use of a programmable thermostat in your home is one of the easiest ways you can save energy and money. A programmable thermostat offers programmed settings to regulate your home's temperature in both summer and winter, and when you're asleep or away. The average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills - nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. Homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings. The key to using a programmable thermostat is to establish a program that automatically reduces heating and cooling in your home when you don't need it.
Choosing a Programmable Thermostat
In general, every programmable thermostat comes with pre-programmed settings and maintains those settings within two degrees. Many models also come with additional features, such as:
- Digital, backlit displays
- Touch pad screen programming
- Voice and/or phone programming
- Hold/Vacation features
- Indicators that tell you when it's time to change air filters
- Indicators that signal malfunctioning of heating/cooling systems
- Adaptive Recovery/Smart Recovery features controls that senses the amount of time it will take to reach the next set-point temperature, and reach desired temperatures by the set time
To decide which model is best for you, consider your schedule and how often you are home or away - and then decide which of the three different models best fits your schedule: the 7-day, 5+2-day, or the 5-1-1-day.
- 7-day model: Best if your daily schedule tends to change. This model gives you the most flexibility, and lets you set different programs for different days - typically with four possible temperature periods per day.
- 5+2-day model: Uses one schedule for every weekday, and another for weekends.
- 5-1-1 day model: Best if you tend to keep one schedule Monday through Friday, one schedule on Saturday, and one schedule on Sunday.
Installing a Programmable Thermostat
Install your programmable thermostat unit on an interior wall, away from heating or cooling vents and other sources of heat or drafts (doorways, windows, skylights, direct sunlight or bright lamps).
Remember: Read all instructions and proceed carefully! Programmable thermostats are a low voltage wiring installation and involve anywhere from two to 10 wires, depending on your heating and cooling system. However, you should shut down your electricity during any replacement. The previous attachment points will reconnect your new unit.
If the job requires more than just a replacement, call a certified HV/AC professional to ensure proper installation, as well as operation of your heating and cooling system. It's a good idea to upgrade an old manual thermostat to a programmable unit if you're replacing a central air conditioner or heating system, as programmable thermostats are far more accurate and will maximize the efficiency of your new system. Heat pumps may require a special unit to maximize energy savings year-round. Talk to your retailer or HV/AC contractor before selecting the thermostat.
Also, if you're replacing a manual thermostat that has a mercury switch, be careful not to break the tube that holds this toxic substance. Contact your local recycling/hazardous materials center, or the manufacturer of your new thermostat, for advice on proper disposal.