wifi-thermostatSize-wise, the thermostat to your heating and air conditioning system is fairly small. Yet this small device is obviously a major player in the control of your energy costs – like 50%. A small home improvement with big results. A programmable thermostat can keep you comfortable and lower utility bills.

According to the Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. The savings from setback is greater in milder climates than for those in more severe climates.

Each degree accounts for a savings of as much as 1 percent when the setback period is eight hours long. (In the summer, you can follow the same strategy – just in a different direction.) There are setback limitations for homes with heat pumps, electric resistance heating, steam heat, and radiant floor heating.

This “setback” makes even more sense when you consider that your home is either unoccupied for that period of time, or else it is when you are sleeping and don’t need the higher heating level. In other words, the energy savings come with no sacrifice in comfort.

Furthermore, you can make these temperature adjustments automatically and on a set schedule with the assistance of a programmable thermostat. These energy-saving devices can store multiple daily settings that, if needed, you can always override manually when your schedule changes. Because you can set the temperature changes to take place automatically, your house can return to a comfortable temperature before you return home or before you rise for the day.

How to choose a thermostat.

round thermostat

How do you know which programmable thermostat is best for you? Energy.gov explains your basic options: “Most programmable thermostats are either digital, electromechanical, or some mixture of the two. Digital thermostats offer the most features in terms of multiple setback settings, overrides, and adjustments for daylight savings time, but may be difficult for some people to program. Electromechanical systems often involve pegs or sliding bars and are relatively simple to program.”

Will these continuing changes increase the work your system has to perform? Energy.gov provides another important piece of information: “A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly. The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature. The same concept applies to raising your thermostat setting in the summer – a higher interior temperature will slow the flow of heat into your house, saving energy on air conditioning.”

The primary types of thermostats are:

  1. Cool Only. A single cooling source.
  2. Heat Only.  A single heating source. A programmable thermostat is best for a forced hot air or baseboard heating system.
  3. Single Stage Heat/Cool. For example, a baseboard heating system and a central air conditioning.
  4. Multi-Stage Heat/Cool. For example, a heat pump with a supplementary forced hot air backup system, plus an air conditioning system.
  5. Thermostat room sensorElectric Heat/Line Voltage. Controls electric heaters or baseboard systems.
  6. Heat Pump. A specialized thermostat that can handle ground or air-source heat pumps.
  7. Millivolt. A pilot light rather than an electrical circuit (e.g., gas fireplace).
  8. Fan Coil. Such as unit ventilators.
  9. Wireless thermostats with indoor and outdoor remote sensors.
  10. Get more than a smart home – sense the temperatures in the rooms you want for improved home comfort. Honeywell T-10 Smart Room Sensors can prioritize living areas during the day and bedrooms at night for comfort where you want it, when you need it.

Most programmable models define temperatures for morning, daytime, evening and overnight. Some thermostats offer 24-hour programmability.

Days. You can also establish different programs for different days of the week.

Setting up a weekly schedule for your programmable thermostat – from Energy.gov.

“Set it and forget it.” Set your temperatures based on the times you are normally home and your habits — and then you almost never have to bother with it.

Here’s how a weekday schedule might look for a family that are out of the house all day for work and school:

  • 6:45 a.m.: The family wakes up to get ready for the day. Winter temperature of the house is 68°F; the heat automatically turned on a bit earlier so it would hit this temperature by 6:30. Summer setting 78°F or higher.
  • 7:45 a.m.: The family leaves the house and the winter thermostat is set to 56°F. Summer daytime about 85°F. By turning their thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, the family can save 5% to 15% a year on their heating or cooling bill — a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long.
  • 4:30 p.m.: The family starts returning home from work and school. The heat turned back on a bit before this so the house would again be 68°F for (winter) their return. Summer 78°F or higher.
  • 10:30 p.m.: The whole family has gone to bed (bundled in warm pajamas and snuggled under blankets), and the thermostat is again set to 56°F. Summer temps as warm as you as you feel comfortable. Remember you can turn the thermostat fan “On”.

Note that for all of these temperature changes, the family never once touched the thermostat. At the beginning of the season, they programmed it once to follow this schedule and the changes happen automatically — and so do their savings. That’s important for busy people!

Watch a short video on a smart Honeywell WiFi thermostat that you can control from anywhere.

If you’d like to save energy in your home, schedule an appointment or learn more about PDM Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Since 1885 here.