Let’s talk about thermostats today, shall we? I mean, we all know what they are, and we all know what they do…press a few buttons or slide a bar, and BAM, your space magically gets warmer or cooler. One of the terrible realities of adulthood, however, is that the magic of that temperature change does not extend to your electric bill. Staying cozy during an ice storm or comfortably cool in the scorching heat of summer comes with what, all too often, is becoming an accepted reality – significantly increased energy payments.
There are quick and easy ways to combat increasing rates, however. You can save money by simply resetting your thermostat when you are asleep or away from home. You can do this automatically, without sacrificing comfort, by installing an automatic setback or programmable thermostat.
Using a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the times you turn on the heating or air-conditioning according to a pre-set schedule. Programmable thermostats can store and repeat multiple daily settings (six or more temperature settings a day) that you can manually override without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program.
GENERAL THERMOSTAT OPERATION
You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10° for eight hours a day from its normal setting. In the winter months, for example, set the thermostat at 68°F while you’re awake, and turn it down lower overnight and during workdays or times away from home.
In the summer, reverse the strategy and set the thermostat to 78°F only when you are at home and need cooling. Set your thermostat at as high a temperature as comfortably possible. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.
Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any inconvenience or discomfort by returning temperatures to your preferred climate before you wake or return home.
Fun fact: although there will be times that you’re tempted, avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster, and could result in excessive cooling and unnecessary expense. Many people believe 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.
Side note: programmable thermostats are generally not recommended for heat pumps. In its cooling mode, a heat pump operates like an air conditioner, so turning up the thermostat saves energy and money. But when a heat pump is in its heating mode, setting back its thermostat can cause the unit to operate inefficiently, thereby canceling out any savings achieved by lowering the temperature setting. Maintaining a moderate setting is the most cost-effective practice, but some companies have begun selling specially designed programmable thermostats for heat pumps, which make setting back the thermostat cost-effective. These thermostats typically use special algorithms to minimize the use of backup electric resistance heat systems.
CHOOSING AND PROGRAMMING A PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT
Most programmable thermostats are either digital, electromechanical, or some mixture of the two. Digital thermostats offer the most features in terms of variety of 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 simpler to operate.
When programming your thermostat, consider your normal times to sleep and wake. If you prefer to sleep at a cooler temperature during the winter, you might want to start the temperature setback a little ahead of the time you actually go to bed. Also, consider the schedules of everyone in the household. If there is a time during the day when the house is unoccupied for several hours, it makes sense to adjust the temperature accordingly during those times.
If you’re putting in a thermostat, remember that the location also affects its performance and efficiency. To operate optimally, a thermostat must be on an interior wall, and away from direct sunlight, drafts, doorways, skylights, and windows. It should be located where natural room air currents. Also, furniture will block natural air movement, so do not place any pieces in front of or below your thermostat (source: energy.gov).
THE WI-FI THERMOSTAT
For those of you who may have the best of intentions, but have a human moment and forget to program your thermostat, there is also the wi-fi, or smart thermostat, option. These are used in conjunction with an app, and build upon the basic temperature setting, scheduling and digital interface options of both non-programmable and programmable thermostats with a whole bunch of extras, such as improved energy efficiency and feedback, remote programming, and alerts. Once these smart thermostats are synced up with a Wi-Fi router, you will have remote access from a computer or via the aforementioned app, which makes it incredibly easy to adjust your home temperature from another location if you forgot.
If you have questions about YOUR thermostat needs, or about the best upgrade style for your space, give us a call at 417-612-7092!