Programmable Thermostats

Did You Know?

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 $1801 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings.

About Programmable Thermostats

Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat

Did you know that properly using a programmable thermostat in your home is one of the easiest ways you can save energy, money, and help fight global warming? A programmable thermostat helps make it easy for you to save by offering four pre-programmed settings to regulate your home's temperature in both summer and winter - when you are asleep or away.

The pre-programmed settings that come with programmable thermostats are intended to deliver savings without sacrificing comfort. Depending on your family's schedule, you can see significant savings by sticking with those settings or adjust them as appropriate for your family.

The key is to establish a program that automatically reduces heating and cooling in your home when you don't need as much. Use the programmable thermostat calculator to see what you can save with set-back temperatures that work for your family. The pre-programmed settings for a programmable thermostat are:

Programmable Thermostat Setpoint Times & Temperatures

Setting Time Setpoint Temperature (Heat) Setpoint Temperature (Cool)
Wake 6:00 a.m. = 70° F = 78° F
Day 8:00 a.m. Setback at least 8° F Setup at least 7° F
Evening 6:00 p.m. = 70° F = 78° F
Sleep 10:00 p.m. Setback at least 8° F Setup at least 4° F

Simple Steps to Energy Savings with Programmable Thermostats

Achieve significant energy and money savings that are possible through the proper use of your programmable thermostat.

Have your thermostat properly installed

For starters, 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 2–10 wires, depending on your type of 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 your certified HVAC 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 CAC or heating system given that 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 HVAC 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.

Properly set and use your thermostat

Rules of Thumb for Proper Use:

  1. Keep the temperature set at its energy savings set-points for long periods of time (at least eight hours), for example, during the day, when no one is at home, and through the night, after bedtime.

  2. All thermostats let you temporarily make an area warmer or cooler, without erasing the pre-set programming. This override is cancelled automatically at the next program period. You use more energy (and end up paying more on energy bills) if you consistently “hold” or over-ride the pre-programmed settings.

  3. Units typically have 2 types of hold features: (a) hold/permanent/vacation; (b) temporary. Avoid using the hold/permanent/vacation feature to manage day to day temperature settings. “Hold” or “vacation” features are best when you're planning to be away for an extended period. Set this feature at a constant, efficient temperature (i.e. several degrees warmer temperature in summer, several degrees cooler during winter), when going away for the weekend or on vacation. You'll waste energy and money if you leave the “hold” feature at the comfort setting while you're away.

  4. Cranking your unit up to 90 degrees or down to 40 degrees, for example, will not heat or cool your house any faster. Most thermostats, including ENERGY STAR qualified units, begin to hear or cool at a set time, to reach setpoint temperatures sometime thereafter. Units with adaptive (smart/intelligent) recovery features are an exception to this rule — Adaptive recovery units are constantly calculating the amount of time required to heat or cool the house, so that it reaches that temperature when the homeowner programmed it. By “examining” the performance of the past few days the thermostat can keep track of the seasons. In this way, your house is always at the comfort levels when occupied, but saving the most energy when unoccupied.

  5. Many homes use just one thermostat to control the whole house. If your home has multiple heating or cooling zones, you'll need a programmed setback thermostat for each zone to maximize comfort, convenience and energy savings throughout the house.

  6. If your programmable thermostat runs on batteries, don't forget to change the batteries each year. Some units will indicate when batteries must be changed.

Save with your manual thermostat

You can still make the most of your manual thermostat by adjusting the temperatures daily before you leave the house and when you go to sleep at night. Typically, adjusting temperatures 5–8 degrees (down in winter, up in summer) can help save energy if you're going to be away from home for several hours.

1 The $180 savings assumes a typical, single-family home with a 10 hour daytime setback of 8° F in winter and setup of 7° F in summer, and an 8 hour nighttime setback of 8° F in winter and a setup of 4° F in summer.

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