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Do Programmable Thermostats Really Save Money?

Posted by DIY Heating and Cooling Supply on 8/9/2013 to General

This question has been asked to us many times. The answer is pretty simple, yes they can. There has been a lot of controversy over the years on this topic. The problem being that most people who have or install a programmable thermostat don’t program or use it correctly. This is understandable as some of these thermostats are not very user friendly. There have been great advances in the industry in regards to programmable thermostats. There are some that are called “smart” or “learning”. These are great and have a low learning curve for users.  Now don’t get too excited, these thermostats still have to learn, meaning that as you change the temperature on the unit it begins to “learn” what temperature you like, at what time of the day and sets the program accordingly, This being said, you do have to teach it what you like, but after about 10 days or so, it will take over for you. It also has some other really nice features like wi-fi connectivity. You can change this thermostat from any computer or smartphone that has an internet connection. This feature also allows you to view historical data about your system to help you understand how to consume less energy.

There are a large number of different programmable thermostats and manufacturers. Some of the best we’ve found and offer in our store are Honeywell and TopTech. All of these offer great features and are user friendly to program.

My best advice is to look at several of the different models available, look over all the features and choose according to your individual needs. What may be right for your neighbor or friend at work, may not work for your home.

What Does “7-Day, 5/1/1, 5/2, Smart and Learning” Mean?

Lets’ talk about “Learning and Smart” first. This means exactly what it sounds like, these thermostats typically program themselves by learning what temperatures you like and at what time of day you like it that temperature. There really isn’t much more to say about the programming on these as you can imagine. As far as other features, there are plenty and too many to go into in this post. I will explain the individually in different posts.

The "7-Day" programmable thermostat is great for people who have a schedule that is different throughout the week. they allow you to program all 7 days individually so if your schedule varies all week, you can have a separate program for each of the 7 days.

The "5/1/1" programmable thermostat is good if you work a normal 9-5 job. It has 3 different programs. One program that runs for 5 days (Monday-Friday), one program that runs for one day (Saturday), and one program that runs for another day (Sunday). You can see how this could be beneficial if your Monday-Friday schedule is the same all week.

Then there is the "5/2" programmable thermostat. This one has 2 programs that it runs. The first program runs for 5 days (Monday-Friday) and the second runs for 2 days (Saturday & Sunday). This type of program offers less customization, but is good if your weekly schedule is very consistent.

What Other Features Should I Look For In A Programmable Thermostat?

There are more features offered on today’s newest thermostats than I can list here. So let’s go through the most important ones in my opinion:

Filter Reminder – This usually calculates your systems fan run time in hours and reminds you to change your filter after a predetermined amount of time has past, usually 30 days but some will let you customize this. (see “Have You Changed Your Filter Lately?” for more information on changing filters)

Humidity Control – This feature is great, but you need to be aware that some systems may use more energy to make this feature work in the cooling season. The way it works on a typical air conditioning system is like this: In the cooling mode, the thermostat will look at the room temperature and the indoor relative humidity level. Seeing how an air conditioner works like a humidifier, in the event your thermostat senses that the relative humidity in your home is higher than you have set on your thermostat, it will continue to cool past the temperature you have set for the space in an attempt to lower the humidity. This being said, if you have your thermostat set for 74 degrees and it is 74 degrees in your house, the thermostat may cool it down to 72 degrees in order to lower the relative humidity. On higher end systems with 2 stages of cooling, this is not a concern.

Keypad Lock – This will allow you to lock the thermostat so no one can change your setting or lower or raise the temperature. This is great if you have kids, roommates that don’t pay the energy bill or have a business where your employees are changing the set point all the time.

Wi-Fi Connectivity – This is a great feature if you like to keep an eye on what’s going on with your system. It’s great if you have multiple homes, a vacation property, or just like to keep tabs on your systems usage. Some models you can get energy reports letting you know everything from how often the system runs to how much energy it is consuming.

Remote Indoor Sensor – Some models will allow you to add remote indoor sensors in other areas of the house. You can either have the thermostat use the temperature at the remote sensor to use for the house or some will also do temperature averaging. When the thermostat is set to temperature averaging, it will look at all the sensors in the house and heat or cool the home so that all the sensor average out to one temperature. This can be useful if you have hot or cold spots in your house or if your thermostat is in a location that doesn’t represent the entire homes temperature well. Note: This won’t fix all your problems, but it can help a bit.

Remote Outdoor Sensor – This feature is very useful as it will tell you and your thermostat what the temperature outside is at YOUR house. Sometime you just want to know so you know how to dress but more importantly, some of the higher end thermostats will use this information to calculate how you are using energy and how you can save energy as well.

Filter Sensor – This one is one of my favorites. If you’ve read some of my other posts, you’ll see how much emphasis I put on changing your filter (Click here to read it). This feature is available on high end thermostats like the Honeywell YTHX9421R5051. It uses sensors you install in the duct to sense if the filter is getting dirty or not. A great way to always know when to change that filter! Like I said before, there are too many features available from too many manufacturers to list here. Click the link below to check out our store to see the ones we carry and recommend.

Shop Programmable Thermostats

I hope this post was helpful in answering the questions you may have had about programmable thermostats and all they are capable of.

Just remember, if you want to save money, you will have to program it!

We are always here to help you with programming any thermostat you have purchased from us. Just go to our contact us page and send us the details of your problem and we’ll get you on the road to saving money!

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