Program Your Way To Savings

By Brittney Gordon

Do you use a programmable thermostat? For many years I would have had to answer no to that question. I always tried to turn down the heat/air conditioning as I left for work in the morning and before I went to bed, but that strategy was 50/50 to say the least. If only I had known that for a very small investment I could have regulated the temperature in my home and saved about $180 a year.

A programmable thermostat comes with settings that allow you set the temperature of your house based on your family’s schedule. Use this chart to get started.

Here are some rules of thumb for properly using these thermostats:

  1. Keep the temperature set at its energy-saving set-points for long periods of time (at least eight hours).
  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. Beware: You use more energy and will pay more on energy bills if you consistently override the pre-programmed settings.
  3. Units typically have two types of hold features: (a) hold/permanent/vacation; (b) temporary. Avoid using the hold/permanent/vacation feature to manage daily 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 will not heat or cool your house any faster. Most thermostats begin to heat or cool at a set time, reaching set-point temperatures sometime thereafter. Units with adaptive (smart) recovery features are an exception to this rule.
  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.

If you need help installing your programmable thermostat, EPA’s ENERGY STAR program has everything you need to get started here.

About the author: Brittney Gordon is a member of EPA’s ENERGY STAR program communications team. The Baltimore native has worked for EPA since 2010.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.