One way homeowners seek to extract most energy units from their home-energy dollars is by investing in a state-of-the-art programmable thermostat. These smart gadgets can be programmed to save money and energy by adjusting the temperature at home. The evidence shows, however, that many owners don’t program their programmable thermostats because they either find controls confusing or they simply overlook this activity.
Having programmable thermostats non-programmed wastes more money that their owners bargained for. What’s more important, if programmable thermostats aren’t used the way they’re intended, homes with programmable thermostats will use more energy than homes without them.
A best validation of this was the decision of the federal government three years ago that abolished the entire programmable thermostat category from their popular Energy Star program. The clarification? The EPA said that the estimated potential of programmable thermostats was significantly higher than their achieved energy savings.
“EPA has been unable to confirm any improvements in terms of the savings delivered by programmable thermostats and has no credible basis for continuing to extend the current Energy Star specification.”
Why is that? The EPA Energy Star program refers to data that programmable thermostats didn’t achieve the net energy savings and environmental benefits. The future success of the program may depend on the effectiveness of the efforts that educate people on proper use of thermostats.
It is important to note that EPA isn’t advising people against owing a programmable thermostat. The reality is far from that. EPA conveys its position by asking potential buyers of thermostats to first establish whether they need them at all. It further assists them in the choosing and correct handling of PTs.
According to EPA, programmable thermostats come with many advanced features that we should look for. But let’s put these aside for one moment.
The most important thing, EPA advises, is to think about our own lifestyle. Sleek design and cool features do matter, but shopping for a thermostat starts by looking at our habits: daily, weekly and seasonal. You should ask yourself: What is my schedule? When do I get off work? Am I often away from home for regular periods of time?
Programmable Thermostats: Three Models
Depending on your answers one of these three models will fit your needs: the 7-day, the 5+2-day, or the 5-1-1-day.
Households which daily schedule tends to change on some days will benefit from 7-day PT. You or your children may come home earlier on certain days. The 7-day will give you the flexibility of setting different programs and up to six temperature periods per day each day in a week.
The second one (5+2) is for families that have the same weekday schedule, and a different one on weekends.
5+1+1. The family schedule for this one is the same as for the 5+2. With this model, however, weekend days (Saturday and Sunday) can be independently programmed.
A word of warning: EPA advises against purchasing of programmable thermostat if you are not away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. If you are at home all day (say, you work from home) this gadget will not save you much energy and you might be better off with your ceiling fan only.
Programmable Thermostats: Useful Features
Depending on the model, a programmable thermostat can have many remarkable features. Lets visit some of them:
This feature enables you to control your home’s temperature from your laptop or computer of you connect your PT to Wi-Fi. This feature enables you to observe and analyze your heating/cooling schedule and adjust your temperature. Your device can link to weather services and send information to your online account, so you can view this information and adjust your temperature accordingly. A popular Nest comes with this feature.
This feature should be activated before you leave for your vacation. Your home will stay at the desired temperature until you return.
Air Filter Indicator
PTs may also have a programmable air filter change reminder. It calculates the accumulated run-time of the system, reminding the owner when it is time to change the filter. The feature may display the run-time either as a total of both cooling and heating or displaying the run-time separately.
This control senses the amount of time it will take to reach the next desired temperature, starting the cycle in advance to let the system achieve the accurate temperature at the preferred time.
Portable Comfort Control
In many homes, especially larger homes, there’s an enormous difference between the temperature at the thermostat and in remote rooms. If you bring the controller to any room, the PT will ensure that the room is heated to the exact temperature of your choosing, saving you energy-dollars.
Digital, backlit display
This display allows easy reading, even in rooms that are dimly lit.
This feature enables direct interaction with your thermostat simplifying its operation and use.
Voice and/or phone programming
This feature is particularly useful for visually impaired, disabled or anyone who has trouble seeing and operating regular PT.
How to Use Your Programmable Thermostat: Dos and Don’ts
- Do keep the temperature set at energy savings temperatures periods of at least 8 hours when the home is empty during the day and through the night.
- Don’t use the hold/permanent/vacation feature to manage day to day temperature settings. These features are good if you will be away for an extended period. Don’t leave the “hold” feature at the “comfort” setting when you’re away. Set it at several degrees warmer temperature during summer moths and several degrees cooler during the winter months.
- Do temporarily make an area cooler or warmer (override is routinely cancelled at the next program period) but don’t not habitually “hold” or override the pre-adjusted settings.
- Don’t have only one thermostat if your home has multiple heating or cooling zones. Instead, get a programmed setback thermostat for each zone to achieve best savings and comfort to your residence.
- Don’t increase the temperature to 90+ degrees Fahrenheit or to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, as it will not heat or cool your house any faster. This is not how programmable thermostats work. Most thermostats begin to heat or cool at a set time, subsequently reaching the desired temperature. PTs with adaptive recovery are an exemption to this guideline. These thermostats keep track of the seasons by studying the behavior of the previous few days. They calculate the amount of time required to heat/cool the house, so that it reaches that temperature when the homeowner desired it. In this way, the home is saving the most energy when empty.
- Do change the batteries of your programmable thermostat. Some units will indicate when batteries must be changed.
If used correctly, programmable thermostats commonly save 20 percent in energy bills. Of course, this will vary depending on the age and efficiency of your HVAC and the cost of the energy used. In general, the higher your cost of heating per BTU, the bigger your energy savings are going to be.
Superior programmable thermostats combine some or all of the great features stated above. If used intelligently, your programmable thermostat will keep your home at the desired temperature, save you energy dollars and make you feel good about helping the environment. That is to say, it will bring you the contentment on many levels.
To learn more on programmable thermostats go to the Energy Star Web site (www.energystar.gov).
photo credits: Fryer