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Saving Money and Going Green with Programmable Thermostats

With rising energy costs and a dire environmental outlook - it's no wonder that programmable (or "setback") thermostats are gaining in popularity.

Using a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the times you turn on the heating or air-conditioning according to a pre-set schedule. As a result, you don't operate the equipment as much when you are asleep or when the house is not occupied.

The benefits are two-fold:

  • Save money on your heating and cooling bills
  • Feel good about saving energy resources

How many degrees do I need to set my thermostat back to realize energy / money savings?

You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you're awake and setting it lower while you're asleep or away from home. By turning your thermostat back 10°–15° for 8 hours, you can save about 5%–15% a year on your heating bill—a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates.

In the summer, you can follow the same strategy with central air conditioning, too, by keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away, and lowering the thermostat setting to 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cooling. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal as you wake or return home.

Most newer programmable thermostats will have a feature which allows the thermostat to "learn" how long it takes to get to a particular set point. With this feature - the thermostat can start "recovering" early in order to reach the programmed set point at a given program time. Honeywell calls this Adaptive Intelligent Recovery. H.O. Services calls it Energy Management Recovery.