Programmable Thermostats: Program Your Savings

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Heating and cooling your home consumes a lot of energy — roughly half of an average home’s energy use, according to the Department of Energy. This translates to big costs for electricity and heating fuels, especially as electricity and fossil fuel prices continue to rise. But one simple way to lower your heating and cooling bills without sacrificing comfort is by investing in a programmable thermostat.

How Does It Work?

The idea behind a programmable thermostat is simple: why heat or cool your house when there’s nobody around to enjoy it? Programmable thermostats allow you to lower the thermostat in the winter and raise it in the summer during the day when you are at work or at night while you're sleeping, without having to remember to manually set it each time. You can even set the thermostat to turn the heating or cooling back on shortly before you return from work or wake up, so that you can come home or wake up to a comfortable house.

How Much Will I Save?

Programmable thermostats generally cost between $25 and $100 (not including any installation costs), but these handy devices can save the average American household up to $110 or more annually, making this a very smart investment. For people who install their programmable thermostats themselves, that could translate into a payback period of as little as twelve weeks, but expenses and savings will vary. Even greater savings can be realized by consumers who lower their thermostat by just a few degrees in the winter when they are at home. In fact, for the average household, lowering the thermostat by just one degree in the winter can reduce annual heating costs by up to 5 percent, depending on the heating fuel used.

Of course, using programmable thermostats correctly has proven to be easier said than done. Programmable thermostats do not save any energy (or money) just by being installed — they need to be properly programmed first. And properly programming the thermostat may take a little effort, although many come pre-set to a default energy-saving schedule. Still, a lower utility bill is worth spending a few minutes reading the manual.

If you’re interested in calculating how much a programmable thermostat can save you this winter, check out ENERGY STAR ’s programmable thermostat consumer calculator. The Department of Energy has more information on its Energy Savers programmable thermostat page.