Optimizing Setting a Programmable Thermostat for Winter
Posted by Norman Fong
The average household will spend over $1100 staying warm during the winter. This cost just keeps going straight up. You can lower your heating costs by 2-5% for every 1 degree lower you set your thermostat. Easily save $200 a year.
Housing accounts for 20% of total US energy use with heating and cooling consuming a whopping 44% of residential energy use.
We realized that we were not setting our programmable thermostat optimally, when we saw some tips that result in lower energy use. We would set the thermostat to heat to my desired temperature of 65 degrees from 6pm to 7am. Many people will prefer 68 degrees, but we like wearing sweaters at home. (Or are so cheap we have to)
A more optimal method is to set the programmable thermostat to 65 for 6pm to 11pm to cover the hours when people are in the house and awake. Set it to 55 or whatever your lifestyle allows, while sleeping, 11pm – 6:30am. Then add an entry for 65 degrees for 630am to 7am to warm up the house before you wake up and head out. The theory is that the house does not need to be heated up that much while people are sleeping.
When you come home to a cold house, don’t be tempted to crank the programmable thermostat way up as it saves no time in reheating your home. You will just make your heater work longer and drive your heating bills upwards.
Shopping for a new thermostat
If you do not have a programmable thermostat, buy one. Ours costs under $30. Look for ones that allow you to have different schedules for weekdays and weekends. Some have additional program schedules for heating and cooling. These are the four types of programmable thermostats:
- 7 day program – Each day’s temperature can be individually programmed
- 5-1-1 day – One program during the weekday, one for Saturday, one for Sunday
- 5-2 day – One program during the weekday, one for the Weekend
- 1 week – One program for the entire week
Think about your daily temperature adjustment needs and purchase the thermostat most appropriate to your needs.
Advanced computer controlled thermostats
If you want to buy something a little more sophisticated, Honeywell’s Prestige 7 Day Programmable thermostat can be controlled remotely by an iPhone or iPad.
Smart Programmable Thermostats
If you want to go all the way, Nest is a learning thermostat from the iPod inventor. It uses a touch-wheel user interface like the original iPod. It connects to your Wi-Fi network and can be controlled by an iPhone App or via the Internet. The Nest learns from your temperature adjusting behavior to create a custom schedule that also helps you conserve energy. The Nest also tells you how long it takes to reach a desired temperature. If you crank up your thermostat to say, 75 degrees, it will tell you it will take 30 min to reach that. This helps to prevent rapid cranking up of the thermostat. Schedules and behaviors can be reviewed on the Nest.com site. It does cost $249, with installation adding another $119.
The nest is clearly overkill, but if you are gadget hound and want to save on energy, go for it. A programmable thermostat costs far less than this.
Inspect, clean, or change the system’s air filters once a month to maximize efficiency and keep costs down.
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