5 Tips About Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats are great, especially for families that are away from home for long periods during the day. They can help keep your home comfortable while conserving energy and fuel consumption. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are looking to install a programmable thermostat in your home.

First, will a programmable thermostat benefit you?

If you have a heat pump, geothermal unit, or very low energy consumption in general, you may not see a large benefit in using a programmable thermostat. Customers with oil heat or other high energy consumption usually see the largest benefit by regularly reducing  the set temperature. Another factor to consider is the family schedule – if someone is home during the day, or the total time that the house is empty is generally less than 8-10 hours, you won’t see the same benefits as a household that can set the temperature back for longer periods of time. The same is true for overnight programs.

Second, be sure to read your owner’s manual.

In the past, you needed to account for recovery time when setting your program. So, for instance, if you wanted your house to be 70 degrees at 4 pm when you arrived home, you would need to set the program for 70 degrees at 3:30 pm because the system began calling for additional heat at the set time – so if you set it for 70 degrees at 4 pm, the house would still feel cold at that time. Newer models have a feature called “adaptive recovery” that accounts for the time it takes to heat to the desired temperature. So if you want your home to be 70 degrees at 4 pm, that’s what you program – if you set it for 70 degrees at 3:30, you’re wasting an extra half hour of additional energy use.

Third, choose your set back temperature carefully.

It may sound like a great idea to set your thermostat back to 60 degrees while you are at work to be able to keep the house at a toasty 72 while you are home, but this actually isn’t the best way to use your programmable thermostat. Creating such a large temperature difference will cause your system to work harder to recover, which is inefficient and can actually lead to system failure if done repeatedly over long periods of time. You are better off setting your program for a smaller temperature difference from the start. 2 degrees is ideal, so having your temperature at 68 degrees while you are home and 66 degrees while you are at work helps your system to maintain your comfort without straining and still conserves energy.

Fourth, be cautious about using the “auto” setting.

On many programmable thermostats, there are two settings that can be programmed for “auto.” One is for the blower fan, which circulates air through your ductwork. This is a good one to leave on “auto” most of the time because it will turn on and shut off the fan with the operation of your system. There will be times when it’s better to leave the fan in an “on” position so that it blows constantly, but a lot of times “auto” will work just fine. The second available “auto” setting toggles between heat, cooling, and emergency heat. In winter, this setting can sometimes call for air conditioning to help reach the set back temperature, which you don’t want. Use the manual heat-cool-emergency-switchover instead to avoid this problem.

Last but not least, call a pro to install your new thermostat.

Home comfort systems are complicated pieces of equipment with complex wiring. Installing a thermostat incorrectly can lead to big problems, such as shorting out your equipment (which can void your warranty), and as the software in thermostats gets more advanced, there are additional steps that need to be taken to be sure that your thermostat is communicating with your system effectively. That heat-cool-emergency-switchover we just mentioned? That’s just one of many data points that your thermostat and heating/cooling systems are exchanging. Incorrectly installed thermostats are one of the more common rescue calls that we receive. Our advice? Don’t risk big problems you can avoid with a small service visit.

Do you have a more specific question about your programmable thermostat? Leave it in the comments, or give us a call, and our experts will be glad to help you out!