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Programmable thermostats are designed to maximize efficient energy usage and home comfort on your schedule, whether it’s cold and dry outside or hot and sticky. If you haven’t been getting the most value from your thermostat or if you’re shopping around, keep reading to learn best practices for home comfort automation or how to select a new programmable thermostat.

Why Upgrade to a Programmable Thermostat?

programmable thermostat

Older thermostats were typically big round dials or boxes that got the job done, but they didn’t have any features to enhance efficiency, HVAC performance or comfort. In fact, these antique thermostats could lose accuracy, and they contained toxic mercury.

Today, homeowners expect much more from their home comfort systems, as well as the devices used to control and enhance energy efficiency, indoor air quality, temperature and more. In fact, home energy systems and home comfort are tightly connected and have embraced home automation technologies, such as programmable thermostats. What seemed to be futuristic devices not too long ago are now at the fingertips of practically any homeowner.

Settings for Maximum Efficiency and Comfort

Programmable thermostats are a practical home efficiency upgrade for any household. You certainly want to leverage the best use from your new programmable thermostat, and many of today’s devices offer better user interface with large intuitive displays. After all, any device or system is only going to get the job done if it’s used correctly for its intended purpose.

Understanding best practices for thermostat programming and utilizing features that will enhance efficiency and comfort specific to your Mid-Atlantic home is important.

Tips for Using Programmable Thermostats

  • Efficiency and comfort: The whole point behind programmable thermostats is to provide a convenient way for you to save maximum energy and still enjoy your favorite comfort temperatures according to your lifestyles. To enjoy all the benefits your programmable thermostat has to offer, consider settings based on your household’s daily schedule. Jot down on a piece of paper the typical time the home is unoccupied in the morning and the time you come home from work, or when the home is first occupied. These are the hours you want to take advantage of big energy savings while still ensuring you and your family return to a comfortable home.
  • Vacation: Check the owner’s manual to see if your programmable thermostat includes a vacation program. If you travel frequently, go ahead and adjust the temperature settings of this feature if needed so you’re ready to put your HVAC systems into energy-saving mode. For example, you could program minimum heat to 60 degrees. You certainly don’t want the heat off while you’re away in the middle of a Mid-Atlantic winter. You could also program a few hours of comfort temperatures for house pets or pet sitters during their scheduled visits.
  • Secure settings: If you’re concerned about others in the household tampering with your programmed settings, such as children arriving home from school before you do, make sure the device you choose has a password lockout feature. Most models do, requiring a keypad input to modify settings. The password or keypad sequence also helps prevent accidental changes.
  • Consistent settings: One of the nice perks of using programmable thermostats is that they encourage consistency in temperature settings. Consistent temperatures are important for both your comfort and for maximum energy savings. Start off with moderate energy-saving settings for sleep hours, such as four degrees back/up, and gradually adjust for more energy savings until you’ve found the sweet spot. In this way, you’ll won’t be as tempted to override the program setting with the “hold” button, which spoils your savings.
  • For the best results: With consistent temperatures in mind, cranking the thermostat way up or down with the “hold” button following a turn-back/up savings block doesn’t heat or cool the home any faster. You only risk forgetting to readjust the setting and waste energy. Use program settings you can live comfortably with for best results.

Setting a Programmable Thermostat

Following is an example daily program of a typical five-day workweek schedule. According to Energy Star statistics, such a program would save at least 10 percent heating and cooling costs:

  • Morning: It’s certainly nice to wake up to a comfortable home in the morning, especially when the weather outside is freezing. Start your day off right by programming a comfortable temperature about 10 minutes before your alarm clock is set to go off.
  • Workday: The workday is prime time for energy savings. Program energy-saving temperatures seven to 15 degrees down/up from your normal comfort temperature for the duration of the time the home is unoccupied. Program you favorite comfort temperature to resume about 10 to 15 minutes before the first person arrives home.
  • Evening: Of course you want your normal comfort temperature through the evening. Energy Star suggests for maximum savings and comfort to program the comfort temperature to 68 degrees during the heating months and 78 degrees during the cooling months.
  • Sleep: Sleep hours are a good time to save energy. However, you don’t want to overdo it and find yourself uncomfortable or waking up to adjust the temperature with the “hold” feature. Start modest and increase energy savings accordingly.

Time to Go Shopping

There are a vast number of programmable thermostats on the market to suit any household’s needs and budget. Take your time choosing and make sure the device has the features you want and a comfortable user interface. Start by considering the typical week of your household. For instance, does your household have a typical five-day workweek with the same schedule? Do household members come home at different times? What about your weekend schedule? Does it change or is it consistent.

These questions are important when selecting a programmable thermostat with daily or weekly programming features to fit your schedule. Following are the three basic types of programming available with programmable thermostats:

  • 5+2-day: This model offers one program for the workweek and one program for the two-day weekend. Note that programmable devices offer at least four daily event changes.
  • 5+1+1-day: This model offers the typical workweek program and a separate program for Saturday and Sunday.
  • 7-day: The 7-day model offers the most flexibility for busy households. With this model, you can program a different event change for each day of the week.

Choose a Standard or Smart Thermostat

Some programmable thermostats look like a typical digital model but offer programming capability. These standard programmable thermostats will offer the basic features and reminders, such as filter change reminder and other alerts. The next tier of programmable devices offer larger screens for more intuitive interface. You may also select a touchscreen display with easy tab selects.

The latest programmable thermostats incorporate “smart” features, such as learning your routine and temperature preferences, or going into energy-saving mode when you leave the room.

Advanced Thermostat Features

Following are some of the advanced features of smart thermostats:

  • Smart models: Smart thermostats, also called WiFi thermostats, may connect to your home’s Internet network. You can access your thermostat settings and HVAC performance via your smartphone or computer. This feature is great if you’re leaving work early, staying late or stuck in traffic. You can adjust program settings according to your plans. You can also use your smartphone as an interface device to make temperature changes from bed.
  • Software management: Some thermostat manufacturers offer online energy software to manage your energy budget and usage. You can see how much energy your home uses for each hour of the day.
  • Alerts: You can receive text and email alerts to system malfunctions.
  • Sensor technology: With an outdoor sensor, your smart thermostat can monitor temperature and humidity, and adjust according to your comfort preferences and efficiency settings. That’s pretty smart comfort and savings.
  • Zoned heat systems: Programmable and smart thermostats work well with zoning systems.
  • Compatibility: Some smart thermostats are compatible with certain systems and manufacturers. Make sure that the programmable or smart thermostat you select is compatible with your comfort systems.
  • Total indoor environmental control: If you’re upgrading comfort systems, you have a chance to link all of them with your programmable or smart thermostat. For example, if you’ve decided you’re tired of dry winter air and you’re installing a whole-home humidifier, work with your HVAC contractor to ensure your new humidifier and other comfort systems are linked with your new thermostat.

Learn more about programmable thermostats available from Griffith Energy Services, Inc., or contact us today at 888-474-3391 to schedule an appointment with one of our home comfort experts!

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