July 2004
Set Your Thermostat to Energy Savings

Are you guilty of moving the thermostat when you suddenly feel too hot or too cold? Have you thought about how these impulse decisions affect your energy bills?

There is a solution. Instead of turning up the thermostat before you leave and turning it down when you get home, a programmable thermostat will do the job for you.

Some consumers believe the lower they set the thermostat, the cooler the air comes out and the faster the house cools off. During the winter, people think by setting the thermostat really high, the faster the house will heat up. Wrong!

No matter what temperature the thermostat is set on, whether it's high or low, the unit will release warm or cool air. Even if the thermostat is set on 60 degrees, it will release the same temperature air if it was set on 65. The difference is actually how long it takes the house to reach the set temperature; it may run an hour or three hours.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you could save five to 15 percent a year on your energy bill by turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day. It also indicates that you can have similar savings in the summertime by keeping the indoor temperature a few degrees higher when you're away than when you're at home.

Most programmable thermostats can store up to six different temperature settings. You could have settings for the early morning, mid-afternoon, evening and during the night.

"We recommend setting the thermostat at 78 degrees in the summer, but adjusting it to 84 degrees during the day when you're not at home," suggests Cindy Haddon, Walton EMC energy expert. "During the winter, set your thermostat at 70 degrees and 65 degrees during the day when you're away."

"You should see a difference in your energy bill by making this minor adjustment to your thermostat between daytime and nighttime hours."

But why go through the trouble of moving the thermostat multiple times a day? Not only will a programmable thermostat help you save on energy costs, it will save you time from continually changing the thermostat.

Most programmable thermostats give you an override option as well. If you're traveling, you can override your current settings until your return.

Before you purchase a programmable thermostat, find out more details from the salesperson first. The Department of Energy suggests asking:

  • Is the thermostat compatible with the electrical wiring found in your current unit?
  • Are you able to install it yourself, or should you hire an electrician or a licensed heating and air contractor?
  • How precise is the thermostat?
  • Are the programming instructions easy to understand and remember?

In some cases, a programmable thermostat can be installed over existing thermostats. But most of the time, programmable thermostats replace existing units. Make sure you install thermostats away from cool or hot spots in your home. Avoid areas next to windows or close to the attic.

This summer, try setting your thermostat a few degrees higher when you're away from home and see what will happen to your energy bill. Or consider installing a programmable thermostat. It will pay for itself with the energy you'll save.

U.S. Department of Energy.

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