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Is a Programmable Thermostat Worth It? · Furnace Experts
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Is a Programmable Thermostat Worth It? · Furnace Experts

Are Programmable Thermostats Worth It on Cost and Environmentally?

Programmable Thermostats

There are numerous programmable thermostats available on the market today. Some of them are very basic, while others are extremely complex. I understand that they can cost a couple hundred dollars. However, are they worth installing on cost as well as environmental savings?


Quick Answer from Fred’s Experts:

Providing a thorough answer on whether programmable thermostats are worth installing in regard to cost and environmentally is impossible without first knowing the specifics of your HVAC system, your home, and your families comfort preferences. With that said, generally, programmable thermostats are worth installing if your home is vacant for many hours of the day and for the sake of savings you are willing to surrender some amount of comfort. For more details continue reading:


Detailed Answer from Fred’s Experts:

An excellent question due to many products labeled as “cost-efficient” or “eco-friendly” is not necessary for many conditions or are not as good as they want you to believe. However, it is impossible to give a thorough analysis of the costs and benefits received with programmable thermostats without more information about your schedule, your home, as well as your preference for comfort.

We can, however, provide some insight and general guidance to assist you in sorting out the specifics of an analysis of your own on the cost and benefits of this device. Or, prepare you to knowledgeably speak with an HVAC specialist in regard to your needs. Let’s cover some basic information first, however:

There is one job a traditional thermostat must do, and that is to ensure that the actual temperature of the room is the same as the temperature programmed by the homeowner. A traditional thermostat will maintain the temperature of the room until such time as the homeowner manually changes it by turning it up or down.

Many years ago, programmable thermostats (or clock thermostats) were presented to the heating and cooling world as a saving tool for cost-and-energy for both building managers and homeowners. A schedule can be set on the programmable thermostat by the homeowner that tells it to adjust the temperature of the room automatically at various times of the day.

As an example, a homeowner may turn down the heating during the night while everyone is under warm blankets and a cooler room would not be noticed. Or, while everyone is at work or school, the owner can adjust the temperature of the air conditioning. Manually adjusting the home’s thermostat each day for either of these situations can become tedious; therefore, installing a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts the temperature, ensuring your energy savings will result in savings of costs on your utility bill.

Knowing how much savings you can expect to see is difficult due to the numerous variables involved. This would depend on the heating type used (natural gas, electricity, etc.), the precise geographic location, your building’s or home’s insulation, and much more. As reported by Wing (2012), heating bills are reduced by approximately 3% for each Fahrenheit degree a thermostat is permanently lowered by; while only approximately 1% for each Fahrenheit degree is saved by lowing the thermostat overnight.

According to one manufacturer, homeowners can possibly save 20% on average on their cooling and heating costs over a period of time. Of course, this is dependent on what kind of programmable thermostat is used and what cooling and heating equipment it is paired with.


Factors to Consider

Is your home unoccupied for extended lengths of time during the day? You should consider installing a programmable thermoset if you answered yes to this question. If everyone in the home is away for work or school from 8 AM until 4 PM, Monday through Friday, setting your heating from 73 to 63 degrees during this period of time may show notable savings. For 40 hours per week, there would be a 10-degree difference. But, if your home is occupied for most or all of this time, you will have less opportunity of saving because a steady room temperature would be likely desired.

Are you prepared to surrender some amount of comfort in exchange for the savings? If you answered yes, consider installing a programmable thermostat. This device will automatically reduce the load placed on your home’s HVAC equipment during the set times you are willing to surrender some level of comfort. For example, you can set your thermostat to automatically reduce the temperature of the room from 72 to 65 degrees during the overnight hours (and turn back up to 72 again just before you wake) in the winter months. While sleeping, the majority of people never notice the difference in temperature because they are snuggled under heavy blankets. A similar schedule can be made during the summer nights as well.

The technology put into programmable thermostats have improved immensely since its introduction many years ago. The managing capabilities of these devices are enhanced through the use of computer networking and mobile computing technologies; enabling more specific adjustments, resulting in further savings.

  • Oftentimes, personalized mobile accounts or Smartphone apps are included in Wi-Fi enabled thermostats. This allows owners to check on their HVAC system as well as adjust the temperature (even when not at home). If you forgot to adjust the thermostat's schedule or to turn it down prior to leaving on a business trip, this can be a great energy-and-cost saver.
  • Geofencing technology is employed with many modern thermostats allowing it to be paired with your Smartphone. Basically, your thermostat will know when you are close-by and adjust the thermostat according to the schedule to ensure your home is at the correct temperature as you walk in the door.
  • Over time, many “smart” thermostats learn the household’s activity habits and then assist you in making better choices in regard to when and how long to turn down your thermostat. This is learned by analyzing when you are home and examining comfort preferences.
  • Some “smart” thermostats also respond to voice commands. When on the go, this technology makes it extremely easy to adjust the thermostats setting.   
  • Some “smart” thermostats have the ability to generate energy and cost savings reports over time. This would enable owners to make better choices in the future.

Talk with your technician to see if these are right for your home and your budget.

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