Use a Programmable Thermostat, Common Sense, to Reduce Energy Bills

Brett Freeman

A typical American household spends about $1,000 a year--nearly half of its total energy costs--to heat and cool the home. As much as 20 percent of this represents waste--money spent heating and cooling when no one is home to enjoy it. Installing a programmable thermostat can eliminate this problem, keeping your house at a comfortable temperature when you are there but not wasting energy when you're not.

Simple and Efficient
The key to saving energy isn't just remembering to set the thermostat higher or lower (depending on whether you are using heat or air conditioning) when you're not at home. Turning the air conditioning off on a hot day, when you need to run out to the store and then flipping it right back on when you return, doesn't actually save energy because your system ends up working harder to cool the house down than it would have to simply maintain the target temperature. To achieve maximum energy savings, you want the system set to its efficient temperature for long blocks of time, which typically is when everyone is at work or school during the day, and then again when everyone is sleeping at night. The federal government's Energy Star program recommends setting your thermostat seven degrees higher during the day and four degrees higher at night in summer, and eight degrees lower during the day and at night in winter. This is what programmable thermostats are pre-programmed to do. You simply need to adjust them to fit your family's particular schedule.

Temperatures Not Locked In

All programmable thermostats allow you to override the current setting manually, so if you're home sick or taking a day off you can keep the house comfortable. They also have vacation settings so that your house isn't being heated or cooled unnecessarily when you are away.

A First Step, But Not the Only Step
Even with a programmable thermostat, there are plenty of other steps you can take to reduce heating and cooling bills. In summer, try setting the thermostat a degree or two higher when you're home. Each degree represents a two to three percent savings in energy costs. Keep blinds closed during the day to keep sunlight out. And if temperatures are cool enough at night, turn off the air conditioning and open some windows instead.

In winter, set the thermostat four or five degrees cooler and put on an extra layer of clothes. At night, add an extra blanket to your bed. And keep blinds open during the day so that the sun can help warm your home.

When you do override your thermostat, be aware that your system heats and cools at the same rate, regardless of setting. This means that your air conditioning cools the house down just as fast if you set the thermostat to 72 as it does if you set it to 50. The difference is that if you set it extremely low, and then forget to correct it when the target temperature is reached, you end up wasting a lot of energy.


About the Author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.


 

About the Author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.


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