Use Programmable Thermostats Correctly for Optimal Comfort and HVAC Efficiency

programmable thermostatsApproximately half of the energy consumed in the average American home on a yearly basis is used by the heating and cooling system. If you want to save money and keep your operating costs under control, installing a programmable thermostat is an easy way to increase your HVAC energy efficiency and optimize your comfort at the same time. When you choose the right programmable thermostat and use it correctly, you can save up to 15 percent on your annual energy bills and enjoy a more comfortable living environment, too. Understanding the basics of how programmable thermostats function and learning about the different types and available options can help you choose wisely so you’ll reap the full benefits of enhanced comfort and efficiency.

How Programmable Thermostats Work

Just as a manual thermostat, a programmable version “reads” the air temperature and switches on the heating or cooling equipment when the temperature falls below or rises above the temperature setting selected. Once the temperature setting is satisfied, it switches the HVAC equipment off. Programmable thermostats incorporate an extra layer of functionality that allows you to select multiple start and stop set points based on your schedule. This ability to schedule temperature increases and setbacks during periods when you’re sleeping or not at home provides greater control of your heating and cooling energy consumption.

Types of Programmable Thermostats

Before you consider making a purchase, it’s important to know that the programmable thermostat you install must be compatible with your home’s heating and cooling equipment. If it’s not, it may not function properly and could even damage your costly comfort system components. An experienced HVAC contractor is the best source of advice on compatibility, so it’s wise to seek out an expert opinion before making a decision, but as a general guide, you have four main types of programmable thermostats to choose from:

  • Manual programmable models: These are the basic devices that you can program to manage your A/C and furnace energy use and maintain comfort at an ideal level. You’ll need to program this type of thermostat right at the unit itself.
  • WiFi models: These high-tech devices let you monitor and adjust your home’s thermostat settings remotely using a computer, tablet or smart-phone. All you need is a connection to the Internet.
  • Learning models: You’ll start out programming this type of advanced thermostat manually, but as it “learns” your habits and preferences, the device gradually takes over the task of keeping your home comfortable as efficiently as possible.
  • Intelligent recovery models: If you have a heat pump, this is the type of programmable thermostat you need. In the summer, it functions just like a regular programmable thermostat. In the winter, an intelligent recovery thermostat keeps the auxiliary heating coils from kicking in by automatically adjusting the heat pump’s operation gradually to maintain a stable indoor temperature.

Programmable Thermostat Scheduling Choices

Once you decide on which of the above programmable thermostats matches your equipment and best suits your needs, you’ll need to pick a scheduling type. To find the ideal fit, consider your lifestyle, your family’s work and school schedule, and your daily habits. You have a choice of four different scheduling options:

  • 7-day scheduling. This type of thermostat lets you program a different schedule for each day of the week, and typically allows you to schedule up to four temperature periods a day. It offers the most flexibility of any of the options, which makes it ideal if your family’s schedule changes from day to day, or week to week.
  • 5+2-day scheduling. This type of programmable thermostat is the best choice if you have a regular Monday through Friday routine, and another on the weekends. Saturday and Sunday’s schedule is the same.
  • 5-1-1 models. If you want to program a set schedule during the Monday to Friday work and school week, another for busy Saturdays, and a third for Sundays, this is the type of programmable thermostat you’ll need.
  • 1-week models. If your routine is the same seven days a week, this is the ideal thermostat choice, because it gives you just a single scheduling option that’s repeated all week long.

Programmable Thermostat Features and Options

The programmable thermostat models on the market today offer a wide range of advanced features and options aimed at adding extra convenience and boosting efficiency.

  • Information displays. Some models display information on temperature, system status, date, time, etc. on an easy-to-read screen.
  • Touch-screens. Most models make it easy to adjust both basic system controls and advanced features via a convenient touch-screen.
  • Back lit display: This feature allows you to easily see the screen and adjust or program the thermostat even in low-light conditions, which is handy in the evening or at night.
  • Telephone and online programming: Not only do today’s models let you access your home comfort system controls through a land line, mobile phone or over the Internet, some will even update you via email or text if there’s an HVAC problem that needs your attention.
  • Sophisticated energy monitoring: Some available models can monitor energy use and generate reports about consumption in different areas of a home. You can use the information to make targeted improvements that increase your comfort and provide greater energy savings.
  • Indicators and alerts: Depending on the specific model chosen, your thermostat can remind you about the vital maintenance that keeps your HVAC system operating efficiently, such as air filter changes and professional tune-ups.

Some of the other available programmable thermostat features that you may find useful include voice programming, a real-time clock, a built-in daylight savings time adjustment, a check-battery indicator and an outdoor temperature display. Some models will even monitor the humidity level in your home, or keep you aware of your daily energy consumption.

Helpful Tips for Programming Your Thermostat

Once your new thermostat is installed, you’ll find that it’s already pre-programmed with a generic schedule that you’ll need to personalize. Read through the owner’s manual first, and then set a schedule that meshes with your day-to-day life. The thermostat should provide programming options based on your desired wake and sleep times, and leave and return times. Here are some tips that can make programming uncomplicated and help you get used to your new thermostat:

  • During periods when you’re awake and at home, set the thermostat to 70 degrees for heating and 78 degrees for cooling.
  • For periods when you won’t be at home or when everyone is asleep, schedule a temperature setback of at least eight degrees when heating, and a minimum of four degrees when cooling.
  • Program the desired temperature change to take effect 20 to 30 minutes before you normally leave or arrive home. Have it take effect one hour before you head to bed, and 30 minutes before you wake up.

Keep in mind that you may have to tweak the programming a few times before it meshes with your schedule and daily routine.

Additional Tips to Maximize Energy Savings With a Programmable Thermostat

  • Make sure that the thermostat is installed on an interior wall, out of direct sunlight and away from any windows and drafts. It shouldn’t be placed near supply or return vents, light fixtures or heat sources such as appliances or a fireplace.
  • Always schedule your programmed temperature changes for periods of at least eight hours to get the greatest benefit.
  • Take advantage of the thermostat’s built-in “vacation mode” or “hold” feature if you plan to be away from home for a weekend or longer. Your home will stay at a constant temperature while you’re gone, so you’re not wasting energy.
  • Avoid overriding your regular programming. When you do, you’ll see an increase in energy consumption and higher bills.
  • Don’t manually adjust the temperature setting dramatically in order to heat or cool your home quicker. This won’t make your home cool down or warm up faster, and it can increase your energy costs.
  • Whether or not you have a check-battery indicator, don’t wait for the batteries to fail. Make sure that you change them at least once each year.
  • If you have a two-story home or some rooms you don’t use frequently, talk to your HVAC contractor about upgrading to a zoning system. Zoning systems employ multiple programmable thermostats, motorized dampers in the system’s ductwork and a central control panel to improve comfort and energy efficiency. Having a zoning system installed can help you reduce your annual heating and cooling energy usage by as much as 25 percent. It also will give you the ability to adjust the comfort level in different areas of your home based on use and occupancy.

If you’d like to learn more about programmable thermostats and the energy savings and comfort you’ll gain by using one correctly in your Macon, Gray or Greensboro area home, contact us today at Wilson Bryant Air Conditioning.