If you’re like most people, you probably spend over $2,000 annually on heating and cooling bills. About 35-50% of the total bill is probably devoted to heating and cooling your home. The remaining 50-65% of your total household energy consumption comes from lighting, kitchen appliances, and other miscellaneous home/office equipment, such as your computer and tv. There are so many ways to reduce energy costs in and around the house. I recently wrote about the cost benefits of switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs. It is probably one of the easiest and simplest things you can do to start saving money immediately. With the winter season coming up, people are looking to save even more money by discovering ways to reduce their heating energy. One of the simple things you can do immediately is adjust your heating setpoint temperature on your thermostat.

Depending on where you live and whether you use gas or electricity for heating, you can save about an average of 1-3% on your heating bill for every degree you lower your thermostat temperature setting. If you normally set your temperature at 72 degrees all day, then lowering the temperature to 70 degrees will probably save you 2-6% on your heating bill every month. This is simple and very cost effective since it doesn’t cost you any additional money to start saving. However, if you spend just a few dollars on a brand new programmable thermostat, you can save more money be presetting your temperature for different times throughout the day. Once you program your new programmable thermostat, you won’t need to worry about it anymore. It’s almost like, “set it and forget it” kind of deal.

Programmable Thermostats

If you, like many people, have a regular 8-5 jobs and are away from home for several hours throughout the week, then you can benefit greatly from a programmable thermostat. Bottom line is that programmable thermostats will save you energy because it forces you to use less energy. Energy Star recommends you program your  programmable thermostat to the following preset temperature schedule:


5-1-1 Programmable Thermostat

Again, if you said Yes to all of the items below, then you need to get a programmable thermostat right away:The times and temperature can surely be changed to accommodate to what you’re comfortable with. For instance, I wake up at 7am and leave for work by 7:30. During that time, I would like my home to be warm. 62 would be too cold to jump out of bed and to start washing up. So, I would like my heater to start warming up the house starting at 6am so it’ll be nice and warm. Since I’m out of the house by 7:30, I could probably tell the programmable thermostat to stop heating the house before 7:30, say 7:15 or even 7am. When i’m at work, I can tell the programmable thermostat to stop heating so I can set it to 62 degrees. I come home at around 5:30 and I want the house to be warm when I arrive. I can probably start heating the house at 4:30. When I sleep at midnight, I can tell it stop the heating process.

1. Have a routine daily schedule where i’m away from home for an extended period of time every day (going to work every day during the same times)

2. Set thermostat at a certain temperature, and leave it on all day, all night, everyday.

How much money will I save?

How much money you will save depends greatly on your current heating use, your regional location, the size and make-up of your home, and the utility rate your local heating company charges you. Let’s assume that you follow the schedule as outlined above. Let’s also assume that you are an average home owner and leave the temperature set at 72 degrees all day, all night, everyday. The table below shows the difference of temperature of your home before and after installing your new programmable thermostat.

Given the above assumption, you save your heater about an average of 8 degrees of “work” per day. Now at an average savings of 3% per degree, you can save as much as 24% on your heating bill every month during the heating season. Last year, my total utility bill was just over $2,400. November-February made up 50% of that total.

So, $2,400 x 50% (heating season) x 50% (heating only) x 24% = $144. Now, that’s just heating seasons only. You will save additional money during cooling season, which will be another topic. You can find more energy saving tips at energy star website.

How do I install a programmable thermostat

Installing a new programmable thermostat is simpler than you probably thought. All you need is a screwdriver and 20-30 minutes. Follow these 7 easy steps and you’ll be on your way to start saving money.


5-1-1 Programmable Thermostat

1. Determine what type of programmable thermostat you need. There are different types with different built-in programs for your home’s weekly schedule. A 5-2 model has one schedule for all 5 weekdays and another schedule devoted for the weekend. A 5-1-1 model has one schedule for all 5 weekdays and two schedules for each of the weekend days. Then there’s a 7-day thermostat which has capability to set a different schedule for each of the 7 days.

2. Turn off the power supply to the thermostat. You can do this at the breaker switch panel. Most likely, the breaker switches will be marked or labeled, but if it’s not, you’ll have to use a trial and error method to figure out which switch belongs to which equipment/room. Now, gather the tools you will need. Most likely, you won’t need anything other than a simple screwdriver.

3. Remove the old thermostat. Unscrew any screws with your screwdrivers. Typically, the thermostat will snap off of the wall if you pull on them. Make sure you don’t cut any wires that are dangling on the old thermostat.


7 Day Programmable Thermostat

5. Mount the new programmable thermostat on the wall. If necessary, push all the wires inside the switchbox. Screw in the programmable thermostat securely. ensure that no wires are exposed. Turn the power back on from the switch panel and make sure the programmable thermostat is working.4. Carefully, detach the wires from the old thermostat and attachment to your new programmable thermostat. Refer to your new thermostat’s installation manual on how to connect the wires.

6. Program you thermostat to your liking according to the instructions provided in the manual.

7. Sit back and start saving money!

Who shouldn’t use a programmable thermostat

If you do not use a programmable thermostat already and have good sense of energy savings awareness around your home and adjust thermostat temperature setting when not occupying your home, you may not need to switch to a programmable thermostat. For instance, people who have irregular daily schedules may not benefit from a programmable thermostat because the presets may not coincide with home occupancy every day. Such people might include those who work from home, housewives, stay-home moms, and retirees. As long as you manually adjust the temperatures when you’re not home, you’re already saving energy.