Ask the Contractor: Programmable thermostat facts
QUESTION: Recently we had our HVAC serviced and during the visit the HVAC representative suggested that we should install a programmable thermostat because it would save us money. Seriously, can a programmable thermostat help us rake in the energy savings?
Ed and Kathy, Cottonwood
ANSWER: To answer your question, yes they can, however the catch is, you have to actually use them. Most programmable thermostats let you select different temperatures and schedule on-off times for the days of the week, including weekends. Are they complicated, not really, we just have to get into the groove of using them. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, nearly 90 percent of Americans say they’ve rarely (or never) programmed their thermostat because they’re not sure how to do it. But it’s really not that hard, and it’s definitely worth doing because it can save you up to 15 percent a year on energy costs.
The first step is to pick the thermostat that best suits your scheduling needs so you can “set it and forget it,” an approach the U.S. Energy Department advocates to get the most savings.
There are four types of programmable thermostats, each with a distinctive scheduling style:
• 7-day programming. Best for individuals or families with erratic schedules, since this is the most flexible option. It lets you program a different heating/cooling schedule for each day of the week.
• 5-1-1 programming. One heating/cooling schedule for the week, plus you can schedule a different heating/cooling plan for Saturday and Sunday.
• 5-2 programming. Same as 5-1-1 programming, except Saturday and Sunday will have the same heating/cooling plan.
• 1-week programming. You can only set one heating/cooling plan that will be repeated daily for the entire week.
Remember you will need a program for both the cooler months and the warmer months and also it is important to identify the type of equipment used to heat and cool your home so compatibility can be connected with the equipment and the programmable thermostat. You should have an HVAC provider set you up. Not all HVAC equipment should be used with a programmable thermostat.
The U.S Department of Energy suggests the following settings in order to shave up to 15 percent off your energy bill:
Winter months – for the hours you’re home and awake, program the temp to 68°F. Lower by 10° to 15° for the hours you’re asleep or out of the house.
Summer months – for the hours you’re home, program air conditioning to 78°F. For the days you don’t need cooling, manually shut off the AC. Keep in mind, it will kick back on if the house gets too warm. Program the AC to shut off during the hours you’re out of the house.
Here are a few programming timing tips that can help you create the best set-it-and-forget-it heating and cooling schedule for your home: Shut down heat or air conditioning 20 to 30 minutes before you leave home each day.
Turn on heat or air conditioning 20 to 30 minutes before you come home each day. Reduce the heating or cooling 60 minutes before you go to sleep each night. Increase heating or cooling about 30 minutes before you wake up each morning.
The location of your thermostat can affect its performance and efficiency. To operate properly, a thermostat must be on an interior wall away from direct sunlight, drafts, doorways, skylights, and windows. It should be located where natural room air currents–warm air rising, cool air sinking–occur.
Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time aired twice each weekend Saturday and Sunday morning 7 am on KQNA 1130 am/99.9 FM and 95.5 FM or the web kqna.com. A wildly fun local show. Also, additional Radon testing kits have arrived. Please call Sandy at 778-0040 if you would like one – they are FREE.