If you’re at all interested in green living, you’ve probably taken some steps to reduce the amount of energy you use on a daily basis. This could include strategies like swapping out incandescent bulbs for energy-efficient CFLs that use a third of the energy and last ten times as long. Or perhaps you’ve taken stock of your energy-guzzling appliances (fridge, washer/dryer, etc.) and opted to upgrade to Energy Star models when it’s time to replace them. However, you’re not doing all you could be if you fail to address one of the worst offenders when it comes to home energy use: your HVAC system. And while upgrading your furnace and AC unit can cost you thousands of dollars up front, there are other changes you can make that will help you to cut your carbon footprint in the meantime. Using a programmable thermostat is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to start seeing instant savings on your heating and cooling costs. And when used in conjunction with other efforts, you stand to see a significant reduction on your monthly energy bill.
The place to start is by thinking about the kind of programmable thermostat you want. Simple models will let you create a daily schedule that rolls back usage during the hours you’re away from home (at work, for example) and ramps up before you get home. But you’ll have to override them on the weekends. Of course, you can also get more complex models that offer greater flexibility in scheduling, but you’ll probably pay a little more for the convenience.
Next you’ll need to learn how to appropriately program your thermostat to enjoy the greatest savings, and the Department of Energy has guidelines to help you out. Ideally, you thermostat should be set no higher than 68? Fahrenheit in the winter and no lower than 78?F in the summer. But that’s only when you’re in the house and enjoying your heated or cooled air. When you’re away for the day you should program your thermostat to roll back the temperature 10-15 degrees for maximum savings. You might wonder why you shouldn’t just turn the system off altogether, though.
In the winter this is obviously a bad idea since you don’t want pipes to freeze and condensation to form inside your home. But what about summer? The truth is that you’ll waste a lot more energy bringing your interior temperature from, say 100?F to 78?F than you will maintaining a closer temperature range. The Department of Energy standards offer the greatest overall efficiency for your home. You might also want to alter the temperature when you’re asleep.
And don’t forget that implementing other changes can only help to increase savings. For example, zoning your home can maximize the benefits of programmable thermostats by ensuring that hot or cold air is routed where you need it most. Instead of blasting your main floor into the arctic in order to keep your upper floor barely cool enough to stand, you can direct airflow to the upper levels while keeping lower floors comfortable. Upgraded equipment helps, as well, but if you don’t have the cash on hand for this major expense, at least program your thermostat.