According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average family can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs by simply turning the thermostat back 7-10 degrees from its normal setting for 8 hours a day. Of course, remembering to change the thermostat every time you go to bed or leave for work is a hassle, so why not install a programmable thermostat?
Prices range from around $25 for a basic unit to $250 or more for one that automatically adjusts to your family’s schedule. In most cases, a new thermostat will pay for itself through energy savings in less than a year – 2 years at most for the top-of-the-line units.
Many thermostats are designed for do-it-yourself installation. Just turn off the power to your heating and cooling system, remove the old thermostat and attach the existing system wires to the correct terminals on the new thermostat. However, if the wires aren’t color-coded or the new thermostat requires additional wires, call a professional installer for help.
Tip No. 1: Premium units like the Honeywell Lyric Round Wi-Fi Thermostat (shown) and the Nest Thermostat include features that were unthinkable just a few years ago. You can control the device from anywhere with a smart phone via your home’s Wi-Fi network, receive alerts about system problems and have the 68 degrees you set really feel like 68 degrees, because the thermostat considers both temperature and humidity to maintain your comfort.
Tip No. 2: Heat pumps may require a special unit to maximize energy savings year-round. Talk to your electric cooperative, a retailer or an HVAC contractor before selecting a new thermostat.
Tip No. 3: Mount your thermostat on an interior wall, away from windows, doors, lamps or heat registers. Sunlight streaming through a window or a breeze from an open door or nearby duct can trick your thermostat into thinking your heating or cooling system should cycle.
A reasonably competent home do-it-yourselfer should be able to complete this project in a relatively short time. If you’re uncomfortable with the techniques mentioned here or a product manufacturer’s instructions, please contact a professional technician, licensed electrician or qualified contractor for assistance.