A Programmable Thermostat Can Save You Money, But Only if You Know How to Use It

programmable thermostat
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You got a fancy programmable thermostat because you thought it would save energy — and lower your electric bill. But after a few months, you’re not seeing much of a change in your power usage. What’s the deal?

You probably don’t know how to use your fancy new thermostat.

Turns out, a whole lot of people have no idea how to properly use these better-than-ever thermostats.

Energy Research and Social Science recently released a study that found that 40% of the programmable thermostat owners surveyed didn’t use programming settings, and one-third had their devices stuck in the “hold” mode, which overrides any scheduled adjustments in temperature. A full 70% of the 192 study participants said they didn’t know where their thermostat manual was.

Washington Post reporter Chris Mooney explained some of the implications of the study. “Even though we may have the right technologies to enable dramatic cuts in energy usage,” he writes, “it doesn’t matter if people don’t know how to use them.” Mooney noted that some energy-use myths are still prevalent.

How to Work With Your Thermostat for Best Results

So, are you ready to nerd out with your thermostat for the benefit of your energy bill?

The first step is to read the manual, from cover to cover. If you’re still not sure how to apply the features of your device, take it to the Internet. YouTube is full of instructional videos for installing and programming various thermostats.

Beyond taking the time to learn, is there anything else you can do? The Post’s video of thermostat use tips says yes.

Take a look around your home. Is your thermostat near a window or door? Does it sit in a sunbeam for half the day? These placements can throw off your thermostat’s readings, making the machine think your house needs to be warmer or cooler than it really does.

If your living situation will allow it, it might be worth having your thermostat moved away from these areas.

If you’re in an apartment or situation where you can’t just bring in an electrician to check all the wiring and move your thermostat, you can still do more for your energy bill.

Program your thermostat so that it’s not working as hard when you’re not at home — say, during the workday or while you’re out to dinner and a movie. In the summer, keep the thermostat in the high 70s when you’re away; in the winter, experts recommend the mid-60s when you’re out of the house.

The myth that it takes more energy to change temperatures in your house than it does to keep it steady all the time simply isn’t true, Mooney says.

Hop over to the Washington Post for some energy saving tips and more details about the study.

Your Turn: Do you have a programmable thermostat? Do you know how to use it?

Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor, and podcaster living in Washington, DC.