Programmable Thermostats Demystified: Learn the Basics of These Energy-Saving Devices

Programmable Thermostats Demystified: Learn the Basics of These Energy-Saving Devices

Programmable thermostat with backlit digital screen.Programmable thermostats are both an attractive and a daunting option.

They’re attractive because they can save you money and give you extra convenience (no more constant fiddling with your thermostat’s settings to get that comfortable sweet spot.)

Yet they’re also daunting because you still have to program them, which can be difficult if you’re not familiar with the vocabulary associated with programmable thermostats.

Well, here’s our guide to help demystify programmable thermostats and aid you in choosing the one that best fits you.

After reading this article you’ll understand:

  • How much money programmable thermostats can save you each year by lowering your energy bill
  • The basic vocabulary you need to know to set your schedule
  • The different types of programmable thermostats based on how they can be scheduled
  • Common features you should be aware of that can help you save money and make it easier to use.

Saving money with programmable thermostats
According to both Consumer Reports and ENERGY STAR, a programmable thermostat can trim about $180 a year off your home’s energy bill.

How does it do this?

Well, think about it like this: Does it make sense to heat or cool your home to the same temperatures when you’re not home? Or how about when you’re asleep?

Definitely not.

The programmable thermostat lets you adjust the temperature to the optimal setting based on your life’s schedule–even when you’re not there.

So, how do you program the darn thing? Read on!

Setting the schedule
Luckily for you, most programmable thermostats come with pre-programmed settings that work well for most homeowners. For example, maybe you wake up around 7 am, leave for work close to 8 am, get home around 5pm, and go to sleep around 10pm.

The programmable thermostat will change the temperature based on that schedule.

Of course you can customize it to change the temperature at different times for your special schedule as well (for you night owls and late sleepers out there).

Once you’ve got your schedule set, you need to set the setbacks and setups for each temperature change in the schedule

These are defined as:

  • Setbacks: The number of degrees your programmable thermostat drops during of the day to save energy. Used during the winter
  • Setups: Opposite of setbacks. It’s the number of degrees your programmable thermostat rises in the day to save energy. Used during the summer


For more about optimal scheduling for your programmable thermostat, check out the rules of thumb for proper use article by ENERGY STAR. It provides tips on how to set your programmable thermostat for maximum savings.

Understanding the different scheduling types
Now that you understand how to use a programmable thermostat, it’s time to understand your options. There are 3 different scheduling types of programmable thermostats including:

  • 5+2 day: Lets you set one schedule for the weekdays and a separate schedule for the weekend
  • 5-1-1 day: More flexible than 5+2. You can set 3 schedules: one for the weekdays, one for Saturday, and another for Sunday (great for those who go to church on Sunday.)
  • 7-day: Have an atypical work week? This is your model. This lets you set a schedule for every day of the week, making it the most flexible model you can have.


Looking for fabulous features

Aside from scheduling, there are also a variety of features you should be aware of:

Digital, backlit displays – Makes everything easier to see, even at night.
Touch pad screen programming – Many programmable thermostats are operated using a simple touchscreen.
Hold/Vacation features – A great option for when you’re heading out on a fun trip and need to set the temperature different from your typical schedule.
Alerts that tell you when your air filter is dirty – You’ll never have to worry about having a dirty air filter that’s blocking your system’s airflow.
Alerts that tell you when your heating/cooling systems are malfunctioning – No more second guessing if your HVAC system is working right.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of features, but they are some of the most common ones you will encounter.

Interested in saving energy and money in your Fountain Hills-area home with a programmable thermostat? Contact Fountain Hills Air for more information.