In the Savannah area’s sultry summers, the cost to run the air conditioner can quickly get out of hand if you don’t pay close attention. Turning the A/C off or the thermostat up when you’re away saves energy, but then you’ll come back to an overheated house. Programmable thermostats solve both problems. They not only help you cut back on cooling costs, but they also make it easier to keep your home comfortable.
Programmable Thermostats: The Easy Way to Stay Comfortable and Save
A programmable thermostat is a digital temperature-control device designed to regulate temperatures automatically based on a set of schedules you select in advance. If you program the air conditioner thermostat for 82 degrees for 9 a.m. and 75 degrees for 5 p.m., your system will run to maintain the higher temperature from 9 to 5, then switch to the lower temperature.
This way you’ll save money by keeping the thermostat at energy-efficient temperatures all day, yet still come home to comfortably cool rooms. For every degree you turn up the thermostat for at least eight hours at a time, you stand to save around 2 percent on cooling costs.
With one of these thermostats, you can set your preferred temperature schedule for the whole week and enjoy exactly the temperatures you want without every having to fiddle with the thermostat. The thermostat will repeat the same schedule every week until you change it. That means you won’t waste energy by forgetting to turn the A/C off or raise the thermostat before you leave home.
What Makes Programmable Thermostats Different?
Programmable thermostats function in a way that’s completely different from the non-programmable mechanical thermostats common in older homes. Mechanical thermostats contain a two-sided strip of metal that bends in response to temperature changes. When the strip bends far enough, it opens or closes an electrical contact. This turns the air conditioner or furnace on or off.
This method of temperature control more or less gets the job done, but it isn’t the most accurate. What’s more, because mechanical thermostats have no memory to store temperature scheduling information, they can’t be programmed in advance.
Programmable models are digital and contain thermistor sensors and microprocessors for greater accuracy and control. A thermistor is a component that resists electric current. The degree of resistance changes as the temperature changes. The thermostat’s microprocessor detects the exact level of resistance, allowing it to measure the room temperature with a high degree of accuracy. Plus, the microprocessor has a memory that allows it to store information you program into it.
Programming Options for Every Family
With a programmable thermostat, you can program four separate temperature periods each day. That means you can choose different temperatures for the morning, daytime, evening and overnight. The number of daily temperature schedules you can set depends on the model of thermostat you have. Three different models are available to suit different lifestyles.
- 7-day model – This model lets you set a different temperature schedule for every day of the week, making it the most flexible of all programmable thermostats. If your schedule varies a lot from one day to the next, this is the model to get. For example, you might work late Mondays and Wednesdays, but get home early on Friday, then spend Saturday out running errands and Sunday home relaxing.
- 5+1+1 model – With this type of thermostat, you can select one schedule for five days in a row (a workweek schedule), and separate schedules for each of the two remaining days. It will suit you if your workweek days all are the same, but each of your weekend days are different.
- 5+2 model – Have a regular schedule all week? Then this model, the simplest type available, will work well for you. It lets you select one temperature schedule for your five-day workweek and another for your two weekend days.
Programmable thermostats come with many additional features that lend them greater functionality or make them easier to use. If you’re considering investing in one of these devices, get familiar with the advanced features available before you go shopping.
- Backlit display – This display lights itself so you can program it without turning on the lights. The bright display is also easier to read for those who don’t see well in low light.
- Touchscreen display – Just tap the screen to program or adjust the thermostat. You won’t have to worry about thermostat buttons getting grimy and sticking in place.
- Filter change indicator – A dirty air filter can cut system efficiency by 10 percent, as well as cause wear on HVAC components. To help you remember to change the air filter on time, some thermostats offer a filter change indicator light. Most indicate when the right amount of time has passed for you to put in a clean filter.
- Malfunction indicators – Not all furnace and >air conditioner malfunctions shut down the system or cause funny noises. Some allow the system to run seemingly as normal while gradually damaging components. A malfunction indicator on the thermostat helps prevent this. When you see the light on, you’ll know it’s time to call a heating and cooling service provider.
- Adaptive recovery – Also called smart recovery, this is one of the most useful advanced features available and it’s an important one to look for if you’re particular about your home’s temperature. Without this feature, if you want your home to be 72 degrees at 5 p.m., you’d need to set your air conditioner to 72 for around 4 p.m. to give your A/C time to work. Even then, you’re just guessing. Programmable thermostats with adaptive recovery “learn” how long it takes your home to reach the next programmed temperature so they can run the air conditioner or furnace accordingly. This way your home will reach the right temperature on time, but you won’t waste energy by scheduling that temperature earlier than necessary.
- Alternative programming methods – A thermostat with a voice programming option lets you operate the device simply by speaking to it with pre-determined commands. With a Wifi-enabled thermostat, you can program the thermostat from wherever you are using your computer or smartphone.
Get Optimal Savings From the Thermostat
Installing a thermostat in the wrong place or using it incorrectly will reduce the device’s ability to save you money. A professional installation helps ensure ideal placement, but beyond that, you’ll need to know the best way to operate one of these thermostats.
- Find the right location – Interior walls are ideal for programmable thermostats as long as the devices won’t be in the line of direct sunlight or drafts. They should be installed away from windows, doors and HVAC air registers. Avoid installing them behind curtains or furniture, which interfere with the temperature readings.
- Choose an energy-wise schedule – Your system should run at energy-saving temperatures for at least eight hours a day. You might set the air conditioner for 82 degrees or off while you’re out at work or in bed. This is the minimum necessary to achieve the kinds of savings Environment Protection Agency (EPA) experts suggest is possible using a programmable thermostat.
- Avoid overriding your settings – Use the “override” setting only when unusually hot or cold weather means your pre-programmed settings can’t keep you comfortable. Using it unnecessarily decreases energy savings.
- Replace the batteries annually – For a battery-operated thermostat to accurately read the room temperature and otherwise function correctly, it needs fresh batteries. Changing the batteries yearly or in response to the low-battery light prevents malfunctions that could cut into energy savings.
Programmable Thermostats Provide Precision Control
If your home has an area that’s hard to heat or cool, it may be a candidate for a zoned heating and cooling system. A zoned system is divided into areas that can be heated and cooled independently from each other. The main control panel is connected to a programmable thermostat in each zone. Dampers are installed in the ductwork to direct air where its needed most as indicated by the thermostat settings.
Zoning is especially useful if you have a multi-level house, a room with high ceilings or large windows or a finished attic or basement.
At Byrd Heating and Air Conditioning, we can help you choose and install a programmable thermostat or find other ways to control your cooling costs wherever you are in the Savannah, Garden City or Tremont Park area.
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