Ask the expert

If You Are Smart, Your Thermostat Doesn’t Have to Be

Smart, connected thermostats are all the rage, and EPA is now awarding the ENERGY STAR label to those that deliver on the promise of energy savings.  That’s all well and good, but what if you don’t want a smart thermostat, or it’s not in your budget right now?

You can save money and energy with the thermostat you have.  It all comes down to properly setting your thermostat. 

Consider these two homes:

The Reynolds Family   

The Reynolds both have jobs and their kids are in school all day, so their home is empty most of the time, or filled with sleeping people.  In winter, they like it warm – 74 degrees – but they don’t have pets or delicate houseplants, so when they are gone, they don’t mind letting the temperature fall pretty far.  They also like cuddling up under warm blankets at night, so they are okay with 68 degrees as they sleep.  Letting their furnace rest in the winter when they aren’t home, or are asleep, can save them a good chunk of change - almost $100 in a single winter!  In summer, they need it cool to sleep, but they can let the house be warmer when they wake up, and definitely when they are gone.  Letting the A/C rest and the house warm up can save them an additional $90 each summer.

So, how should they program their thermostat? If they have an old fashioned thermostat where you just set the temperature, they have to remember to adjust it when they leave and when they fall asleep.  This will work if they remember to reset it, but it isn’t ideal.  An easier solution is to have a programmable thermostat that they can set and forget about (only making sure they change the time for daylight savings) while saving energy and money.

The Meyers Family:

Our second family, the Meyers, have different needs.  Mr. Meyers works odd hours, and his retired father lives with the family, though he is active in the community and gets out of the house on a regular basis.  Mrs. Meyers works in an office during the day, and the family includes teenaged children who are in school. Because of their schedules, either Mr. Meyers or his father are often at home when most of the family is out.  The Meyers like temperatures similar to the Reynolds, but those irregular schedules make a programmable thermostat less useful.  The good news—even with those different schedules, they can save over $100 a year by managing their heating and cooling use with a manual thermostat. This family would be ideal for a smart thermostat, which can detect when everyone is gone from the home without anyone having to remember to set it. Check out ENERGY STAR certified Smart Thermostats here.

For almost any home, there are some times of day or night when the heating and cooling can rest.  Whenever that is, you save.  Whatever helps you keep that savings habit is your friend. 

You can also save by using free heating and cooling.  You know what’s even better than saving by letting the temperature change?  Saving without even doing that.  We can adjust our homes to stay comfortable without even using our heating and cooling.  Here are some quick ideas:

  • Is it a sunny cool day?  Open the shades on those sunny windows and bathe your rooms in the heat from the sun.
  • Does it cool off at night where you live?  Open up your windows, using a fan in one window (or your bath fan or range hood) to blow warm stale air out.  That delicious cool evening air will come rushing in to replace it.
  • Got a cold draft coming from your windows? You can use insulating curtains or blinds, or window film, to keep the heat from leaking out of your windows. 

Learn more about programmable thermostats on the ENERGY STAR website and with this video. Check out the latest products to earn the ENERGY STAR, Smart Thermostats, here.