Programmable thermostats Electronic programmable thermostats can take the hassle out of saving energy by automatically raising or lowering temperature at night and when you’re away
Today’s include built-in energy-saving programs designed to cut heating and cooling costs by up to 20 percent so you don’t have to create those programs from scratch. But confusing controls on some can make it easy to burn more energy than you bargained for.
Major brands include CTC, Honeywell, Hunter, Lennox, Lux, Rite Temp, Robert Shaw, Trane, and White Rodgers, among others. You’ll find two basic types:
Weekday/weekend models. These thermostats supply one energy-saving schedule for weekdays and one or two for weekends. While they limit the choices for those with varying schedules, they also reduce complexity. Price: about $30 to $120.
Seven-day models. These let you program a different energy-saving schedule for every day of the week. Price: about $50 to $300 or more.
Clear onscreen prompts and intuitive controls help avoid energy-wasting mistakes, as do large readouts for temperatures and times, and a bold “hold” prompt or light that reminds you when you’re overriding the energy-saving mode for added comfort. A large backlighted display makes reading and programming easier in dark hallways and at night, while a clear system-status display shows whether the heat or A/C is activated. Models with auto changeover switch automatically between heating and cooling, handy where days are warm and nights get below freezing. More models are moving to touch screens that offer touch-sensitive menus and replace buttons or knobs. An adjustable cycle on most models lets you prevent frequent on-off cycling for heating and cooling systems, while advanced recovery initiates heating or cooling anytime during the energy-saving period so the comfort temperature is where you want it when you get home. A filter-change reminder tells you when the furnace or A/C filter needs changing based on elapsed time. Full memory save lets the thermometer save programs you create after a blackout. Most thermostats can handle most heat pumps, and a few can handle multistage versions.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Begin by making sure any programmable thermostat you’re considering works with your heating or cooling system. Also decide how many programs you need. Then keep these tips in mind when shopping:
Don’t expect plug-and-play. Even the friendliest thermostat still requires you to set the time, date, and the system it will control. Odds are, you’ll also want to tailor its built-in energy-saving programs to your schedule.
Try before buying. Along with large screens and friendly controls, look for easy-to-follow instructions and controls with arrows and other clear prompts, rather than unmarked buttons and mysterious symbols. Some models include simple programming steps on a flip-down cover.
Consider installation. Most models attach to your heating or cooling system with as few as two low-voltage wires, making do-it-yourself installation relatively easy. Just be sure to check which wire goes where before removing your old thermostat.
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