We've established that just having a programmable thermostat is not enough to save you money on your heating bill. Then why is it that we keep on hearing people and organizations like the Department of Energy pushing programmable stats? We think you're better off considering whether or not you should buy a mechanical or electronic thermostat. Let's take a look at how you can take control of your thermostat and save money whether you have a programmable thermostat or not. (These will all apply to winter months when you're spending cash to heat your home. Cooling is a completely different animal.)
Lowering your temp will save money
Lowering the temperature when you're away and asleep and keeping a consistent temperature when you're home is a solid plan to put more money back in your wallet. In fact, the Department of Energy says you'll see up to a 1 percent decrease in your total heating bill for each degree you lower your thermostat if that setback is for at least 8 hours. Our view is, whether you do that by manually adjusting your thermostat or using a programmable one is up to you. "I wouldn't recommend one over the other, " Cadet Vice President of Engineering Craig Peterson said of programmable and non-programmable thermostats. I would tend to recommend an electronic over a mechanical but I wouldn't necessarily recommend a programmable. I think it's a personal choice." Sure a programmable thermostat can save power, but the person needs to make a conscious decision to program it, he said. It's for that reason that the Northwest Energy Alliance (NEA) and EnergyStar no longer offer incentives for people who buy programmable thermostats. In many cases people who bought the programmable thermostats through the NEA rebate program didn't report any power savings. That's either because they didn't program the thermostats or if they did, they were already turning their thermostats down when they left home and went to bed, Craig said.
Other benefits of lowering the temp in winter
There are other advantages to lowering the thermostat a few degrees in winter months. BrightNest, a website affiliated with Angie's List, rounded up a list of 5 reasons to lower your thermostat (besides energy savings) in the winter. That list includes: prolonging the life of house plants; losing weight; extending the life of your fridge; getting a better night's sleep and saving cash on energy bills. There's some science and reasoning behind each of these items, but if you'd like more particulars, please check out the article on BrightNest.
Use electric heat to only heat rooms you're using
If electric baseboard or wall heaters are your primary source of heat they allow you to take the setback principal and apply that on a room by room basis. You might think that this concept will also work with a central heating system if you close the air vent in unused rooms. In theory that is great, but in reality it can put extra strain on your central system and even cause damage. The good news is you can use electric heat to complement your central system and enjoy the benefits of both. You can lower the overall temperature in your entire home and install electric heaters in rooms you use the most to keep them comfortable. Not using the guest room? Turn the heaters off or to the low setting and close the door. You'll see the benefits on your next power bill. If you'd like to hear more, check out this story of a couple who are doing just that after their adult children moved out, leaving them with more house than they can use. At the end of the day, you are the one who is in control of your heating system. Do what you can to walk that fine line between maximum comfort and saving on your heating bills.