Can a Programmable Thermostat Save You Money?

A programmable thermostat on a wall

Did you know that your home’s heating and cooling system accounts for 45% of your entire energy bill? That’s thousands of dollars annually, especially if you have a large residence. Yet for every one degree of relief that you give your thermostat for an 8-hour period or longer, you use 1% less energy.

It’s tricky to keep your home at the perfect temperature. You’re busy enough commuting to work, running the kids to sports practices, and living your life. A programmable thermostat is designed to automatically reduce your home’s energy usage. That way you can save money without thinking twice.

How Programmable Thermostats Work

Let’s start with the function of a basic thermostat. This temperature-sensitive switch monitors and controls the air conditioning and heat in your home. Standard thermostats are manual, which means the temperature doesn’t change unless you make the adjustment yourself.

A programmable thermostat eliminates the need to manually increase or decrease the temperature in your home. During warm weather, set your programmable thermostat higher when you’re at work and when you’re sleeping. This decreases the energy output to cool your home during times when it’s unnecessary, while still bringing the temperature down a few degrees once you’re home and eager for refreshing AC.

During the winter, on the other hand, a programmable thermostat can be set to stay as low as you want during working and sleeping hours, then to ramp the heat during the hours that you’re home.

You have total control over your programmable thermostat, so you create the settings that lead to maximum savings and efficiency. Many programmable thermostats now even connect to your mobile device so that you can make changes from afar.

Where You Get the Most Savings

You might be tempted to keep your heat set at a toasty 74° F on chilly winter days, but setting it back to 64° while you’re working and sleeping. Using 10% less energy during those times can save you up to 10% on your bill.

You can score the most savings with a programmable thermostat by always, always, always adjusting the temperature when you’re not home or slumbering. Most of us are out of the house for at least eight hours a day and in bed for another six to eight hours. That’s 16 hours daily to  reduce the energy load on your HVAC can cut back on bills.

Though there is no “best” temperature range, most energy efficiency pros recommend a maximum winter heat level of 68° when you’re home and awake, with a setting as low as 55° F when you’re away or asleep. The reverse is suggested in the summer. You should aim to stay above 80° when you’re away, only dipping down to 76° F when home.

Luckily, programmable thermostats make it easy to master this type of transition. You can set your thermostat to increase or decrease in the hour before you wake up or arrive home to avoid any discomfort or frustration.

You can also save by looking for a programmable thermostat that earns you a rebate from your utility company. Many gas and electric suppliers are eager to encourage energy-efficient thermostats and appliances due to the growing demand for energy around the clock. A rebate will minimize your out-of-pocket costs and help your new thermostat pay for itself quickly.

The Bottom Line

As with any technology, the overall benefit you enjoy from a programmable thermostat depends on how you use it. Can it save you money? With the right habits, absolutely. There are some great models out there including Google’s Nest thermostat that makes the programming easy.

Learn how to save now and retire early: Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) Explained.