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You may have read in personal-finance articles and magazines that programmable thermostats are great investments that help save money. Well, how true is this really? What’s the catch?

How Normal Thermostats May Increase Bills

Programmable thermostats, in theory, help bring down home energy costs. Based on reports from the Energy Information Administration, 42 percent of home energy costs are usually spent on cooling and heating purposes.

These costs are usually wasted on unused spaces, especially in rooms that are unoccupied when homeowners are asleep or not at home. To put it simply, people tend to waste money to cool and heat their homes instead of changing the setting of their thermostats or turning them off.

Misconceptions cause homeowners to think that their energy bill would skyrocket if they were to turn the thermostat down during the night and reheat their homes the next day. This causes them to keep the heating on all night and the following day as well. However, this is not true.

According to Energy Savings through Thermostat Setbacks by Nelson and MacArthur, if homeowners were to reduce the thermostat by one degree Fahrenheit for a total of eight hours each night, they would save 1 percent energy.

Do Programmable Thermostats Really Save Money?

Programmable thermostats lower energy usage. All you have to do is switch the thermostat to a warm or cool setting when you are home. Any time you leave the house or go to sleep, you can program the thermostat to automatically switch off.

However, this is only true in theory. According to research from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), programmable thermostats can help save 10 to 30 percent by lowering heating and cooling bills. This is only when the programmable thermostat is being used properly by homeowners. Recent field studies are showing that these thermostats are not lowering savings as much as their said potential.

Sometimes, a programmable thermostat may end up using more energy. A study of 400 people was conducted by Florida Power and Light in 2008-2009. The research showed that those who owned programmable thermostats ended up using 12 percent more cooling energy than those with manual thermostats.

Even though the programmable thermostats used less energy when no one was around, they had been set lower for times that the owners were at home. This meant that more energy was being used. The truth is that programmable thermostats only save money in theory, not in the real world. They do not have much impact on energy consumption. Moreover, it solely depends on how people use these thermostats.

How to Correctly Save Money and Energy with a Programmable Thermostat?

  • Set the thermostat for 20 degrees when you are awake during the winters. When you sleep or are not at home, set it for lower.
  • Set the thermostat for 26 degrees when you are at home during the summers. When you leave the house, turn it off.
  • Heat and cool the rooms you spend time in instead of the whole house. This will help save loads of energy and hence lower bills.