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You have options with programmable thermostats By Tom Tate, NRECA


L


et’s start with a li le bit of history. Did you know the programmable thermostat is over 100 years old?


Honeywell introduced the fi rst programmable thermostat in 1906, naming it the Jewell. It was a simple, clock- powered product that allowed you to establish  mes for the temperature to go up and down. While crude by today’s standards, it was truly a pioneering product.


The basic programmable thermostat off ers four programming periods: wake, leave, return and sleep. You set the  me of day and target temperature for each period according to the days of the week. The lowest priced models will off er you a 5-2 day op on. Here you set the four periods for the workweek (Monday through Friday) and the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). The next model up will be a 5-1-1 day op on. This allows diff erent schedules for Saturday and Sunday. And fi nally, you can buy a model that allows you to program each day of the week individually. It should be noted that programming each day of the week can quickly become tedious.


The Environmental Protec on Agency (EPA) has established recommenda ons for proper programming, and over the years, we have seen thermostats that come preprogrammed with their sugges ons. Remember the “tedious” comment? Purchasing a pre-programmed model solves that problem nicely. You can override this programming, but it makes for an easy set up. So what does the EPA suggest? A hea ng maximum of 68 degrees Fahrenheit and a cooling minimum of 78 degrees Fahrenheit for those  mes when you are home. They es mate you can save 1 percent on your energy bill for every degree of temperature change when away. On average, expect to save about 10 percent on your annual hea ng bill.


The size of the temperature change to use when away or asleep is another area of discussion. One camp recommends keeping the range narrow on the theory that the home loses too much of its condi oning and the energy saved is lost as the systems work to get back to the proper temperature. Another says systems run more effi ciently when set at a rather modest temperature (cooler for hea ng and warmer for cooling) and le alone. And the last is the EPA’s opinion that a 10 to 15 degree change over an eight-hour period provides the best savings, a change from previous recommenda ons. A caveat off ered by the EPA is that you should not use a programmable thermostat for heat pumps. While fi ne in cooling mode, they make the heat pump ineffi cient in hea ng mode. Specifi cally designed thermostats are available for heat pumps to overcome this issue.


4 - NE Connection


No discussion of programmable thermostats is complete without ge ng into their “smart” rela ves. This fairly new phenomenon really got trac on with the introduc on of the Nest, a smart thermostat that can be programmed. Their true appeal lies in the ability to “set and forget” them, allowing their so ware to build a program around the way you live. Their second major appeal is the ability to interact with them via the Web or your smart phone. While expensive, more choices are hi ng the market, so if this is an intriguing idea, keep an eye out as prices are star ng to drop.


Experimenta on will help you determine the best solu on for your home as each is diff erent due to insula on, weather sealing, system effi ciencies and how you operate it. That being said, a programmable thermostat will defi nitely save you money. Pick one of Jewell’s descendants today, and start saving. 


Se ng the thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer will save you money.


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