Set-back thermostats, also referred to as programmable thermostats, are one of the easiest ways you can save energy and money and help fight global warming, if they are actually programmed to perform the set-back function. Many individuals find them too difficult to program, and as a result they only function as an ordinary single-set-point thermostat. To avoid this problem, many new programmable thermostats make it easier to program by offering four pre-programmed settings to regulate a structure’s temperature in both summer and winter. If you install or maintain a structure with a programmable thermostat, verify that it is programmed, and train the occupants in proper programming.
The government reports that the average household spends more than $2,000 a year on energy bills, nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. The energy bill for cooling is of course much greater in the southern states. In any case, the average homeowner can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings. The pre-programmed settings that come with many programmable thermostats are intended to deliver savings without sacrificing comfort.
Always choose the right programmable thermostat for the occupants. Typically, there are three types of programmable thermostats designed to best fit the daily schedule of the occupants. To decide which model is best for your occupants, determine their schedule and how often they are away from home for regular periods of time-work, school, other activities-and then decide which of the three different models best fits their schedule: the 7-day, 5+2-day, or the 5-1-1-day. The 7-day models are best if the daily schedule tends to change every day of the week. They give you the most flexibility, and let you set different programs for different days, usually with four possible temperature periods per day. They are typically the most difficult to set, however, since the most options also mean the most features to set. Alternatively, 5+2-day models use the same schedule every weekday, and another for weekends. Finally, 5-1-1 models are best for those who tend to keep one schedule Monday through Friday and another schedule on Saturdays and Sundays. In general, most programmable thermostats are equipped with four pre-programmed settings and maintain those settings within two degrees.
The thermostat should be installed on an interior wall, away from heating or cooling vents and other sources of heat or drafts (doorways, windows, skylights, direct sunlight or bright lamps). Supply low-voltage power to programmable thermostats, rather than using the internal batteries. On many systems, when the batteries die, the thermostat stops operating, and if this should occur on a cold day, pipes can freeze and burst. If the thermostat batteries should fail at an unoccupied home during the humid summer months, the home could develop a serious mold problem before the problem is detected. This happens more times than you can imagine and causes thousands of dollars of damage. Always upgrade an old, manual thermostat to a programmable unit if you're replacing the heating or cooling system. If you're replacing a manual thermostat that has a mercury switch, be careful not to break the tube that holds this toxic mercury substance, and always follow proper recycling guidelines. Contact your local recycling/hazardous materials center or the manufacturer of your new thermostat for advice on proper disposal. A final thought on setting the thermostat: keep the temperature set at its energy savings set-points for long periods of time (at least 8 hours); for example, during the day, when no one is at home, and throughout the night, after bedtime.
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