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Set it and Forget it: The Lowdown on Programmable Thermostats

Here’s a question for you. Would you like to save around $15.00 per month on your heating bill?

Of course you would! Who wouldn’t?

Well, according to the U.S. government’s Energy Star program, you stand to save that much — or about $180 per year simply by installing a programmable thermostat in your home.

Sure, you can save money with your existing (non-programmable) thermostat, but you’ll have to be vigilant and disciplined about it, and if your life is as busy as most folks’ lives, there are bound to be times when you forget to set it back and turn it back up.

But it’s not just a matter of having the thermostat do that for you. It’s also a matter of staying comfortable whenever you’re at home.

That’s because even if you remember to turn your thermostat’s temperature down before you leave for work each morning, you’re still going to come home to a chilly house at the end of the workday instead of a warm, comfortable and cozy one!

Types of Programmable Thermostats

There are 4 different basic types of programmable thermostats to choose from

  • 7-day program: Program a different heating/cooling schedule for each day of the week.
  • 5-1-1 program: One schedule for the week, but you can choose something different for Saturday and Sunday.
  • 5-2 program: One schedule for the week, and you can choose something different to apply to both Saturday and Sunday.
  • 1 week program: Has only one heating cooling plan that applies to every day of the week.

The 7-day programmable thermostat is a good choice for busy families whose schedules tend to be erratic.  The 7 day programmable thermostats is the most flexible. (No matter which type you choose, your summer schedule will differ from your winter schedule.)

When you choose your new programmable thermostat, be sure that you know exactly what equipment you’re using to heat and cool your home (brand, model, type, etc.) so that you can make sure that the thermostat you choose is compatible with your home’s heating/cooling equipment. This is important if you want to fully reap the energy-saving benefits it offers.

How a Programmable Thermostat Works

Program options on a programmable thermostat are based on bedtime, wake-up time, leave for work/school time, and return home time.

To save energy, you can program your thermostat the lower the temperature around bedtime and to start warming the house up a little before you’re due to wake for the day.

The same goes for leaving the house for the day. You’ll program the thermostat to lower the temperature during the day while nobody’s at home, and to warm the house up again to a preset temperature by the time you arrive back home for the evening.

Professional Installation Recommended

Unless you’re an HVAC pro installing a new programmable thermostat in your own home, it’s best to hire a professional to install your new programmable thermostat to ensure that its done correctly and that its functioning properly too.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends the “at home and awake” heating temperature be set at 68 degrees for maximum savings, and that you lower that by at least 10 degrees during the hours you’re asleep or away from home. (Note: Research shows that people sleep better in cool rooms!) In the summertime, the DOE recommends a cooling temperature of 78.

For best results, program your thermostat to lower the temperature setting 20-30 minutes before you leave for work, and to turn it back up 20-30 minutes before you’re due back home.

For nighttime set-back, program the thermostat to turn the heat down an hour before bedtime and half an hour before the waking time of the earliest riser in your household. The same rules apply to cooling in the summer.


If you’re not sure how to program your new programmable thermostat, ask your installer to give you a demonstration.

In St. Paul, call the HVAC pros at Metro Heating and Cooling for installation — or for any other heating and cooling issue.

We’ve been serving the homeowners in the area for nearly 10 years, and are dedicated as a team to serving our customer’s needs. Questions? Contact us at (651) 294-7798 anytime for answers or for a free estimate!

Schedule a HVAC repair anywhere in the Minneapolis or St. Paul area today by calling (651) 294-7798 or by requesting an estimate online.


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