I have spoke with many homeowners who have expressed to me that they have a programmable thermostat, but don’t really know how to use it. What better time than in the first few days of chilly weather to talk about the subject? Programmable thermostats are great for most households and can help lower utility bills during the heating and cooling seasons. However, if your schedule is inconsistent you may find if more challenging to effectively use a programmable thermostat.

It is recommended that you set back (during the heating season) your thermostat for at least 8 hours. The best times to do this is at night when you are sleeping and during the day while you are at work and the kids are at school. Setting the thermostat to 68 degrees while you are at home and back 10 to 15 degrees while you are away can save the average homeowner about 15% on their bill.

Most programmable thermostats have two settings: “hold” and “permanent hold.” As a general rule, use the “hold” feature. This will allow you to heat the house to a desired temperature and then have the unit go back to the scheduled settings. Placing the thermostat on “permanent hold” will keep the house at a specified temperature. I can’t tell you how many times I have made this mistake while learning how to use my own programmable thermostat. I would raise the temp, inevitably forget I did so and go to work or to bed. Sometimes it would even take me a couple of days to realize that I was heating the house to 70 degrees continuously. I suffered the price when I saw my next gas bill.

Never turn any thermostat up to 80+ degrees in hopes that it will heat the home faster. This does not work and usually tends to over heat the home. You can read more about programmable thermostats at energystar.gov.