One of the best ways to minimize summer cooling costs is with a programmable thermostat. Turning the temperature up when you’re not home saves energy, and the savings add up with consistent and regular use of energy-saving setbacks in your programmable thermostat.
Unless some other factor is involved, such as air pressure differentials, heat always travels to cold, and when you’re home is warmer, it will gain less heat from the outside. The warmer you keep your home, the closer the indoor temperature will be to the temperature outside. So when you’re gone for hours at a stretch, the rate of heat transfer will slow as it warms up. A programmable thermostat can help you manage temperature changes in your home, so that it stays warmer and uses less energy while you’re gone. Unless your cooling system is too small or running inefficiently, your A/C should be able to cool off your home to a comfortable temperature before you return home.
Curbing summer cooling costs with a programmable thermostat can help a good deal, especially if you’re routinely gone during the day. These thermostats take the work out of adjusting your thermostat, something that’s easy to overlook as you leave home.
Programmable thermostats are available with a variety of characteristics, from those that simply use a timer to adjust the temperature setting to those that monitor your home precisely and can be accessed anywhere you can get an Internet signal. Some can be wired into your home while others use batteries.
If you want the most flexibility, choose this model. It lets you have a different setting for each day of the week, or you can keep the settings the same for each day if your schedule doesn’t change daily. If you work at home or are retired, this kind of programmable thermostat can be set for energy-saving temperatures when you’re asleep, or programmed ahead of time when you know you’ll be gone for the day. After all, you can’t stay home all the time!
5-2 Day Models
If you’re away during the week, home on weekends and keep the same schedule during both periods, this type may be the most convenient for you. Any family member who comes home unexpectedly can override the settings temporarily.
If you take advantage of time of use pricing from Florida Power and Light (FPL), this type of thermostat might be a good option for you. Peak rates from FPL start at noon and run through 9 p.m. from April to the end of October, from Monday through Friday. Setting the thermostat to keep your home cooler after 9 p.m. until noon, and having it automatically switch to a warmer setting after noon will reduce your cooling costs. You can set the thermostat to be cooler over the weekend, when you won’t be paying peak rates.
A household that has the same weekday schedule but different weekend schedules can use this type of programmable thermostat. Even if you’re away routinely for several hours on a weekend, you’ll benefit from this model by not cooling your home as much during your absence.
Once you’ve selected the model that suits your occupancy habits, you can move on to deciding the capabilities of the programmable thermostat to control summer cooling costs.
The four types available include those that you program yourself and have no WiFi connectivity, those with WiFi connectivity, “learning” thermostats that program themselves, and intelligent recovery units designed to work solely with heat pumps.
Manual Programmable Thermostats
These units need to be programmed by an HVAC contractor or the homeowner. Over time, they’ve gotten easier to program and are usually an affordable solution that help you manage energy use.
If you use a smart-phone or computing tablet, or want to monitor your home’s temperature settings remotely, this type of thermostat will give you access wherever you can get an Internet signal. Some of these units allow you to change the current settings online and even lock the thermostat’s keypad to prevent being tampered with when you’re not home.
If you don’t want to do any of the programming yourself, consider a learning thermostat that gradually learns your temperature preferences and schedule, and stores the information so it can begin automatic programming.
Intelligent Recovery Thermostats
If you have a heat pump, as many Florida homeowners do, choose this type of programmable thermostat to manage summertime cooling and winter heating costs. It works just like other programmable thermostats in the summer, but will change how the heat pump functions in the winter. A heat pump has an auxiliary heating coil that operates much less efficiently for home heating than the regular heat pump operation.
If you turn your thermostat up more than two degrees for heating, the coil will turn on, increasing energy costs. An intelligent or adaptive recovery thermostat stops this coil from working, and calculates when and how much the heat pump has to run to keep your home’s temperature stable, regardless of the thermostat’s programmed settings.
- Filter check lights. The filter for the air handler has one of the most important tasks associated with cooling system maintenance. A light on the thermostat will turn on when it’s time to check the filter. This feature helps you avoid running your system with a dirty filter that will increase the cost of cooling your home.
- Motion or light sensors. Found on WiFi thermostats, this feature helps your learning thermostat adjust the temperature based on occupancy. Some even come with sensors you can place in each room so the thermostat can better learn your home and its thermal characteristics.
- System check light. This light tells you when something in your air conditioning system isn’t running as it should be. A malfunctioning system drives up your cooling costs and can cause a more expensive repair down the road.
Other features that are useful may include:
- Real-time clock.
- Touch pads.
- Battery-check light.
- Daylight savings time adjustment.
- Outside temperature display.
- Humidity level monitor.
- Voice-programming features.
- Daily energy consumption.
Where you put the programmable thermostat has an impact on controlling your summer cooling costs. It needs to be in a location where it won’t receive sunshine and is away from drafts from windows or exterior doors. It shouldn’t be too close to the kitchen or bathrooms, where temperatures can be higher than the rest of your home. Don’t block access to the thermostat with furniture. If you have a two-story home, place it on the first floor.
A zoning system divides your home into separate cooling zones based on thermal characteristics. If you have such a system, each zone needs its own thermostat that connects to the control panel that triggers the zone’s operation.
An HVAC contractor can help you choose and install the best thermostat for your home. Some of these models state that you need a professional to install them. It’s a good idea to read the instructions for the thermostat, along with the warranty conditions, before undertaking the job yourself. In order to operate properly, the thermostat needs to be perfectly level.
- Programmable thermostats let you override the current settings, but doing so frequently can raise your electric bill. The thermostat may not return to its original programming until the next 24-hour period.
- When you’re going away for more than 48 hours, set the temperature and use the hold or vacation feature to save energy.
The pros at Aqua Plumbing & Air can help you manage summer cooling costs with a programmable thermostat. Contact us today to learn more. We’ve provided superior HVAC services for Sarasota and Bradenton since 1974.
Written by John Miller
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