4 models to fit your lifestyle

By Paul Bianchina Inman News®

What if I told you it would be possible to slip an extra  $180 in your pocket this year — and every year after that — and have a more  comfortable home at the same time? That should be worth a trip to the home  center, right?

A savings of $180 a year is what the U.S. Department of  Energy estimates the average homeowner can achieve by installing and  maintaining the settings on a programmable thermostat. And the great thing is,  once the settings are programmed in, you can forget about them, so your house  stays more comfortable, day and night, all year long.

Programmable thermostats are simple to understand. They  control your home’s heating and/or cooling systems by adjusting them to  specific preset temperatures at specific preset times. No more fiddling with  temperatures or forgetting to turn the heat down when you go to bed or leave  for work. Just set it and forget it.

The four different  modes

Programmable thermostats have four different time and  temperature modes programmed in, and that’s what makes them so convenient and  easy to use:

Wake: This mode  is used to select the time that you normally get up in the morning, and what  temperature you want the house to be at that time.

Day: If you  leave for work at a specific time, this setting will lower the heat down to a  specific temperature and hold it there while you’re away. For air conditioning,  it will raise the temperature setting and hold it there.

Evening: This  setting is for when you return from work in the evening, and the thermostat  will bring the temperature in the house back up to a comfortable level (or, in  the case of air conditioning, down) before you get home.

Sleep: Set this  time for when you normally go to bed. The thermostat will set the temperature  down (or up for AC) to whatever level you set and hold it there until the Wake  cycle kicks in again the following morning.

In addition to these four basic modes, there are overrides  as well. You can tell the thermostat to temporarily override the program and  raise or lower the heat or the air conditioning until the next cycle starts,  for those times when you’re home and you want it a little warmer or cooler.  There’s also a “hold temperature” mode for use when you’re on  vacation, so you can set a higher- or lower-than-normal temperature while  you’re gone and the thermostat will hold that indefinitely, regardless of the  four different cycles.

Four different models  fit your lifestyle

There are four basic types of programmable thermostats  available, depending on the needs of your particular lifestyle:

7-day: The 7-day  model allows you to program the four modes individually for each day of the  week, and often with different settings within each of the modes. These models  allow you the most flexibility, and are the best choice if you work odd hours,  multiple shifts, have children at home at different hours, or otherwise keep a  schedule that’s not really consistent. As you might imagine, 7-day thermostats  are the most complicated to program initially, and are typically the most  expensive of the four types of thermostats.

5-1-1-day: A  5-1-1 thermostat is for people who keep a pretty consistent schedule during the  week, but want some flexibility on the weekends. The thermostat can be set up  for five days all the same, typically Monday through Friday, and then Saturday  and Sunday can each be set up with individual programs.

5-2-day: These  thermostats provide for one set of program settings for the five weekdays, and  a second set of program settings for the weekend.

1-week: These  thermostats are the least flexible, so consequently they’re the easiest to  program and typically the least expensive to purchase. They have all four  modes, but utilize the same time and temperature settings for all seven days of  the week. They’re a great choice if you’re retired, or for anyone who’s home  most of the time.

Cost and installation

Programmable thermostats are available in both low-voltage  and line-voltage models, and range in price from around $35 to more than $300.  In addition to the features described above, there are other bells and  whistles, including wireless operation, exterior temperature connections,  dirty-filter warnings, low-battery warnings, and more.

Many of these thermostats are designed for do-it-yourself  installation, with clear instructions and only basic tool requirements. Most  require that you simply remove wires from the existing thermostat and reconnect  them to the new thermostat. However, some of the more sophisticated thermostats  can have multiple wire connections and complicated settings, and require  professional installation. If you have any questions or concerns, discuss them  with the dealer where you purchase the thermostat or with a licensed HVAC  contractor prior to beginning the installation.

Remodeling and repair  questions? Email Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com. All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.