Debunking Common Thermostat Myths

... plus tips on how a programmable thermostat can help you cut your utility bills and conserve planetary resources.

Excerpted from the Solar Living Sourcebook.

Myth: Turning down your thermostat at night or when you’re gone means you’ll use more energy than you saved when you have to warm up the house again.

Fact: You always save by turning down your thermostat no matter how long you’re gone. (The only exception is older electric heat pumps with electric resistance heaters for backup.)

Myth: The house warms up faster if you turn the thermostat up to 90° initially.

Fact: Heating systems have only two “speeds”: ON or OFF. The house will warm up at the same rate no matter what temperature you set the thermostat, as long as it is high enough to be “ON.” Setting it higher only wastes energy by overshooting the desired temperature.

How Installing a Programmable Thermostat  Can Help

Half of home owners already turn down their heat at night, saving themselves 6 percent to 16 percent of heating energy. A programmable thermostat can do this for you automatically.

Programmable thermostats are readily available for $25 to $150 — and Home Energy magazine reports savings in excess of 20 percent with two eight-hour setbacks of 10 degrees F each. It’s well worth the investment.

In addition to lowering temperatures while you sleep, a programmable thermostate can raise temperatures again before you get out from under the covers. Programmable thermostats can be used to drop the house temperature during the day as well if the house is unoccupied. 

If you have a heat pump or central air conditioning, make sure the thermostat is designed for heat and A/C.

Installation is simple, but make sure to turn off the power to the heating system before you begin. If connecting wires makes you jittery, have an electrician or heating technician do it for you.


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