As winter temperatures are dipping to their lowest right now, you may find yourself adjusting your home’s thermostat more often than usual to get some extra warmth. If so, are you still turning an old-fashioned dial on a manual model attached to the wall, or are you reaching for your smartphone to make a quick adjustment in an app?
Like most other equipment and appliances in our homes these days, we now have an array of options for programmable and “smart” controls for our heating and air conditioning systems, which present many advantages to homeowners.
These newer, advanced thermostats are becoming more sophisticated all the time, and many can give you important information about your furnace, boiler, or heat pump in addition to making simple temperature adjustments. Some can even give you a weather forecast so you know what to expect in the near future regarding your comfort and potential energy usage. But, most importantly, they can also save you money.
So, which programmable or smart thermostat is right for you, your home, and your HVAC system? Let’s take a closer look and answer a few common questions.
Why would I want a programmable thermostat?
There are several reasons why programmable thermostats are beneficial, but the main reason you should consider installing them to replace old manual models is their proven ability to save you money. According to ENERGY STAR, the US government-backed energy efficiency ratings organization, programmable thermostats save users about $180 per year, when they are properly installed and set to the correct settings. – that ads up!
Programmable and smart thermostats are simply more accurate and sensitive than manual models due to advances in technology. They make your heating and air conditioning systems more efficient by cycling equipment on and off only when it’s absolutely necessary to meet your desired comfort levels.
If you live in an older home, as many of our Comfort Aire customers here in the Lancaster County, PA area do, it’s a guarantee that your HVAC equipment has been replaced and upgraded over the years. The average lifespan of most heating and air conditioning system components is between 15 and 25 years, after all. However, if you’re still operating newer equipment with an old thermostat, it is likely not controlling that equipment with appropriate accuracy, which often equals high energy bills or uneven performance.
Safer to live with
Did you know that old thermostats may actually contain mercury? Switches in old controllers employed the substance because it is temperature sensitive. (If you remember elementary school science class, you may recall that mercury used to be what made thermometers work.)
In more recent times, we now know that mercury is toxic to humans, and so manufacturers of household products have worked to find replacements for it. Modern programmable and smart thermostats do not contain mercury, and are safer to operate.
Additionally, many newer programmable thermostats, especially smart models that are internet-enabled, can give you at-a-glance diagnostic information about your heating and cooling equipment. Just like your car’s dashboard shows you if there’s a problem with something in your engine or it’s time for an oil change, newer thermostats can alert you to system issues and give you reminders to change out dirty filters, too. This cuts your risk of dealing with a system breakdown in the middle of a dangerous cold snap or other safety-threatening emergencies.
Many of the newest programmable thermostats are “connected” and can be easily controlled from your phone, tablet, or computer – even if you’re not at home. This makes them infinitely more convenient than manual thermostats, or even older programmable ones.
On vacation and worried about the deep freeze moving in? You can bump up the thermostat remotely to assure that pipes don’t freeze while you’re away. You can even secure system settings to make sure your college student house sitter doesn’t decide to crank the heat to 90 degrees in your absence!
Will a programmable thermostat really save me money?
The short answer to this question is yes — though, as with most upgrades in your home, your results may vary. Simply adding a new thermostat to control outdated, inefficient, or poorly maintained HVAC equipment may not provide much energy or money savings at all.
Properly setting your programmable thermostat is also vital to achieve maximum savings. There are several rules of thumb that experts recommend homeowners follow, including not consistently overriding system presets and not programming extreme temperature setbacks of more than 8° F in winter (and more than 7° F in summer).
And, it’s important to remember that your new thermostat must be installed correctly for best results. While a thermostat replacement project is often well within the capabilities of advanced DIY-ers, installation of new controls for your complex heating and air conditioning system is really best left to the professionals to ensure that the thermostat you’ve chosen will truly work well with your particular equipment.
I already have a programmable thermostat…should I upgrade?
If you recently had a new HVAC system installed, or your home is relatively new, it’s likely that you already have a programmable thermostat that came standard with your system. Depending on its feature set and its physical appearance on your wall, it may suit your needs just fine.
But, if you’ve hopped on the home automation bandwagon, or you just feel that your current thermostat is difficult to use or just plain ugly, you’ll be happy to know that upgrade options abound from retailers and through your professional HVAC contractor, as well.
It is unlikely that a new programmable thermostat will help you save much money vs. the one that you already have installed, so deciding to upgrade is really more of a choice based on other factors like style, connectivity, and ease of use. Before you make a purchase, we’d love to consult with you about your needs and expectations to help you determine whether upgrading is worth it.
Are you thinking about replacing your thermostat or any other parts of your Lancaster County, PA-area home or business’s HVAC system? Need equipment repairs or service? Get in touch with us here at Comfort Aire Heating & Cooling for fast and friendly help.