Cooling season is over for the year, which means it will be time to reset your building's programmable thermostat to provide heating for the colder months. If you've been using your programmable thermostat just to control your HVAC system, this is a good time to learn what else this versatile device can do to help you save energy and reduce your monthly heating costs this year.
The Benefits of a Programmable Thermostat
Older thermostats, often simple mercury switch models, are little more than an on/off switch for your heating or cooling system. When indoor temperatures changed sufficiently, the thermostat would sense the change and turn on the furnace or air conditioner in response. This often meant that the HVAC system would run more often than necessary, wasting energy and money.
Programmable thermostats, in contrast, provide a substantial level of control over the operation of your HVAC system. They still turn the heating and cooling equipment off and on in response to indoor temperature fluctuations, but they can be used to limit HVAC system operation when it's not needed. They can also be set to automatically turn on heating and cooling equipment according to your schedule.
Getting the Most Out of Your Programmable Thermostat
Some of the best practices in programmable thermostat operation include the following:
- Use pre-programmed set points: Programmable thermostats provide pre-programmed set points, which are temperature settings that control when the HVAC system turns off and on. Set points can be adjusted to fit your particular scheduling needs. For example, set points can be used to automatically turn on the heating or cooling system in the morning when it is time to open for business. They can then turn HVAC system operation down at night whenever the building is closed. In the morning, the set points will again start HVAC system operation in time to ensure the indoor environment is comfortable when employees and customers arrive.
- Use the "hold" feature: In a residential setting, the "hold" feature allows the programmable thermostat to maintain indoor temperatures at a consistent level while residents are away for a day or more. In a commercial setting, this could be used to do the same thing over the weekend or during any extended period when the business is closed.
- Avoid quick changes in temperature settings: Don't get impatient and make quick temperature setting changes at your programmable thermostat. "Slamming" the thermostat will not cause the thermostat to work faster or better and will not succeed in getting your indoor spaces heated or cooled more quickly. Instead, set the thermostat to the temperature you want and let the device work properly by increasing or decreasing temperatures gradually and economically.
- Limit use of "override" features: Programmable thermostat models allow you to override set points if you need to increase or decrease indoor temperatures immediately. However, using these overrides defeats the purpose of having a programmable thermostat and uses more energy. Use overrides only when actually needed.
- Regularly maintain thermostats: Programmable thermostats should be checked each season during HVAC system preventive maintenance. You or your HVAC pro should put fresh batteries in at least once a year and should make sure the thermostat is working properly.
- Install thermostats wisely: Make sure that programmable thermostats are mounted in areas where they can easily take accurate readings of indoor temperatures. A thermostat that receives a lot of direct sunlight, for example, will consistently register temperatures that are hotter than the actual temperature of the room. This can cause the device to turn on (or shut off) the HVAC system unnecessarily.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about plumbing, HVACR, fire protection and alarm systems in mechanical, commercial and residential settings. For more information on using a programmable thermostat to get the best possible energy efficiency and savings from your HVAC equipment, and to view projects we've worked on, visit our website.
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