Spending the small amount of money that is needed for a programmable thermostat can be one of the most money-smart investments you can make for your home. Why? You can expect to enjoy additional energy savings that would be reflected in a lower utility bill.

It is proven that through the proper use of a programmable thermostat, a homeowner can save about $180 every year in energy costs. But, programming a programmable thermostat can be a little daunting if you’ve never done it before. First, you have to buy the right program thermostat and there are 4 types each with its own scheduling capabilities. You’ll need a program for both the cooler months and the warmer months. The options include:

  • 7-day programming.Best for individuals or families with erratic schedules, since this is the most flexible option. It lets you program a different heating/cooling schedule for each day of the week.
  • 5-1-1 programming.One heating/cooling schedule for the week, plus you can schedule a different heating/cooling plan for Saturday and Sunday.
  • 5-2 programming.Same as 5-1-1 programming, except Saturday and Sunday will have the same heating/cooling plan.
  • 1-week programming.You can only set one heating/cooling plan that will be repeated daily for the entire week.

Next, you’ll want to set the options. Some of those options include:

  • Wake time
  • Sleep time
  • Leave time
  • Return time

The Department of Energy suggests the following settings as an energy-saving rule of thumb:

  1. Keep the temperature set at its energy savings set-points for long periods of time (at least eight hours), for example, during the day, when no one is at home, and through the night, after bedtime.
  2. All thermostats let you temporarily make an area warmer or cooler, without erasing the pre-set programming. This override is cancelled automatically at the next program period. You use more energy (and end up paying more on energy bills) if you consistently “hold” or over-ride the pre-programmed settings.
  3. Units typically have two types of hold features: (a) hold/permanent/vacation; (b) temporary. Avoid using the hold/permanent/vacation feature to manage day to day temperature settings. “Hold” or “vacation” features are best when you’re planning to be away for an extended period. Set this feature at a constant, efficient temperature (i.e. several degrees warmer temperature in summer, several degrees cooler during winter), when going away for the weekend or on vacation. You’ll waste energy and money if you leave the “hold” feature at the comfort setting while you’re away.
  4. Cranking your unit up to 90 degrees or down to 40 degrees, for example, will not heat or cool your house any faster. Most thermostats begin to heat or cool at a set time, to reach set-point temperatures sometime thereafter. Units with adaptive (smart/intelligent) recovery features are an exception to this rule – Adaptive recovery units are constantly calculating the amount of time required to heat or cool the house, so that it reaches that temperature when the homeowner programmed it. By “examining” the performance of the past few days the thermostat can keep track of the seasons. In this way, your house is always at the comfort levels when occupied, but saving the most energy when unoccupied.
  5. Many homes use just one thermostat to control the whole house. If your home has multiple heating or cooling zones, you’ll need a programmed setback thermostat for each zone to maximize comfort, convenience and energy savings throughout the house.
  6. If your programmable thermostat runs on batteries, don’t forget to change the batteries each year. Some units will indicate when batteries must be changed.

Here are some season settings you may also consider using for the greatest energy savings:

Winter months:

  • For the hours you’re home and awake, program the temp to 68°F.
  • Lower at least 10 degrees for the hours you’re asleep or out of the house.

Summer months:

  • For the hours you’re home, program air conditioning to 78°F.
  • For the days you don’t need cooling, manually shut off the AC. Keep in mind, it will kick back on if the house gets too warm.
  • Program it to be warmer than usual when you’re out of the house.
  • Here are a few programming timing tips that can help you create the best set-it-and-forget-it heating and cooling schedule for your home:
  • Shut down heat or air conditioning 20 to 30 minutes before you leave home each day.
  • Turn on heat or air conditioning 20 to 30 minutes before you come home each day.
  • Reduce the heating or cooling 60 minutes before you go to sleep each night.
  • Increase heating or cooling about 30 minutes before you wake up each morning.
  • Spend time tweaking your program for a few days to make sure it feels right.

When used correctly, programmable thermostats are touted as saving the homeowner 10-30% on their heating and cooling bills. To order an installation of a programmable thermostat that fits your system and lifestyle, contact the professionals at Alaskan Air Conditioning and Heating at

*According to EnergyStar.gov