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Don’t Do It Yourself: Why Automatic is Sometimes Better

In theory, automation is supposed to be helpful. Then I read an article the other day about the most embarrassing cell phone auto-corrections. Most are a little too racy to share, but the examples illustrate the challenges that can come with automated functions (like a cell phone’s auto-correct).

Thankfully, there is an example of an automated function that’s both helpful and makes you look smart: programmable thermostats. While there is a manual element to this incredible little tool, the primary function of this device is to automatically set your thermostat back when you leave the house or go to sleep – times when you’re heating or cooling aren’t needed. Brilliant.

So why should programmable thermostats be an automatic part of your every day?

According to ENERGY STAR®, the average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills – nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. Homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings. There often are pre-programmed settings designed for optimal efficiency, or you can set your own (OK, that’s a little bit “manual” but the end function is still automatic.)

What else do you need to know about programmable thermostats?

1. For starters, install your programmable thermostat unit on an interior wall, away from heating or cooling vents and other sources of heat or drafts.

2. Keep the temperature set at its energy savings set-points for long periods of time (at least eight hours is optimal) when you’re out of the home or at night.

3. You can override your settings from time to time if you need it warmer or cooler without erasing the pre-set programming.

4. Units typically have two types of hold features: (a) hold/permanent/vacation; (b) temporary. “Hold” or “vacation” features are best when you’re planning to be away for an extended period.

5. Cranking your unit up to 90 degrees or down to 40 degrees will not heat or cool your house any faster. Most thermostats begin to heat or cool at a set time, to reach setpoint temperatures sometime thereafter.

6. 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.

7. If it runs on batteries, don’t forget to change them!

As they say in the programmable thermostat game: set it and forget it.

And getting back to the not-so-helfpul automatic things: be sure to proof-read your texts before hitting send. Save yourself embarrassment… and an investigation.

Article by Erin Mathe, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.