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How to Save the Right Way Using A Programmable Thermostat

You may have read a lot of things on the Internet (even from other HVAC companies) that talk about programmable thermostats as these magical miracle devices that start saving you money the minute they’re installed. That could be a bit of exaggeration on our part, but the hype is definitely real…although not entirely off point.

Upgrading to a programmable thermostat does afford you a lot of cost-saving potential on your annual heating and cooling bills (up to 10% per year according to the US Department of Energy), but the key is going about it the right way. The professionals at Technical Hot & Cold are here to supply you with the knowledge to do so, as well as helping you with installation once you find one that’s right for you.

Programming Style

When shopping for a programmable thermostat, it’s important to understand that they’re not all created equal. Rather, they come in four flavors and each has its own distinctive scheduling style that tends to be better for different households.

  • 7-Day Programming: This kind lets you set a different heating and cooling schedule for each day of the week. As the most flexible option, this is great if you have a pretty busy schedule throughout the week (families with kids involved in a lot of after school/weekend activities, individuals who frequently travel for work, etc.).
  •  5-1-1 Programming: You can set one heating and cooling schedule Monday through Friday, and a different one for Saturday and Sunday independently. Best for those with a traditional workweek who want weekend scheduling ability that’s as flexible as their plans.
  • 5-2 Programming: Very similar to 5-1-1 programming, except Saturday and Sunday will both have the same heating and cooling schedule. Best for those with a traditional work week with a set weekend routine.
  • 1-Week Programming: You can only set one heating and cooling schedule that repeats each day throughout the whole week. Best for those who want an easy, no-hassle option.

System Compatibility

Programmable thermostats are not universal. Installing one that isn’t compatible with your particular HVAC system could cause damage to the equipment or not have any positive effect on your energy bills. Either way, you’ll end up doing the exact opposite of why you bought the thing in the first place: save money! Let’s take a look at the primary types of programmable thermostats:

  • Heat Only: Only works with a single heating source.
  • Cool Only: Only works with a single cooling source.
  • Single-Stage Heat/Cool: Controls one heating source and one cooling source. This is the most common kind.
  • Multi-Stage Heat/Cool: Controls multiple heating and cooling sources. Like, if you have a heat pump with a forced hot air backup system plus air conditioning.
  • Electric Heat/Line Voltage: For electric heaters or electric baseboard systems.
  • Heat Pump: A specialized thermostat designed to handle both air-source and ground-source heat pump applications.
  • Fan Coil: For fan coil units like unit ventilators.
  • Millivolt: For systems that use a pilot light rather than an electrical circuit like gas-fired heaters and gas fireplaces.

If you’re not sure what kind of heating and cooling equipment you have, it’s not a good idea to guess. A professional technician from THC can help you to accurately determine what kind of system you have and the best programmable thermostat to use with it.

Timing Is Everything

Most programmable thermostats come with pre-programmed settings that are supposed to be based on the “typical” American family, whatever that means. Instead, you’ll need to adjust these settings to fit your unique lifestyle. Programming options are usually based on these four factors:

  • Wake Time: When everyone in the household is usually up in the morning.
  • Sleep Time: When everyone in the household is usually asleep at night.
  • Leave Time: When the last person in the household usually leaves for the day.
  • Return Time: When the first person in the household usually gets home. 

Here are a few timing tips that we at Technical Hot & Cold recommend in order to make the most efficient use of your programmable thermostat in the easiest way possible:

  • Reduce the heat or air conditioning about 20-30 minutes before leaving home. There’s no point in heating or cooling an empty house, and to do so is only a waste of energy and thus money.
  • Increase the heat or air conditioning about 20-30 minutes before coming home. Your furnace will not have to work harder to warm up a cold house, nor will your A/C unit have to work harder to cool down a hothouse. In fact, the less of a difference there is between indoor and outdoor temperature, the more energy that is saved since your system won’t have to keep kicking on and off to maintain a constant temperature.
  • Reduce the heat or air conditioning about 1 hour before going to bed. You don’t tend to notice much of a difference in temperature when you’re asleep. 
  • Increase the heat or air conditioning about 30 minutes before waking up. Your home will be at a comfortable temperature by the time you’re awake to benefit from it.


If you’re thinking of upgrading to a programmable thermostat, the professionals at Technical Hot & Cold can help you choose the best one for you and your family. We can also help you with installation and making sure that it’s working properly in order for you to benefit the most from energy savings. Give us a call at (734) 326-3900 or request a quote by clicking the button below.

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