In Search of a Programmable Programmable Thermostat

November 23, 2014

I supposedly have a “programmable thermostat” – but I still run around shifting it up and down, because I can no more program it than I could my old VCR. Kind of a sticking point for energy efficiency.

Washington Post Wonkblog:

Residential thermostats account for a staggering nine percent of all U.S. energy use. No wonder that according to the Department of Energy, leaving your thermostat set too high can lead to a much higher power bill — and conversely, setting it back when you’re away or asleep can lead to major savings. “You can save 5 percent to 15 percent a year on your heating bill — a savings of as much as 1 percent for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long,” reports the agency.

Given figures like these, energy gurus have long offered some seemingly simple advice: Get yourself a programmablethermostat, which lets you enter multiple timed heat settings, and so ought to make lowering your thermostat at the right time a cinch. It sounds like an energy saving dream — right?

Wrong. Much research suggests that many people just don’t understand how to use their thermostats — programmable or otherwise. Indeed, it has been estimated that only about 30 percent of homes actually have thermostats that can be programmed, despite the fact that this technology has been around for more than three decades. “Residential energy use (and savings) still depends largely on the settings of manual thermostats by the owners,” notes a recent study.

And even among the programmable thermostat owners, there’s reason to think that many or even most people aren’t using them correctly. A 2003 study conducted by thermostat-maker Carrier found that just 47 percent of programmable thermostats were actually in the “program” mode — in which, you know, they can actually be programmed.

Another video on new, no, really new, thermostat tech.


7 Responses to “In Search of a Programmable Programmable Thermostat”

  1. $280 for the Lyric “thermostat”? Yikes.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Yikes, indeed. This is technology and marketing running amok. There is no hope for us if this is the path we must travel with apps and smartphones getting involved in something as simple as turning a knob on the wall.

      We are on the second thermostat in our 42-year-old house. The first one lasted ~25 years, and the price of the (very simple) new one was maybe $30. In spite of being a dumb old guy, I am perfectly capable of deciding what appropriate settings are and “programming” it by twisting the knob until the little arrow points to the desired temp—-down at night or when we leave, up in the morning or when we return. The only problem is “programming” my wife to agree with my settings. Other than that, it ain’t rocket science, folks.

  2. andrewfez Says:

    I can figure out a programmable thermostat, but i can’t figure how to program the settings on a smartphone in order for it to do more than text or call. Any type of troubleshooting is an automatic two hour research project, where i dredge through tech forums for that one helpful answer in the haystack of i-dunno’s and benevolent disinformation…

    • dumboldguy Says:

      I keep getting phone calls from a guy with a South Asian accent who says he is a Microsoft Engineer and wants to help me with problems that they just know I’m having with my computer.

      Maybe you’ll get lucky and he’ll call you next. I’m sure he’d be glad to help you program your phone once you give him your passwords, SS#, bank info, etc.

      • andrewfez Says:

        I only give out that type of info to Nigerian lawyers that want to transfer two million dollars into my bank account because their rich client unexpectedly died and they need to leave the country quickly.

  3. […] programmable buttons, Eight-manner programmable […]

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