We are trying to keep our utility bills low by setting the thermostat lower at night, but we hate waking up to cold bedrooms. Are the new smart thermostats easy to install and program for comfort?
-- Meg T.
Dear Meg: Setting your thermostat lower at night during winter (higher during summer) will save a tremendous amount on your utility bills.
By installing a "smart" thermostat, you can go to bed and awake to a comfortable house and never know the thermostat changed itself overnight while you slept. Most new smart thermostats allow you to set different temperatures during four periods throughout the day and night. Just as it saves energy at night when the thermostat is set lower, it saves additional energy to have the thermostat set lower while you are gone at work or at school.
Smart thermostats have followed the lead of other electronic items and are now smarter and easier to program and use. Some of them are so smart, they sense both the indoor and outdoor temperatures and determine the precise time to start the furnace in the morning. Your bedrooms will be warm when your alarm goes off in the morning no matter how cold it is outdoors. Smart thermostats are available with several programming methods that even the digitally-challenged can handle. They have their own internal power storage so you can snap them off the wall base and program them in your easy chair. They include a generic preprogrammed time/temperature schedule so you can use them immediately and program your personal schedule later.
If this still sounds too challenging, select one of the designs which resemble a tiny touch screen display on the wall. There are no multiuse buttons with which to contend. The entire programming process is menu driven by touching its screen. It is backlit to make changes in the dark.
When shopping for a smart thermostat, you will see designation of 7, 5 2 or 5 1 1. These refer to the programming flexibility. A 7-day thermostat allows you to program a different temperature schedule every day of the week. With the prices more reasonable now, this type is generally your best choice. A 5 2-day thermostat provides for the same schedule every weekday and another for the weekend. A 5 1 1-day model is the same except you can set different Saturday and Sunday schedules. For some families, these are adequate. You can find these smart thermostats at most home center stores.
The thermostat wiring is safe low-voltage and color-coded for simple installation. If you have a relatively new furnace or central air conditioner with a variable-speed blower, it would be wise to have your heating contractor select and install one for you.
Write for (instantly download -- www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 425 -- buyer's guide of the 11 programmable thermostat manufacturers (25 models) listing temperature/time schedules, programing options, comfort/convenience features, and a savings chart. Please include $3 and a business-size SASE. James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244.