Regardless of the time of year, our utility bills always seem to be climbing. Utilities are one of the most significant household expenses, so many homeowners are continually looking to improve home energy efficiency. If you’re looking to lower your bills and reduce your carbon footprint, one area you may have overlooked is your thermostat. The thermostat acts as the brain of your HVAC system, so the right thermostat can have a dramatic impact on your home energy efficiency. Here we’ll explore this topic in more detail to help you to choose the right thermostat for your home.
The Types of Thermostat
As we touched on above, a thermostat acts as the central controller for your HVAC system. It is needed to regulate the ways your air conditioner and furnace distribute treated air inside your home. Generally, thermostats can be divided into three categories:
- Manual: Manual thermostats are the most straightforward and conventional type. When HVAC systems started to become more commonplace in homes, most were fitted with a manual thermostat. Unfortunately, while they are highly simple to use, manual thermostats are the least energy efficient. Since all you need to do is move the needle to dictate the temperature you wish the HVAC system to hold, unless you manually intervene, your system will continue to heat or cool your home to this temperature.
- Programmable: These are a more sophisticated type of thermostat that allows you to create custom settings according to your schedule for each day of the week. This can help you to reduce your energy usage since you can program the thermostat to switch on your HVAC system when you’re home, but it will turn off when the home is empty. This means that you don’t need to worry about wasting energy, heating your home when no one is home.
- Smart: The latest innovation in thermostat technology is smart thermostats. These are WiFi enabled devices that allow you to access your system and control it from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. This may seem excessively high tech, but it can allow you to save a great deal of energy since you don’t need to anticipate your routine in advance. If you’re going to be home late, you can use your WiFi access to ensure the HVAC system doesn’t switch on at the regular time. Additionally, many smart thermostats learn your behavior patterns, to make small changes in certain zones of your home to maximize energy savings.
Choosing the Right Thermostat
The first step to choose the right thermostat is to confirm the type of HVAC system that is installed in your home. You will need to check the voltage to confirm whether you have a 24v low voltage, high voltage (110v-240v), or direct line system. It is also possible that you may have a 14 millivolt oil or gas furnace. Each of these types of system has specific thermostat requirements and different energy efficiency concerns.
You also need to check if you have a stage one system that can be either on or off or a stage two system with multi speed settings. Each thermostat will have a label to let you know its compatibility with direct line, stage one, stage two, or zoned HVAC systems. It is important that you choose a thermostat that is capable of handling the voltage of your system, or you risk a breakdown or system errors.
Unfortunately, many people find these requirements confusing, so don’t feel silly calling in professional help. If you’re struggling to determine the right thermostat for the specific specifications of your system, an experienced HVAC technician can help.
Tips to Use Your Thermostat to Maximize Energy Efficiency
If it is not possible to upgrade your existing thermostat, you don’t need to be stuck with unreasonably high energy bills. There are a number of tips to help you to use your existing thermostat to maximize the energy efficiency of your HVAC system. These include:
- Turn it Up in Summer: In summer, turn your thermostat up a couple of degrees. Although this may not seem like much, you could save money on your energy bills. Setting the temperature a few degrees higher is not likely to impact your home comfort, but each degree above 72º will save you 1 to 3 percent on your energy bills.
- Turn it Down in Winter: The same principle applies in winter, so try to get used to having a slightly cooler temperature inside your home. Obviously, no one wants to sit around in coats, but a degree or two can make a significant impact on your energy bills. Just be sure to keep the thermostat at 72º to protect your home from bursting pipes during freezing weather.
- Use Fans: Although many people consider fans defunct when they have air conditioning, they can actually help make your home feel more comfortable. When cooled air is pushed int the room, a fan can help to circulate this air, so you won’t need to keep your thermostat set too low. Using a ceiling fan with an air conditioner could allow you to maintain the same home comfort, yet raise the thermostat by 4 degrees.
- Adjust According to Habits: Even if you have a basic, manual thermostat, don’t just leave it stuck at the same temperature. You should adjust your thermostat according to your habits. While this is easier with a programmable thermostat, get into the habit of adjusting the thermostat when you’re headed off to bed or turn the system off when you won’t be home. Although this requires a little thought, it can have a massive impact on your energy usage.
Regardless of the type of HVAC system you have and your current thermostat, if you’re struggling to improve your home energy efficiency, be sure to speak to an experienced HVAC technician. HVAC professionals can work with you to improve the efficiency of your system, maintain your home comfort, and reduce your carbon footprint, so you can enjoy a greener home and a reduction in your energy bills.