U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy A Consumer's Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Thermostats and Control Systems
General Thermostat Operation You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°% F while you're awake and setting it lower while you're asleep or away from home. By turning your thermostat back 10 to15°% for 8 hours, you can save about 5% to15% a year on your heating bill??a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates. In the summer, you can follow the same strategy with central air conditioning, too, by keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away, and lowering the thermostat setting to 78°?F (26°?C) only when you are at home and need cooling. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal as you wake or return home. A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. This misconception has been dispelled by years of research and numerous studies. The fuel required to reheat a building to a comfortable temperature is roughly equal to the fuel saved as the building drops to the lower temperature. You save fuel between the time that the temperature stabilizes at the lower level and the next time heat is needed. So, the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save.
In terms of energy savings, the Trane Home Comfort Institute says you'll save about 3% of your heating costs for every degree you lower your thermostat during winter. During summer, you'll cut cooling costs 3 to 4% for every degree you raise your thermostat. The savings alone can often pay for a programmable thermostat in two years or less
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