How much can I save with a programmable thermostat?

Programmable thermostats are an easy way to potentially save hundreds of dollars a year on heating.

Programmable thermostats are an easy way to potentially save hundreds of dollars a year on heating.

Many of us use programmable thermostats to reduce the indoor temperature when we’re sleeping or away at work. These devices are relatively inexpensive to install and can save energy by automatically reducing the amount of heat provided to the home when you’re away and then returning the house to a comfortable temperature when you return.

The amount of energy and money saved by a programmable thermostat depends on a lot of factors: insulation levels, efficiency of heating equipment, and the typical indoor temperature all can affect potential savings. CCHRC modeled a typical Fairbanks home to estimate the savings from installing and properly setting a programmable thermostat. The modeled home is 1,840 square feet, has insulation levels typical of a home built in the 80s and 90s and uses an 80% efficiency oil-fired boiler. The thermostat is typically set at 70 degrees.

Over the course of a year, 16 gallons of fuel oil were saved for every one degree that the temperature was set back in this modeled home. This assumes that the temperature was reduced for 12 hours a day when the occupants were away or asleep. So, for example, a homeowner who programmed their thermostat to turn the heat down from 70 to 60 degrees for 12 hours while they were sleeping or away is estimated to save approximately 160 gallons of fuel oil over the course of a year–around $650 at today’s prices.

How can such a small temperature change save so much?  The key is that it happens every day throughout the year.  As a comparison, over the course of a year, the average annual temperature in Fairbanks is only about 10 degrees cooler than the average annual temperature in Anchorage– a few degrees each day can make a big difference.

Not everyone will see such large savings.  People with more energy efficient homes use less fuel, and thus stand to save less money from using a thermostat.  It’s also important to properly program the thermostat–recent research has shown that while people can save significant amounts of energy with programmable thermostats, many people see no savings because they haven’t properly programmed the devices.

For the average home in Fairbanks, programmable thermostats are a simple, cost-effective, painless way to lower your energy bills.