Project: Install a Programmable Thermostat

Set it, forget it, and save every day.

Heating or cooling a house when no one’s home is like burning money. And since heating and cooling account for 43% of household energy use, you’re talking real money. A programmable thermostat can put that money back in your pocket. It can adjust the temperature when you leave in the morning and before you get home later, and when you go to bed and before you get up. It’s a true no-brainer, because once you set it, it does all the remembering for you. And your utility has programs so you can get one for free or at a deep discount.

Programmable Thermostat Schedule Planner to help you find the best settings for your programmable thermostat.

BGE PeakRewardsSM offers an option for a free programmable thermostat.

Pepco Energy Wise Rewards™ offers an option for a free programmable thermostat.

Montgomery County residents can get a $250 Property Tax Credit when a programmable thermostat is installed in a primary residence.






How is a programmable thermostat better than just adjusting the temperature myself?

The programmable thermostat will slowly start to increase the temperature in the winter (or decrease the temperature in the summer) before it is scheduled to be at the ideal temperature. This allows the system to operate more efficiently than reacting to an immediate setting change.

The system’s still running, even with the temperature adjusted up or down. How does it save money?

The closer your indoor temperature is to the outdoor temperature — even a few degrees — the less hard your system has to work to keep your home warm or cool because it won’t lose heat or coolness as quickly. In winter, for example, by decreasing the temperature a little bit, the inside of the home is closer in temperature to the outside and therefore will not lose heat as quickly as if the temperature were higher. Since no one is home when the temperature is lower or higher, it makes sense to keep the system set lower and decrease the amount of heating or cooling needed.

Can I use a programmable thermostat with a heat pump, electric, or radiant (steam or radiant floor) heat?

Programmable thermostats can be used with heat pumps, but are not recommended for radiant or hot water systems. Follow this simple guidance when using heat pumps to get the most benefit.

A programmable thermostat can be used with a heat pump’s cooling system, but it’s not as good for heating. In the summer set the programmable thermostat to suit your schedule and temperature needs. However, because heat pumps do not like fluctuating heating temperatures, it is best to set the thermostat to a consistent and reasonable temperature. Be sure to select a programmable thermostat that is heat pump-compatible. These models have special algorithms to avoid using inefficient electric resistance heating.

It is not recommended to use programmable thermostats with radiant, hot water and steam systems because these systems are not engineered to change temperature quickly and will use more energy if paired with this type of thermostat.
See the Department of Energy website for more information about the types of controls that are best for other systems.

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On average you can save 1% on heating and cooling costs for each degree the thermostat is set back for 8 hours.

One Comment

  1. Richard Kapit

    I’ve ordered a programmable thermostat to replace the manual one in my condo apartment. Both the old and new are Honeywell. When inquiring about the new thermostat, I gave the model number and specs of the old one to the Honeywell customer relations department (on the web). They emailed back that it was important for the thermostat to be professionally installed. OK, that’s what they advise, naturally. But I have a question for anyone who can answer:

    There are only three wires to the old thermostat. What could possibly be so difficult about installing a new one? Disconnect the power; unscrew the wire nuts; remove the old; attach the new one. What else? But assuming it is more difficult, and I can’t do it, should just about any heating/plumbing company be able to do this job?

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