In my line of work, I get to see a lot of different houses and their energy bills. Many times, calls come in from people whose homes, or their rental properties, have terribly high utility bills and they need help figuring out exactly where all that energy is going, because they certainly aren’t storing it in their house. So if you fit into this category, and your energy bills are higher than you think they should be, let me give you insight on a few of my secrets.
If I came to your house to do an Energy Audit, after shaking your hand and conducting a short interview, I’m going to walk straight over to your thermostat. With all that has been written on how much a programmable thermostat can save you money, up to 30% on heating & cooling costs in most cases, I’m surprised at how few of them I find installed in houses. Installing a programmable thermostat is one of the easiest and cost effective ways of reducing your monthly energy bill. No matter whether you work from home, have kids that come and go, or have a schedule that varies, a programmable thermostat is the best way to go.
I have mine set, on the cooling cycle, to warm things up by about 10 degrees for the 8 hours that we are asleep. This one change alone can reduce your overall monthly bill by 10%! This is considerable since heating and cooling is generally 45% of your monthly bill. Every little change you make, to save energy, will show up on your monthly bill as savings.
Start by selecting a new thermostat from your local home improvement center. I like to shop at Lowes and I checked with them and found several different thermostats that would work in just about anyone’s house starting at around $50. You can have a professional help you install one, but if you are at all handy then go ahead and give it a try. Check out either www.ehow.com or www.about.com for step by step instructions. All programmable thermostats come pre- programmed with the recommended setting from www.EnergyStar.gov. These settings may be tailored to fit your lifestyle. Once you get the thermostat up and running, try to live with the settings as they are at least for a few weeks. This allows you to gain some insight about your habits and comfort levels. With this insight you can make adjustments for things like what time you get up in the morning, return from work, and your weekend habits. For example, many families are out for most of the day on Sunday and should adjust the thermostat to reflect that the house is empty.
If you are not a techno geek and programming your thermostat takes you back to the days when your VCR used to flash “12:00” because you couldn’t figure out how to fix it, there is hope for you. As with all technology, thermostats are becoming more user friendly. If you are willing to spend a little more, I found an amazing thermostat made by Honeywell called the Prestige Comfort System https://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-YTHX9321R5003-Prestige-Comfort-System/dp/B001O48A3U. The full color, touch screen display is the first thing you notice, very nice and easy to understand. It also comes with a remote that you can take with you so that the thermostat will not only know what temperature it is in the hallway where it is installed, but also in your bedroom which is where you are. And if programming is a problem for you, this one is a piece of cake. It interviews you with questions like “What time do you get up?” and “What time do you get home from work?” It doesn’t get any easier than that.
It also has lots of other neat features like the change filter alarm which is a great. I am a huge advocate of changing your filters often. I change mine once a month during the heavy use months. With a helpful alarm there is no more guessing how long that filter has been in there. Many of the new thermostats on the market today have a similar feature like this.
So there is a programmable thermostat for everyone, and now that you know how important they are, you have no excuse not to have one. There are a lot of little changes that you can make to save money on your energy bills each month, this is one of the easiest and potentially most productive ones. Remember, big results come from lots of little changes.