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Programmable Thermostats Lower Heating Costs

Whether you're buying firewood or paying for propane, you'd probably like to cut your heating costs. And University of Georgia experts say installing a digital thermostat is a quick, easy way to do it.

"You can cut your heating costs by as much as 20 percent by lowering your home's thermostat 5 degrees at night before you go to bed and 10 degrees during the day when no one is home," said Michael Rupured. He's an Extension Service financial management specialist with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Remembering is the Key

Lowering your thermostat sounds easy. But in today's busy world, this simple task isn't so simple.

"Remembering to do this every day is a challenge, which is why you should consider purchasing a programmable, or setback, thermostat," Rupured said. "The initial investment of less than $60 could save you hundreds of dollars in the long run."

A setback thermostat lets you program the temperature in your home to suit your needs.

"If you plan to be out of town for the weekend," he said, "you can program your thermostat to reduce the temperature when you are gone and turn it back up an hour or so before you arrive home. You can also program the thermostat to turn on before you come home from work so you can arrive to find a toasty house."

Search One That's Easy to Program

When shopping for a programmable thermostat, Rupured says to search for one that's easy to program.

"You should be able to easily set the clock and change the start time or temperature for a program period," he said. "You should also be able to override the current programmed temperature by manually changing the setting."

Make sure the digital display is easy to read and understand. "You need to be able to tell the current time and temperature at a glance," Rupured said. "With the press of a button, you should also be able to see the temperature you've programmed and the program period in effect."

"Shop around for the best deal," he said. "Home improvement stores and mass merchandisers carry these products, so there's no telling how much you can save on your purchase if you compare prices."

If you're replacing an old thermostat in the same location, you might want to consider hiring a heating/cooling contractor unless you're comfortable working with wiring.

A programmable thermostat isn't just a winter-use product. The same features that will save you money on your heating bill will also save you money on your cooling bill this summer.

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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