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Programmable thermostats lower cooling costs

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

Everyone wants to save money on their home cooling bill and University of Georgia experts say installing a digital thermostat is a quick, easy way to do it.

"You can cut your cooling costs significantly by raising 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, an Extension financial management specialist with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

It's so easy to forget

Lowering the setting on your thermostat sounds easy enough, 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 increase the temperature when you are gone and lower the temperature 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 nice cool house."

Select one that's easy to set

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."

And don't shop in haste. Make sure you shop around for the best deal in town.

"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," Rupured said.

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 summer-use product. The same features that will save you money on your cooling bill will also save you money on your heating bill next winter.

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

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