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7-Day Thermostat February 8, 2006

Posted by techandother in Free Money, Home Tech, My Projects.

I don’t like bills. I’d rather have less bills, or at least, smaller bills. The nice thing is that there are ways to use technology to lower your bills. The really nice part is that you don’t have to spend a lot to save a lot. I’m going to start posting about how to save some money with minimal or no investment by using technology. This is the first of these postings.

Saving money by managing your heater

It’s winter here in Chicago, and it’s cold. If it’s winter for you right now, you know that your bills are a lot higher due to the increased heating costs. Whether you heat your home with gas, electric or oil, you can benefit from some thermostat management.

Turn the thermostat down
Whether you like it or not, 68 degrees is a perfectly normal temperature for the human being to be in. It may feel cold at first, but you can survive just fine at 68. If you’re cold, that is what clothes are for. You shouldn’t be in the dead of winter and sitting in your beach clothes at 75-78 degrees.

Not only are you overheating so you can wear shorts in winter, but the bigger the difference in out- and inside temperature, the more expensive it will be to maintain the temperature. In addition, whether your house is at 50 or 80 degrees, the fridge will have to work to keep itself at about 35 degrees (F) and the freezer at about 30 (F).

Also keep in mind that the human body is about equal to a 175-watt heater. You’re supposed to be able to keep yourself warm at a reasonable temperature like 68. If not, see a doctor.

Get a 7-day thermostat
I picked up a deluxe model at Home Depot for $30. It was the cheapest one they had, but allows for the themostat to be adjusted at 4 different times during the day, 7 days a week, plus an extra ‘special day program’ with 4 times. Here’s how it works:

On a given weekday, I know that I’ll be in bed from midnight to 6:45AM. I’ll be up and about from 6:45AM to 7:15AM. I’ll be gone from 7:15AM to 5:00PM. I’ll be home from 5:00PM to 10:00PM, and I’ll be in bed from 10:00PM to midnight. On Saturday and Sunday, I don’t know when I’ll be home during the day, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be in bed from midnight-8:00AM and 10:00PM-midnight.

Looking at this information, on the weekdays my house sees me in bed for 8 hours, 45 minutes. I’m gone for 9 hours, 45 minutes. I’m home for 5 hours, 30 minutes. If I keep the thermostat at 68, the temp is higher than it needs to be for me in bed or at work. That’s 18 hours, 30 minutes per day that I am over-heating my house.

Set the 7-day thermostat
Based on the above information, I know I can have the following settings:


  • 6:30AM: set temp to 68 degrees (I wake up 15 minutes later)
  • 7:30AM: set temp to 55 degrees (I left 15 minutes earlier)
  • 4:40PM: set temp to 68 degrees (I get home in 20 minutes)
  • 10:30PM: set temp to 65 degrees (I fell asleep in a warm bed 30 minutes ago)


  • 7:30AM: set temp to 68 degrees (I wake up 15-30 minutes later)
  • 10:30PM: set temp to 65 degrees (I fell asleep in a warm bed 30 minutes ago)

*Special Day Programming*
(there is a ‘SDP’ button on the thermostat to put on a daily override for weekday holidays, etc.)

  • 7:30AM: set temp to 68 degrees (I wake up 15-30 minutes later)
  • 10:30PM: set temp to 65 degrees (I fell asleep in a warm bed 30 minutes ago)

As you can see, I can time the heat so that I never notice the lower temperatures, and in the meantime, the heater takes a break during a large part of the day (and the fridge hardly has to do anything all day). That also means I’m not paying to have my house heat itself when it’s empty, and have my fridge fight the house to stay cold.

A few very important points

  • The amount you save on your bills will relate to how well insulated your house is, how long you can let it be cold, etc. I can’t say you will save $xxx per month, but most people save anywhere between 10-30%, and sometimes as much as 50%+, depending on if you can use the sun to heat your house by opening curtains, efficient windows, etc.
  • Don’t forget about the pets! If you have a pet, make sure the temperature during the day is one that will be warm enough for them!
  • The thermostat will pay for itself very quickly. My gas bill is about $100, and the electric is about $60. (I’ll explain how I do that later) Let’s say I save 20% on gas, and 5% on electricity from the fridge. That’s $20 + $3 per month I save!
  • Install the thermostat yourself. It’s easy, and comes with easy instructions. If you have an electrician do it, it will take a while to pay off that cost in energy savings
  • The new themostat comes with a function that will tell you to change the filter after xxx hours of furnace operation. You can program the hours. A clean filter doesn’t make the furnace work as hard, and reduces risk of fire, in addition to cleaning the air. Bonus!
  • My thermostat had a ‘copy’ feature, where I programmed Monday and copied it to the rest of the weekdays. A big time saver.

Project Name: Thermostat Management
Initial Cost: $30 (after tax)
Recurring cost: $3.08 per year
($0.26/month for a 4-pack of AA batteries for the new thermostat)
Time involved: 30 minutes
(remove old themostat, install new thermostat, program thermostat)
Time to pay off initial investment: 6 weeks
(varies, depends on insulation in the house and how aggresive your programming is)

FREE MONEY: $22.74/month
(varies, I estimate I’ll save at least $23 per month, about 20% on gas, 5% on electricity)



1. The Daily Technocrat » What to install on a new PC - February 21, 2006

[…] Productivity suite. He had a free copy of Office XP through his graduate program, but otherwise I’d advise people to use OpenOffice. A few days ago I completely uninstalled Office XP (my org’s standard). Only annoyances so far are difficulty graphing in Calc. Definitely set it up to save as Microsoft file format by default though, otherwise no-one else will be able to open your stuff. (for now. When the next version of office natively supports the open office standard, wait 5 years fr everyone to upgrade, then switch the defaults back…) If they don’t already have Office, install OO and go spend the $373 they save on a new __________? Multifunction printer? iPod? 7 day thermostat and light bulbs? (ok, shameless, nerdy plug) $20 donations to each of the free softwares listed here? PrimoPDF. This free utility will allow you to make anything printable into a pdf file, no adobe products needed. (except viewer). […]

2. Julie Hohing Diana - October 20, 2013

The type of heat that you have will affect the timing of your programming settings. I have hot water radiant heat…slower to warm up and cool down than forced air systems. Therefore, I set it earlier to start and stop than the times you have quoted. Not much earlier to start (I’m okay with being a bit cold)…but definitely earlier to end (the house stays warm enough at least an hour before we go to bed). Also…importantly…there is always an override option to heat up or cool down the house according to your comfort in the moment. Thanks for the great information. Cheers!

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