Thursday, October 28, 2021
Oct. 28, 2021

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Energy Adviser: Program your thermostat for savings

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No one likes paying for things they don’t use. That’s why we don’t leave the lights on throughout the house when we’re sleeping and why we turn off the TV when no one’s watching it.

Yet despite their cautious approach to home energy use, there are plenty of people still practically throwing money out the windows. Maybe they’re unaware how much they could save, but feel overwhelmed by the task at hand or maybe some simply don’t believe the savings hype — everyone’s got their own reasons for not programming their thermostat.

Whichever camp you fall into, it’s time to reconsider your relationship with the dial on the wall. Your future self will thank you.

“Heating and cooling account for about half of the average home’s energy expenses,” said Trevor Frick, Clark Public Utilities energy counselor of the day. “But a person can really tighten the reins on their utility bill without sacrificing personal comfort by spending just a few minutes programming the thermostat.”

Programming your thermostat around your schedule and when people are active around the home can mean real energy savings.

The Department of Energy’s website energy.gov says you can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7 – 10 degrees for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. That’s fine for a gas or electric furnace, but a heat pump requires a gentler touch.

If your home has a heat pump, consider setting back the thermostat just 3 – 4 degrees. Heat pumps run more efficiently if they maintain the temperature of your home as opposed to warming up a cold home.

If you’ve never programmed yours, you’re in good company.

According to the 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey from the federal Energy Information Administration, only 17 percent of people actually program their thermostats to automatically adjust the temperature at a given time. In fact, fully 40 percent of those surveyed just set it to one temperature and leave it there all season long.

When it comes to saving energy, programmable thermostats are very good, but smart thermostats are great.

They’re easy to use. Plus, over time they learn your habits and adjust automatically based around your schedule and personal comfort. What’s more, they can detect if you’re no longer in the home and set the temperature back for you. Smart thermostats can factor in local weather patterns when making adjustments, which will operate your system as efficiently as possible.

According to the Bonneville Power Administration, a smart thermostat will lower your energy bill by about $50 a year. The manufacturers claim the figure is higher, suggesting savings between 10 and 12 percent on heating and up to 15 percent on cooling bills.

But not everyone wants to set it and forget it.

If you prefer to control your thermostat manually, changing a few behaviors will help you save energy. Set it a few degrees back from normal and remember to adjust it again before going to bed or just before leaving for long periods.

Don’t crank the heat or air conditioning up when you’re trying to get comfortable. It doesn’t change the temperature any quicker or cause the system to run any hotter or colder. Instead, it just runs longer in an effort to make the indoor temperature meet that setting, which it may not do. There’s also the danger that you may forget it’s set so high and consume extra energy.

Clark Public Utilities customers with an electric furnace or heat pump may qualify for a $50 rebate for the installation of a qualified smart thermostat. Visit clarkpublicutilities.com to find out more.

If your home is heated with natural gas, you may qualify for a rebate through the Energy Trust. Find out at energytrust.org.


Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.

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