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Programmable thermostats are an extremely effective way to save serious money on your heating and cooling costs. So replacing our house’s old manual model was a top priority soon after we moved in. And while it may look tricky at first, it’s actually a fairly straight forward project. Just make sure it’s actually programmed.

The Alliance has some background information on programmable thermostats, explaining the benefits and how automatically reducing your heating and cooling can save you energy and money.  

Step one is, of course, to acquire a shiny new programmable thermostat. You may still be able to select one with an ENERGY STAR label, though that label has been suspended as of December 31, 2009; those that did qualify for the label are minimally capable of having separate weekday and weekend programs, and four settings per day.

Regardless, those are the sort of capabilities you should look for. Whether you need one that can handle different programs for different days of the week (often labeled ‘7-day’) or one that just does weekdays and weekends (often labeled something like ‘5-2’ or ‘5-1-1’) is up to you. You can save some cash with a 5-2. Since my wife often works from home, I went for a seven-day model so that we could program her schedule into the thermostat.

Assuming you don’t have any particularly exotic heating and cooling system, most any available thermostat will work. For example, I’ve got forced air heat and a standard split AC system.

If you’ve got a geothermal heat exchanger or a chilled water cooling system, I can tell you that a) you’re probably too advanced for this blog, and b) you will need to look more closely at specifications before you buy to ensure compatibility.