Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tech Bleg

Yesterday, when I left the house to go to work, it was 15 degrees. With a wind chill. In November. In Virginia. I was talking with a friend about heat and the upcoming winter, and not looking forward to heating bills (while contemplating raising the thermostat a degree or two), and the suggestion was made to get a programmable thermostat. We can set the temperature low during the day, and have it come up a few degrees warmer at night.

Now that the Mrs. is working a solid 9-5 M-F gig, we can investigate something like this. For years, she worked second shift or overnights, so a programmable thermostat wouldn't work for us - there was only a few hours where the house was empty. Then we had kids, and she went down to part time, so along with the off-schedule, there were one or two days during the week where someone was home all day (especially when she worked weekends, because there would be a second week day she'd be home).

So, basically, I have no idea whatsoever what's a good brand of programmable thermostat. I'm fairly confident in my skills for installation (I figure if I can install a dimmer switch without electrocuting myself, a programmable thermostat should be about the same complexity), so it comes down to brand and features. Also, never having used one, I'm figuring there will be some trial-and-error when it comes to turning the heat/air conditioning up/down.

The US DOE claims a significant savings - 5-15% of your heating bill - with a programmable unit. I find it interesting that their default temp is several degrees higher than our regular setting, and is in fact even higher than the new temp I was thinking of raising the thermostat to... It does makes sense, though - with our current lifestyle, we should be able to run the furnace at a significantly lower temperature for half the day, and bring it up as the Mrs. and I get home for just the night.

So, anyone got a recommendation for a good programmable thermostat?

That is all.

23 comments:

The Big Guy said...

Look into NEST devices. Best I've seen so far; relatively inexpensive, DIY install.

Old NFO said...

I've had good luck with Honeywell programmables...

Anonymous said...

I'll echo the Honeywell programmables recommendation.

They aren't that difficult to install. Three wires. Clearly marked.

I did have one that I didn't remember had a battery and it went dead on me. Since I got it with the house, I didn't have the guide/instructions and ended up going on line to look the instructions up. (It wasn't a Honeywell unit and was a giant PITA to change.)

Joseph in IL

TheAxe said...

I got a honeywell last year, it's saved me about $50/mo.

Ruth said...

I have two Honeywells installed here, because our AC and furnace were installed seperately. They're easy to install (I follow directions well, but am NOT a handyman by any stretch), and easy to use. They're not expensive either, which is a plus (well, I'm sure Honeywell makes a high end model...I bought the cheapest one that allowed me to program each day individually).

The various versions of such, like the Nest, that can connect to your phone etc strike me as a security problem personally....

Wolfman said...

I'd prefer to be contrary, and recommend some competitor, but there's a reason Honeywell is nearly synonymous with 'thermostat'. On the bettery powered ones, the battery just runs the digital workings. Install is pretty simple if you take note where things are hooked up on your existing. I like to use my phone to take a picture of the attachment points, in case my notes or labels get messed up.

I agree with Ruth, internet enabled thermostats seem like something Borepatch would flag as an unneccessary security exposure.

PhilaBOR said...

I've had one of the nicer Honeywells for 5 or 10 years. I recommend one with a larger display that has the week laid out. It is pretty intuitive to program which is nice so you don't have to tape the instructions to the wall.

Dirk said...

Not sure what brand I have, but it has 2 "cycles" per day. So, I can, for example, set it to start warming the house at 5:30am, let it cool after 7am, then start warming the house again at 4pm, and let it cool again after 10pm.

Has the ability to program each day individually, and is actually quite easy to program, despite the seeming complexity. Only does 15 minute increments.

lordjim said...

Well if you want to go for some overkill, http://littlebits.cc/kits/smart-home-kit

(You can never have too much overkill!)

Wally said...

Honeywell.
HUGE savings from ditching the old style. Able to set a warm time in the morning, and in the evening.
Few nice features too like if you crank it up, it will hold that temp until the next programmed time occurs then it goes back on schedule.
Another one that I like is you can set the "swing" for how tight it maintains the temp. Comfort would keep that as a small value, but I'm cheap (and want to minimize heat/cool cycles on the furnace) so I have it set to hold ±2degrees. It's fine, saves wear and tear on the furnace and with this old beast- that's important to me too !

Armed Texan said...

I have two Nest thermostats, upstairs and downstairs. They work wonderfully together. The auto-away function is really what you are asking for. The big down side is remembering to turn it off before or during the drive home if it occurs outside of your normal schedule. (For example, you went to a party a few miles away on an evening when you are typically at home. You will want to bring up the thermostat controls on your phone to kick it out of away mode before you leave so that your home will heat up before you arrive.)

As for the security concerns, if you are doing online banking, you have much more to worry about than any information or control a hacker can take from your Nest account. And hopefully, now that they are owned by Google, Nest will enact multi-factor authentication.

ken said...

Not a technical recommendation, but check your electric/gas company's website. They frequently have rebates or discounts on programmable thermostats.

Knucklehead said...

I have a honeywell in my house and installed one in my daughter's home. They work just fine. You can spend a sizable chunk of change on them, I went with the $50 or so type.

Sigivald said...

For that level of programmable ("basic schedule of hours and days") I'm really surprised you don't already have one.

Any $50 Honeywell should do that.

Go for one of the Networked Thermostats if you care about automation rather than a set-and-forget program.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Go with the Honeywell. Heck, I used to build them, and Quality Control is HIGH.

Ted said...

The Nest thermostats are neat tech. BUT.

Expensive
Don't always play well with some furnaces and a/c. Systems

Take time for the system to learn your schedule.

OTOH. Talks to the nest fire and smoke alarms

The web app works well. ( but I will admit that I rerely actually use it to adjust the temp before coming home ).

,,,,,,,, and it looks a lot nicer than our old Honeywell

Nancy R. said...

Make sure you get one that is compatible with your heating system. Thermostats for heat pumps are different, and more expensive than ones for oil heat, for example.

Jennifer said...

Pretty sure ours is a Honeywell. Does great and I installed it myself.

Sevesteen said...

Honeywell are cheap, available and work. Differences seem to be how many schedules--most will allow 4 changes per day. I've got a 1 day, does the same schedule every day. There are also 5+2, 5+1+1 and 7 day units that allow different schedules on different days of the week. Easy to install, should take about 15 minutes--biggest problem I had was that years of paint left a round dimple on the wall that the new thermostat didn't cover.

Mopar said...

While I think the Nest's are cool as hell, I just can't justify $250 for one that really isnt going to save me a whole lot more than my programmable Honeywell that I purchased for like $30 on sale at Home Depot 7-8yrs ago. BTW, my parents still have the Honeywell programmable my father bought must be about 35yrs ago now to upgrade the old mechanical dial type.

Mopar said...

Oh, and I don't know about anyone else, but we actually like the temps lower for sleeping in the winter. So the thermostat kicks the temp down 6 degrees at bed-time (later on weekend nights than work days) and raises it back up just before we wake up (again, programmed different on weekends when we can sleep in). Then after everyone leaves for the day it goes way down until we get home.

phred said...

We are on our second programmable thermostat. the first one was branded 3M Filtrete. It was cheap, but only lasted about a year. We ran it off of AA batteries which died with far greater frequency than expected.

We've had a Honeywell for a few years now and have no complaints.

If you have a C wire you shouldn't have to use batteries. Our old thermostat used the standard three wires. There was a dead wire bundled along with. Some online research explained how it should be connected for use as a C wire, providing constant current.

DOuglas2 said...

Another vote for Honeywell. I pondered getting a second one so that I could keep one programmed for vacations and weekends away, and just swap it into place.
Mine is set for 60° overnight, and 68° for "awake and occupied" time. But the 1st 15 minutes of "awake" time in the morning are set to 73° -- once the air reaches that temperature, it very quickly falls back to 68 as the floors and furniture soak up the heat and get themselves up to 68°