Ways to Save

Program your thermostat

Why? A programmable thermostat makes it easy to save energy while keeping your home at a comfortable temperature. Programming your thermostat to fit the season and your family's schedule can help you save on your annual energy bill.
How it works: A programmable thermostat can automatically change the temperature of your home to an energy-saving level when you are away from home or sleeping. Once you program the device, the temperature will automatically return to your chosen comfort level at the scheduled times — you can set it and forget it. You choose the temperature settings and schedule that are right for you.

Step by step:
  1. Choose a thermostat that works for you. The most useful thermostat will be the one that is easiest to use.  Get recommendations from those you trust, and if you can, try some out before you buy. Also, make sure that the thermostat will work with your heating and cooling systems.
  2. Get instructions. If installing your programmable thermostat for the first time, carefully follow the instructions in the manual or hire a professional installer. If you already have a programmable thermostat and are programming it for the first time, but are not sure where the manual is, call the manufacturer or visit the website for help.
  3. Set your "home-occupied" temperature. Setting your thermostat is a personal decision. The temperature you choose will be determined by your household members' preferences and comfort. As a guideline, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat to 68°F for heating and 78°F for cooling while you are awake at home.
  4. Set your "away from home" temperature. Program the thermostat to an energy-saving level for when your household members are away. Setting your home's temperature at least 10°F higher in the summer and 10°F lower in the winter is a good rule of thumb.
  5. Set your "home" and "away" times. A programmable thermostat can help you save energy whether you're an early bird or a night owl.
  6. Discuss how the device works. Help other family members understand how the thermostat works to ensure your intended schedule is used.
  7. Save the manual. You may need to know how to reprogram the device as your schedule changes.

What to look for:
  • Flexibility. Many models allow separate programming for each day of the week. If your schedule is irregular, some units allow you to set awake, asleep, and away settings that you can activate simply by pushing a button.
  • Number needed. If you have zoned heating or cooling, you may need more than one programmable thermostat.
  • Smart features. Thermostats with adaptive recovery abilities constantly measure how much time it takes to heat or cool your home. In this way, they can keep track of seasons, maintain your programmed schedule more closely, and maximize savings. Others can learn your schedule without being programmed at all, and can make suggestions about how you can save energy.
  • Wi-Fi or other connectivity. Some newer models can connect to your wireless Internet at home, so you can program and adjust your thermostat from your computer. The computer interface may be more intuitive or accessible than the one on the thermostat.

Go the extra mile: To save even more energy, create an "asleep" setting, too. Program your thermostat at least 10°F lower in the winter or 4°F higher in the summer while you're sleeping. The temperature will return to your preferred comfort level by the time you wake up.

Good to know:
  • Your un-programmed thermostat. About two-thirds of Americans who own programmable thermostats have set them to energy-saving levels, but some households have not yet taken advantage of the opportunity. It is never too late to program your thermostat and stop wasting heat or air conditioning on an empty home.
  • Pets. Make sure to keep the temperature in your home at a comfortable level for your pets.
  • Override. You can always manually override your thermostat's program if you leave or return home at an unusual time. If you do, be sure not to place your thermostat on a permanent hold at a fixed temperature.
  • Heat pumps. If you have a heat pump, consult a certified HVAC specialist before selecting a programmable thermostat or choosing a schedule. Heat pumps regulate temperature differently from furnaces or boilers, so heat pump owners should use different strategies to save energy.

Good for kids: Sometimes kids leave for school after you leave for work or return home earlier than you do. A programmable thermostat can help ensure that your heating and cooling systems aren't running when your home is empty, and also that the temperature is comfortable when household members return home.

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Tip Details

Save up to 10% a year on heating and cooling bills

Up-front costs: Starting at about $25

Pays back in: 6 months to 2 years

The comparisons and dollar savings displayed here were prepared by a third party. Savings are estimated for typical premises in the PG&E service area and your actual savings may vary. PG&E cannot guarantee the amount of money or energy you may save by implementing the recommended actions. "PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation. These offerings are funded by California utility customers and administered by PG&E under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.