$25 Thermostat vs. $250 Thermostat
Would you rather pay $25 or $250 for an electronic thermostat? What if the $250 thermostat is incredibly sleek, artificially intelligent, and Wi-Fi networked? Would that be enough to sway you? Fortunately, the $250 thermostat was completely sold out which made my choice easy. That and I'm way too cheap to blow 10 times more money for furnace bling.
It's funny that reading about a bling-tastic thermostat finally pushed me to replace our 'dumb' mechanical thermostat. The fact that the old thermostat wasn't very accurate and it was short-cycling the furnace added to my motivation. A quick trip to the hardware store, 30 minutes to install, 5 minutes to program and voila, we have a $25 programmable thermostat!
This new programmable thermostat has several features which should reduce our energy use. First, are multiple Heat/Cool Periods, which can be programmed for the desired temperature morning, day, evening and night for weekdays and weekends. As I work from home during the day we are only setting the heat back at night. The Override and Hold functions allow us to turn down the heat when we're away from the house. The thermostat has a Minimum Run Time Delay that prevents inefficient short-cycling which can reduce furnace life. The Temperature Swing function also reduces short-cycling with an adjustable temperature range above and below the preset temperature. Lastly, the Filter Life timer provides a reminder to replace the furnace filter.
Our next step will be to fine-tune the thermostat settings. While the $250 thermostat would learn our heating preferences we'll make the time and temperature adjustments on our own. I was the kid who programmed our family's VCR so the thermostat doesn't have me worried. I'm also setting aside the mechanical thermostat with its mercury switch for the next hazardous waste recycling day.
This winter we'll see how much energy the new programmable thermostat actually saves. My fingers are crossed that this $25 upgrade will pay for itself pretty quickly. I'm pretty sure that it has a better ROI than the $250 'iThermostat'.
Short-cycling - When a furnace runs for short periods (less than three minutes) before shutting off. This can happen when the thermostat is out of adjustment or when the heat exchanger overheats and the burner automatically shuts off to prevent damage.
EnergyStar.gov - Programmable Thermostats
EnergyStar.gov - Proper Use Guidelines for Programmable Thermostats