High tech heat and cool

Often I get stumped for things that are technology related. I read technology news daily, I work with information systems daily. Still there are common pieces of our lives that we use without thinking which are advanced and help us in some way. I realized that the new thermostat at our house is electronic with circuits and chips and fits this category.

We had a digital thermostat for years that an Affordable local company installed for us. This heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) controller provided us with a clear view of the current temperature and the temperature we desired. It’s strange to call a thermostat a control system, but it is an accurate description.

Our digital HVAC controller served us well. It was easy to use with up and down arrows, heat/cool and auto/on switches. Being the geek that I am, I kept thinking there has to be a better and more advanced way to control our system. This began my searching across the Internet and talking to friends about how to make our HVAC better.

My search led me to one conclusion – programmable thermostats save money – set the time and day of week with different schedules and have the heat or air conditioning maintain different temperatures. For example during the night you don’t need as much heat since you are sleeping under covers. Also, you do not need to keep your house as cool while you are at work during the summer.

One day I was perusing the clearance aisle of a department store and I saw a programmable thermostat by Honeywell for $30. I did not think it could be programmable because it was priced so low, but I picked it up and read the packaging. Sure enough, this controller is programmable with up to 4 different settings/times and is made by a reputable company.

I bought my new HVAC controller and headed home with plans of grand savings on our energy bills. Having never installed a thermostat before I read over the instructions carefully and realized that installation is quite easy. Pay attention to the colored wires and you should be able to accomplish this task in 40 minutes or so from opening the package to programming your new thermostat. Sometimes we are at home during the ‘leave’ scheduled time for holidays and other reasons so we turn the heat up a few degrees, but otherwise the preset temperatures keep us plenty warm and cool. You can even turn it off so that you use no energy on a nice spring day.

In our first full month of being upgraded, we have saved $30. That doesn’t sound like much, but it paid for the thermostat and it will now save us money for the rest of its life span. To give you an idea, $30 is a 15% savings off our average power bill.

Some of you may be thinking ‘there is no way my old thermostat wiring can work with a new fancy thing like this’ and you might be right. Standard wiring hasn’t changed much over the years. If you have doubts, have a professional install the new controller. If your savings are like mine, it should pay for itself in a couple of months since they run $100 average.

If you want to go very high tech, you could purchase a Nest (http://nest.com) learning thermostat ($200 at Lowes.com). I am trying to convince my wife to get one. It ‘learns’ what temperatures you like to keep, when you are at home, awake, etc. and then programs itself to be as efficient as possible. It can also be set from your phone, tablet, or laptop. There are two versions available – first and second generation. If you have special needs such as a heat pump, dehumidifier, etc. then the second generation is probably for you.

Do you have experiences with HVAC controllers? Let me know at askageek@register-news.com or on Twitter @DanVoyles.