Your Green Home: Installing an Energy-Smart Setback Thermostat

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MARKHAM – Mother Nature notwithstanding, it’s going to get warmer and warmer outside – and the time has come to start thinking about air conditioning costs.

Your thermostat is the key to keeping home climate control energy-conscious – while making sure the temperature is comfortable when you’re inside the house. “Setback” or programmable thermostats have made this easier than ever before, by allowing homeowners to set automatically-adjusted temperatures for different parts of the day.

What is a programmable/setback thermostat and how does it work?

There are two aspects to these thermostats that you’d be hard pressed to find in older models. The first is an internal digital clock that the thermostat uses to keep track of time. The second is a user interface that will allow you to program the thermostat and “set it forward” during the hot summer months. This means it can be set to let the house stay warmer (and save energy) when nobody’s home and then cool off again before you get home from work.

Ontario homeowners have the option of receiving a free programmable thermostat through the Ontario Power Authority’s Peaksaver Plus program. For those looking for a more high-tech thermostat solution, new programmable models such as the Nest can actually be set and adjusted remotely by using an app on your smartphone.

If you’re buying a new home in the GTA, it’s smart to ask your home builder about what kind of thermostats come standard with the home, or are available as upgrades. Many builders are committed to energy-efficient homes and offer high-tech programmable thermostats in their new models that utilize central air conditioning.

What temperatures should I program for different times?

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)’s guide to setback thermostats explains that you can achieve “significant savings” as well as better humidity control by setting your thermostat at 24 degrees Celsius, rather than 22.

When you’re home, the “average” home temperature for Canada according to CMHC is about 20 degrees Celsius – so that’s a good point to set your thermostat at when you are spending time around the house. When you go to sleep, it’s smart to set back the thermostat a couple of degrees Celsius once again – cool night air and a lack of sunlight will help keep your house cool without draining air conditioning energy.

Is it worth it to install a programmable thermostat?

Many manufacturers and retailers of programmable thermostats also offer professional installation services – making the installation process easy and quick. Feel free to do some research on the prices and features of different models, but remember that a programmable thermostat is an investment for two reasons:

  •  You could save a significant amount on your energy bills when the summer months get hot – especially if you are away from home for an extended portion of the day.
  • Home buyers are increasingly focused on energy savings and environmentally-friendly features, so a high-tech thermostat will be a great feature to show off if you’re planning to sell your home in the future.
  • Remember — the programmable thermostat also works on heating your home in the winter. When it gets cold, you can have your thermostat lower its set temperature while you’re away from the house in order to save on heating costs.

Living Realty’s ongoing Green Home Series takes a look at some of the practical, effective changes you can implement in order to make your home more efficient and eco-friendly. Keep an eye out for another environmentally-friendly upgrade next month!

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