How To Set Programmable Thermostat

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The best programmable thermostats have a wide range of features that make modern life more comfortable, indoor temperature-wise, and result in more energy savings.

The concept of more comfort and convenience with less energy consumption may seem contradictory, but that’s exactly what these products can deliver to consumers, albeit with proper use. The first step starts with setting up the unit and then choosing the right settings for maximum energy efficiency.

Keep in mind, too, that the programmed settings should address your own family’s needs and wants, particularly in terms of your comfort level, schedules at home, and convenience desired. The particular climate in your area should also be considered, such as when it’s more a tropical climate (e.g. Florida) than a temperate one (e.g. New York).

Know the Instructions First: How To Set Programmable Thermostat

Most programmable thermostats have four options to choose from, which form the basis for scheduling its turn on-turn off cycles. These options are:

  • Sleep time
  • Wake time
  • Return time
  • Leave time

You should also read the users’ manual first for programming the thermostat, since each product will likely have different instructions for it. Most of these products, nonetheless, have roughly similar functions, from scheduling weekly cycles to controlling them remotely, usually via an Internet-connected app. You should keep the users’ manual handy for troubleshooting purposes, too, although many manufacturers also provide dedicated 24/7 support staff.

Determine Your Desired Schedule

When do you want the thermostat to turn on and turn off your home’s heating and/or cooling systems? What temperatures do you want for specific times? These are the main questions that you should answer first before programming your digital thermostat, which should be easy when you follow a predictable schedule.

You can make notes about your 7-day schedule. You can divide your schedule into weekdays when you’re likely away from home, for work purposes, and weekends, when you’re probably at home most of the time.

You can then set the thermostat according to your schedule, such as turning on the heating or cooling system an hour before your scheduled commute from the office. You will then arrive at a comfortable house with just the right indoor temperature.

Program Your Thermostat

Now you can start programming your digital thermostat. The following steps are common in most thermostats, although, again, follow the instructions in the users’ manual.

1.  Enter the current date and time into the thermostat. Press the button for it, which may be marked “Day/Time” or “Set.” Use the up-and-down arrows for setting these entries, which may also include choosing the time mode (i.e. 24-hour or 12-hour increments).

2.  Press the “Program” or “Set” button, depending on the thermostat’s model, to set its schedule. Set the “wake time” for your weekday mornings, which ideally should be 30 minutes before your usual wake time, so it’s already running when you’re up and about your home. Use the arrows to set the time as well.

3.  Press the “Program” or “Set” button again for setting the temperature. Use the arrows to choose your desired temperature for your “wake time.” Set a temperature range, if your thermostat’s model allows it, so that automatic adjustments can be made depending on the season (e.g. winter and summer temperatures will be different).

4.  Set the time and temperature in “leave” mode. Follow the screen prompts for setting these aspects, too, as well as press the “Set” or “Program” button and the up-and-down arrows for this purpose. We suggest setting a higher temperature during summer and a lower temperature in winter, so that the system is on reduced mode when nobody’s home. Set the thermostat to a temperature that your heating and/or cooling system won’t reach, in case you don’t want it running while you’re out of the house.

5.  Set the time and temperature for “return” mode. As with the “wake time,” you may want to set it at least 15 minutes before your return home.

6.  Set the time and temperature for “sleep” mode, usually 15 minutes before you hit the sack. These settings will hold, so to speak, until the “wake time” setting kicks in in the morning.

7.  Repeat the programming for the weekend days – unless, of course, you’re also out of the house on weekends for the same amount of time as the weekdays. Otherwise, the wake, sleep, leave and return times will be different.

8.  Initiate the thermostat’s function by pressing its “Run” button.

You can then enjoy the convenience of a programmable thermostat. You can also use the manual override option in case your schedule changes for whatever reason. You may also set the thermostat’s settings according to your unpredictable schedule.


Aside from the convenience, a programmable thermostat can also contribute to reduced energy consumption when it’s used properly. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the following settings can result in as much as 15% annual savings on your energy bill:

  • During the winter season: For hours when you’re awake and at home, the temperature should be at 68°F. When you’re out of the house or you’re sleeping, it can be lowered by 10°F to 15°F.
  • During the summer season: When you’re at home, set the air-conditioning unit at 78°F and turn it off when you’re out of the house. You can also manually shut down the air-conditioning unit when you aren’t home.

Experiment with your own settings and then see which ones work best for your own unique needs.

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