Using Smart Thermostats for Winter Savings

The first priority most people have when it comes to the state of their home during the winter is that it is warm, above all. If the weather in Austin seemed hesitant to commit itself fully to the cold before it no longer appears that way anymore. Now deep in the midst of the holiday season, we also find ourselves deep in the midst of a formidable cold front. With the cold front comes the increasing urgency of the need for running heaters. Our heaters bring us comfort during the days when it is most difficult to be comfortable. But there’s always the other edge of the sword and when it comes to Austin heating that another edge is high energy bills.


Striking the right balance between comfort and frugality is never easy and becomes harder the colder the weather gets. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. In our world of modern technology, there are more options than ever for saving money while still getting the most out of your heater. The most often recommended technological upgrade for this precise purpose is the smart thermostat. These devices contain features well beyond what your average digital thermostat can do and today we’re going to look at some of those features and how they can save you money during the fall and winter.

What are Smart Thermostats

A smart thermostat is a phrase that covers a broad spectrum of products, all of which have one thing in common; they do more than just let you control the current setting of the heater or air conditioner. You might also see these devices referred to as programmable thermostats or wifi thermostats, both of which refer to more specific features of these intelligent devices. The programmable nature of smart thermostats is the key feature that makes them great money-savers. Smart thermostats are thermostats that alter the air conditioner’s status based on pre-determined settings you control. This allows the temperature to adjust itself at various times throughout the day in a way that maximizes your comfort while minimizing energy usage. Ultimately, this means you get to think about changing the thermostat less and let the technology in the programmable thermostat do the work for you.

The two biggest costs when it comes to heating in Austin are heater repairs and energy bills. And the number one factor that determines how much energy your heating is costing you is how often it’s being run. This is obvious. But that means that the number one way to reduce energy bills is to keep the temperature as close to the temperature outside as much as possible. The warmer the heater keeps your house during the winter, the more electricity you’re using.

So, the best way for someone to minimize their energy usage is to keep the temperature low whenever it makes sense to do so. This is usually when no one is home. Between school, work, and everything else that keeps us busy and out of the house, there are going to be times when no one is home to enjoy the comfortable warm air that the heater provides. It makes sense to have the heater set to a more reasonable low setting or off completely at these times. But remembering to manually reset the heater every time you leave the house is often quite difficult. That’s what smart thermostats are for, to do that work for you.

So, let’s say at 8 am, your kids leave for school. Then, at 9 am, you leave for work. While all of this is going on, you’re getting ready, getting your kids out the door, packing your lunch, and doing everything that a busy morning might involve. The last thing you’re going to do is remember to raise the temperature on the thermostat as you walk out the door. But with a smart thermostat, you can tell your air conditioner to switch off at 9 am every Monday through Friday, then switch back on at 5 pm when you’re kids arrive home from school. For those eight hours in between, you’re saving money. By allowing you to "set it and forget it," a programmable thermostat allows you to set temperatures based on the times you are normally home and your habits and then you almost never have to bother with it. Smart thermostats are all about saving money and giving you control over your comfort and energy usage.

The Case for a Smart Thermostat in Your Home

The evidence in favor of most people adopting the use of a smart thermostat is grand. Residential thermostats account for a staggering nine percent of all U.S. energy use. It’s no wonder that according to the Department of Energy, leaving your thermostat set too high can lead to a much higher power bill, and conversely, setting it back when you're away or asleep can lead to major savings. Some reports suggest that you can save 1 percent on your energy bill for each degree that you turn down your thermostat during the fall and winter.

Smart thermostats in some form or another have been around for three decades and yet studies show that only about 30 percent of homes today employ one. It doesn’t matter how much effort you’ve put forth into locating the optimum temperatures for your household, both for when you’re away when everyone is asleep, and when people are out and about in the house if no one remembers to alter the thermostat settings. We just have too much going on in our busy lives to mess with the little out-of-the-way device on the wall over and over throughout the day. It’s one of those tasks that is so obviously better suited to be delegated to technology that it is really a surprise that smart thermostats are in as few homes as they are.

There are a lot of studies out there about how much you can actually save in concrete numbers. Let’s take a look at a few of them. Nest Labs found that you can expect to save on average 10 to 15 percent on heating costs and around 15 percent on cooling costs, or about $131 to $145 a year. Forum users of the Nest products, real people reporting their anecdotal findings, came up with about $10 to $20 savings per month in their calculations. Ecobee, another smart thermostat manufacturer, came up with a whopping claim of 23 percent average savings. It seems that any way you look at it, you’ll probably save anywhere from $100 to $200 a year if you switch to a smart thermostat today. So considering that one might run you around $200 retail, you’re looking at a device that will pay itself off in a year or two, maybe sooner depending on a number of factors.

What Temperatures are the Right Ones?

This is all well and good. It seems pretty clear at this point that investing in a smart thermostat is a good way to save on heating costs during the winter. But that doesn’t get down to the real question, which is, once you have a smart thermostat, how do you know what settings to give it? What temperatures are recommended for when you’re away, asleep, and at home for saving the most money without sacrificing comfort?

Well as you might expect there’s no one answer for everyone. But some guidelines and rules of thumb can be established. When it comes to sleeping and when no one’s out of the house uses your smart thermostat to lower the temperature settings. Set it up so that around the time that everyone starts to go to bed the temperature starts to drop. With all the blankets that people use to get comfortable while asleep, you won’t need the heater on as much. And when everyone is gone for the day, there’s no good reason to keep your home heated to its comfort level. In both cases, you can set the thermostat lower, even down to 62 degrees. This makes it easier for your body to achieve thermoneutrality, and you’ll get a better night’s sleep. Thermoneutrality refers to the optimal temperature that the body should reach for ideal sleep. As the day winds down, your body temperature drops. When you go to sleep, your core body temperature lowers further and heat radiates from your extremities. Combine this with a blanket and pajamas and you likely don’t need the room to be any warmer than around 62 degrees.

One could give out average and common temperatures to keep the house at while people are home and awake but that would be inefficient as different people have different comfort levels. The best way to find the appropriate temperature to set your smart thermostat at during these times of the day is to experiment. Lower your thermostat during the day while people are home by one or two degrees every day or so until people notice that they’re not feeling as comfortable as usual and find themselves craving more warmth. Then raise the temperature back up a degree or two and you’ve found the minimum temperature that your household finds comfortable. This is the best balance between energy savings and comfort that you can achieve and you can use your smart thermostat to bring your house to this temperature whenever people are home from work and school but no asleep.

Smart Thermostats and Heating Repair in Austin

Smart thermostats are first and foremost a money-saving technology. For those looking to cut back on their energy bills during the winter and create a more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly home, there’s no reason to avoid one. You can use them to maximize your savings and minimize your heater usage while still staying as comfortable as you’d like when it counts. Instead of cranking up the heat during these colder days and leaving it there all day and all night, let the smart thermostat do the work for you and you’ll reap the benefits of a comfortable home and peace of mind knowing you’re not wasting any energy.

Don’t forget to get your heater checked out before the winter hits in full. If you haven’t yet got your annual heater service in Austin make sure you get a maintenance check to maximize your heaters chances of making it through the winter without any problems. AC Express is an Austin heater repair company that does work on heaters throughout the Austin area, from Buda and Kyle to Lago Vista and Lakeway. Don’t hesitate to call if you need any sort of heater repair in Austin. That’s why we’re here.