If you are considering replacing your thermostat, you will have a choice between a digital or manual thermostat. There are a few differences to be aware of although the purpose of each is to regulate the temperature of the space.
A manual thermostat is the basic builder-grade thermostat. It will do a fine job of keeping the temperature at a pre-set level. In order the change the temperature, you must manually rotate the dial to whatever temperature you choose. If you won’t be changing the temperature much, you can get away with this style of thermostat.
A digital thermostat costs only a few dollars more and allows you to program temperature changes. This is an important distinction because it allows you to make changes to the temperature to save energy and money. For example, if during the summer you are away from home for the day, you can program the thermostat to raise the temperature by a few degrees, which keeps the air conditioner from running as often. You can program it to return to your normal level of comfort when you return home from work. You can program these so that every day has the same or different temperature settings. Additionally, digital programmable thermostats have a battery backup, whereas a manual thermostat does not need one.
Manufacturers claim that programmable thermostats can cut energy costs by as much as 35 percent. I don't know how this applies to where I live in Southern Nevada, but it will help lower costs if it's programmed correctly.
Different people have different theories about using an air conditioner. My brother, for instance, turns the thermostat completely off while he's at work. When he returns home, he's greeted by a blast of 95-degree air, and turns the thermostat back on. I'm sure the air conditioner runs nonstop until the wee hours of the morning to bring the temperature back down.
Other people set their thermostat and leave it alone. However, cooling your house for an entire day while you're away doesn't seem like a good idea either.
A programmable thermostat splits the difference. You program it to cool the air to your comfort when you're at home, and then when you leave for work, it will adjust to a slightly higher temperature setting.
Programmable thermostats range from around $25 to about $100 at a home center, and the thermostat installation takes only about 30 minutes. Saving money doesn't get any easier.
If you have a heat pump, a home center likely won't carry the proper thermostat for your system. You'll need to try a specialty wholesaler.
To install the thermostat, turn off the power to the air conditioning and heating system at the main panel. Remove the cover from the old thermostat.
There are a couple of screws that hold the thermostat body to the wall. Remove these screws and gently pull the thermostat away from the wall.
Depending upon your system, there will be several wires coming from the wall that are attached to various terminals on the thermostat. As you carefully unscrew the wires from each terminal, label the wire with masking tape to identify the terminal to which it was attached. Each terminal has a letter next to it, so write that letter on the masking tape that you attach to each wire. Don't worry, we're only talking about three to five wires.
I also recommend taping wires to the wall, because fishing them out of the wall will really make you sweat.
Thread the wires through the opening of the new thermostat and mount the thermostat to the wall with the screws provided.
Following the manufacturer's instructions, connect the wires to the terminals on the new thermostat. Install the batteries and snap the thermostat's housing onto the base. All that's left is to turn the power back on and program the unit.
I've spoken with several professionals, ranging from air-conditioning contractors to a Nevada Power representative, about the most efficient way to program a thermostat. The consensus is to set it two to four degrees higher when you're not at home than what you set it for while you're at home. For example, if you prefer the temperature to be 78 degrees when you're at home, program the thermostat to turn on the air conditioner when the temperature reaches 80 to 82 degrees. Personally, I raise my ideal temperature by four degrees when I am gone.
You can also raise the temperature inside the house slightly and use ceiling fans.