Smart vs. Programmable Thermostats

Proper use of programmable thermostats can save around $180 per year on heating and cooling costs according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But let’s be honest—how many homeowners properly use programmable thermostats? These small devices can be complicated to use on the simplest of days, and program changes for Daylight Saving Time or school-less summer schedules often feel downright overwhelming. Fortunately, smart thermostats can help simplify the confusing programming process. These smart gadgets make saving energy achievable, and they offer a host of perks that a simple programmable thermostat cannot. Keep reading to learn more about why your choice of thermostat matters for comfort and efficiency.  

The Difference Between Smart and Programmable Thermostats

The primary difference between a programmable thermostat and a smart thermostat arises from how much user input the device needs to function. The former requires more active user involvement. Programmable thermostats can be difficult to use on a regular basis—the small display and button-controlled interface daunt many people. Smart thermostats are far less needy than their traditional counterparts. You simply plug your temperature preferences in, and the device incorporates the information to intelligently adapt to your daily life. These gadgets also employ intuitive and user-friendly displays, making it easy to update settings, the time, or other information. And even if you aren’t at home to adjust the device manually, that’s fine. You can control it via a mobile app on your phone or tablet.  

How Smart Thermostats Can Change Your Energy Use for the Better

The benefits of smart thermostats don’t end with ease of use. They also help drive energy efficiency much better than outdated programmable thermostats.
  • They Adjust for Environmental Conditions
Programmable thermostats can help you cut back on energy use if they’re used correctly, but outside factors can severely limit that efficiency. Dust, pollutants, building materials, and the weather all influence how well an HVAC system can heat or cool a space. A programmable thermostat can’t account for those elements. A smart thermostat, however, can automatically adjust for many of those factors, including humidity and variable weather patterns—the norm in Texas. Devices like the ecobee smart thermostat can actually take in local weather data and automatically adjust your home’s temperature accordingly.
  • They Synthesize Real-Time and Historical Use Patterns
While your utility company may send weekly or monthly energy reports in the mail, you’re the one responsible for implementing the data in those reports. The information might give some insight into your current energy efficiency, but it won’t come with any clear-cut instructions on how to improve. You’re usually left guessing at what changes to make on your programmable thermostat to see real results. A smart thermostat can take care of the efficiency analysis for you. These devices monitor energy data in real time, making data-driven decisions that positively affect energy efficiency and utility bills. You can look at your use data through the device, as well, to better understand potential cost savings and recommended actions. You can then give the thermostat permission to follow through on suggested improvements. The thermostat does the hard work, and you remain in control.
  • They Stay Flexible for Varied Lifestyles
Most programmable thermostats only offer one or two program schedules; you might be able to set one program for weekdays and another for weekends. And while these simplistic schedules can help reduce excessive energy use in the long run, they fall short when it comes to adaptation and flexibility. Few people’s lives operate in the bounds of such rigid scheduling. Maybe you’re meeting with friends, attending a high school football game, or making an appearance at an impromptu after-work social hour. A programmable thermostat can’t wrangle those variables into submission—it will run on its timer whether someone is home or not.   The same isn’t true of smart thermostats. You can log in to the thermostat’s app from anywhere, at any time, to adjust temperature settings on the fly. You won’t have to worry about the AC running in an empty house when a football game goes into overtime. Programmable thermostats offer some benefits, but smart thermostats provide more. With customizable settings, real-time energy reporting and monitoring, and automation features, you’ll see higher energy efficiency. You may also see some bonus savings on your energy bill that you can use to fund anything you like—even weekly Dr. Pepper slushes for the whole football team.

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