programmable thermostat - is it really saving us money?

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Old 12-29-09, 05:04 AM
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programmable thermostat - is it really saving us money?

Hi, I'm trying to figure out how to bring our heating costs down in the winter. We now just bought a house that uses propane. It's $500 a fill and it lasts us about 2 months, so about $250 a month to heat. Our last house was $100 a month during the coldest months. This $250 isn't even a coldest month yet.

Everyone suggests to put in a programmable thermostat. I did. I hadn't programmed it until a few days ago. My wife is a stay at home mom and I have two kids that stay home all day. So, there's 4 different time zones on it. 3 of them during the day noon and evening are all set at 68. But at 11 PM to 5 AM, I have the thermostat go down to 60 and we all just bundle up. The heat runs a little at night to keep it up to 60. But then at 5, when the thermostat is set to go back to 68, it runs for over an hour to get back up to 68. So, for that whole hour or more of running at a constant full blast to get back up to 68, is it costing us more to freeze all night?

If so, what's the point of a programmable thermostat? Seems to be the same difference as driving. If driving slow and then stomping on the gas to get back up to top speed versus just setting at the full speed and leaving on cruise control, you get better gas mileage rather than stop go stop go. I don't know. I'm sure my logic is a little screwed up there.
 
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Old 12-29-09, 06:19 AM
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Opinions will vary, but when your furnace comes back on and runs for an hour, it is at it's peak efficiency, not like stomping on the accelerator on your car. So that part works to your benefit. Taking your home to 60 at night, means it is loosing less heat to the outside and that reduces your heating costs.

But expecting to make a noticeable dent in that $250 per month bill would be optimistic. Yes, the math says you save. Experience says it is hard to tell. If it is just a basic heating system, I would use it. If it were a heat pump, or modern electronically controlled system with outdoor sensors, you could be going the wrong way.

Now, if you want to reduce those heating bills in a meaningful way, there are DIY steps you and all home owners can take to do just that. As an energy auditor, I sometimes feel guilty showing people what to do, because much of what is needed is so simple.

Example, air leaks. They are often easy to find and easy to seal and combined can represent 25% of your heating costs. If you found a bedroom window fully open, it would be obvious that closing it would save on heat. Well the combined total of all air leaks can often equal an open window. Also, the list of where to air seal is extensive, so even if you have done some, there is plenty more to go. How do I know, $250 per month tells me.

Doing a basic audit, review of what you have and sharing it with the forum will do well at putting you on the right track for savings.

The really good part about saving energy/$ on your home is you get your investment all back with a bonus of continued savings and increased value.

Happy to help,
Bud
 
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Old 12-29-09, 06:48 AM
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I just stopped and discussed it with the company that sells us our propane. He said they have the same discussions from time to time if a programmable thermostat really saves money. The first question he had was if we had hot water heat or forced air. I'm 99% sure it's forced air. He was suprised it took an hour for our furnace to heat our house from 60 degrees to 68 degrees using a forced air furnace. But he said for an hour of continuous running of the furnace only uses about a gallon of propane. He says he's sure we're not spending more by using it, but not sure if we're saving anything significant.
 
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Old 12-29-09, 06:51 AM
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We did put plastic over all of our windows, so I'm hoping that helps. But we have this slider door that we keep on letting our dog in and out and I just see dollar bills flying out it everytime we let the dog in and out.
 
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Old 12-29-09, 10:15 AM
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Here is a calculator from Duke Energy. Don't know if this will help you find set back savings, but it showed I am saving some.

Thermostat Calculator - Ohio Residential-Duke Energy
 
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Old 12-29-09, 10:33 AM
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Don't punish the puppy when he/she has to go out, the good news is energy lost with air air loss is minimal. It takes very little to warm that cold air back up. The issue with air leakage in your home is the door stays open 24/7 and that adds up.

If you want to provide a few details, like basement or not, attic, attic insulation, wall thickness, size and style of home, we can provide more specific suggestions.

The programmable stat will most likely save you money, but you have to put it in perspective. It's a $50 investment and if it payed for itself twice over in a single heating season, that would be a marvelous investment. Try to get your banker to give you $100 in interest every year for the $50 in your passbook account. Not going to happen. But, divide that $100 in yearly savings by a 6 months heating season and you are trying to see a $16 drop in your heating bill, and I'm being optimistic. A $10 or $15 reduction in your heating bills with a $50 investment is a good upgrade. But don't expect a 20% drop ($50 per month) or our government will be mandating every home have one, and they invented them.

Bud
 
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Old 12-29-09, 11:23 AM
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Because the furnace runs for a longer time in the morning heating the house back up, it runs more efficiently, as Bud already stated, so the cost to heat it back up is about the same as the savings in letting it cool down. Your savings is created during the time the house sits at the lower temperature.
 
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