We decided to research this topic at Penny Electric because there seems to be disagreement as to whether or how programmable thermostats result in a cost savings. We also wanted to see how the dynamic and exceptionally hot summers in Las Vegas / Southern NV could affect their efficiency and provide some tips on the most cost effective ways of managing home temperature settings.

First off, a programmable thermostat is a device that allows users to adjust temperature settings according to a serious of variables such as time of day, days of the week or even via smart phone or weather with some of the more advanced systems that have internet connectivity. Basic ‘programmable’ thermostats can comprise of simple low and high settings, but modern units and what this article is addressing are the more advanced digital systems that allow for scheduling or remote use.

According to Energy Star, heating and cooling homes consists of an average of 45% of your power bill. The average monthly power bill in the Las Vegas area is $135, but spikes to $237 during July ($302 in Henderson) due to the extreme summer heat. All considered, even minor adjustments on how you manage your heating and cooling system can make a big difference in cost.

How Programmable Thermostats Save You Money

The benefit of programmable thermostats is based on the obvious premise that by running your heating or air conditioning system less often will consume less power. This is achieved by programming a climate control system to only heat or cool your home when occupied or at various degrees at certain times of day. Many with programmable thermostats reduce or even turn off their heating / cooling system while they are away at work or school and set their systems to run prior to getting home.

How Programmable Thermostats Cost You Money

Critics of programmable thermostats state that allowing temperatures to fluctuate further from optimum settings make heating and cooling systems work longer and ‘harder’ to return those temperatures to normal. This is mainly because interior temperatures are significantly influenced not just by air but their surrounding structures. Because floors and walls take longer to absorb and retain temperatures, it can be less cost effective to run systems longer than it is to just maintain a constant temperature.

The Verdict

Ultimately the cost benefit of programmable thermostats depends on the efficiency of the building, the allowed temperature swings and how conservation-oriented the person running the thermostat is.

But the consensus by those who have studied the efficiencies is that by just turning your system off when you’re not home may be doing very little. For this reason and after failing to determine whether programmable thermostats resulted in any cost savings, the EPA even suspended their energy star certification. Studies performed by groups like the Energy Center of Wisconsin determined minimal averages between homes with programmable and non-programmable thermostats – where higher settings and longer duration use needed to bring temps back up would negate the value. Secondarily HVAC professionals often express concern about the excessive run times often needed to return temperatures due to long duration use and load on equipment, especially in hot climates and with older, less efficient homes such as those often found in the Las Vegas area.

Here is what we at Penny Electric recommend to see the best returns with a programmable climate system in the Las Vegas / Henderson area:

– Keep temperature ranges within 4-8* of comfortable settings when residences are not occupied. This is considered a good medium that prevents unnecessary heating / cooling while minimizing long duration cycles needed to re-stabilize temperatures. This could be especially helpful in Las Vegas where many older homes are poorly insulated and have less efficient floor plans because during the summer, temperatures drop very little at night on their own.

– Program your thermostat to work less at night and while sleeping. Use fans and open windows during summer months. Add additional bedding and blankets during the winter. In most cases you will not even notice the slightly warmer / cooler temps.

Other tips not related to thermostatic controls include:  Utilizing ceiling fans and closing vents and doors to rooms that are not used. Replace worn gaskets and seals around doors and windows that may be cracked or missing due to the dry desert climate. Install energy efficient blinds and windows especially in areas that are in direct exposure to sunlight. Efficiency of cooling and heating systems also play a role in how long and hard they have to work to cool a home and overall power consumption to do so. There are numerous local businesses throughout the Las Vegas / Henderson area who are able to inspect your system and recommend any repairs or improvements that are needed.

Ultimately, how much money that can be saved comes down to the user. Even minor changes to temperature settings can equate to significant overall savings, but possibly at the expense of comfort. NV Energy offers numerous resources to watch your bills including cost and usage history, and utilizing these tools along with the above recommendations are your best chances to measure results and save money.

For assistance with new thermostat installation, ceiling fans or any electrical related components give us a call or request a quote online by clicking here.