Is Saving Energy Really that Hard to do? Apparently it is for Some?

As many of us have been told for years, programmable thermostats are worth their weight in gold when it comes to energy savings. Well, maybe not gold these days, but you get the point. According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling costs are one of the largest expenses associated with commercial buildings. Savings from using a programmable thermostat can be impressive. Recent studies show that proper usage of a programmable thermostat can cut business’ heating costs by approximately 25%. In the summer, such devices may shave cooling costs 15 to 25%. In fact, according to the Department of Energy, on average, every degree raised on a thermostat in the summer or lowered in the winter, saves 2% on monthly energy spend.

So why is it that so many people are now stating there is no significant savings? That’s quite simple to answer; people don’t know how to program them or just don’t bother to! According to recent information released by the EPA, “Available studies indicate no savings from programmable thermostat installation. Some studies indicate slight increased consumption.” That is quite alarming given that programmable thermostats are supposed to decrease energy usage. As it turns out, they also stated that it is not necessarily the fault of the thermostat itself, but that people don’t use the programming functions properly on their thermostats. Most, according to the study, blame difficulty in programming as the reason for not using the thermostat properly. The EPA found that nearly 90% of programmable thermostats are used like a traditional manual thermostat in which occupants raise and lower the temperatures as they feel the need to change their comfort level. This can drive utility costs much higher than needed for building owners as the temperature setting doesn’t get changed back to a normal setting when people leave the building.

As BAS contractors and HVAC specialists, we certainly know that using a programmable thermostat saves energy. As shown above, it is very expensive to leave the temperature inside an office building constant day and night through the use of a manually operated thermostat. Programmable thermostats allow business owners to make adjustments for energy savings automatically.

So how do we change this trend? The best solution for now is to share the facts and educate your customer. Explain the overall benefits to them, but most importantly don’t just program their thermostat for them and walk away. Make them program it while you’re there and you can walk them through it. Not only does this give them peace of mind, it assures them that you understand the benefits and are looking out for their best interests.

Here are some basic tips you can share with your customers when showing them their newly installed thermostat:

  • When programming the thermostat, keep it set at a constant temperature for long periods of time, such as 12 to 14 hours when the space is not occupied.
  • When closed for a longer period of time such as holidays, set the hold button at a constant temperature. Or, with many of the new programmable thermostats you can set a holiday schedule.
  • Resist the urge to override the settings. Every time that is done it costs money. Installing thermostat guards can help prevent this as well.
  • If you have zoned heating and cooling, install a programmable thermostat in each zone. Especially if you have areas that are not occupied for long periods of time.
  • If your thermostat runs on batteries, change them at least once a year.

As we move into the next decade we face even more challenges when it comes to building automation and energy savings. Wireless technology is upon us and it is making a huge splash in the HVAC industry. Programmable thermostats are no stranger to this shift in technology as there are now many wireless options available. Also, the never ending trend of personalized control from smart phones and remote programming options has become part of most thermostat manufacturer’s standard portfolios. Kele has many of these in our offering and we can help with them as well.

All in all, the trend for most customers when it comes to programming thermostats and planning for energy savings is quite simple…make it simple and make it automated and they’ll follow those plans and guidelines. Well, the manufacturers’ are doing their part by making it automated. It’s up to us to continue to educate everyone to make it simple.