APR 13, 2017

With your HVAC system constituting a large majority of your annual utility bills, it is little wonder that people are constantly looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their heating and cooling systems—particularly in Phoenix in the summertime when the temperature routinely top 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But when making a decision about the device that will control one of your most energy consuming household systems, should you turn to a programmable thermostat or a smart thermostat? Most households, especially those built since 1970 or so, already have programmable thermostats, but with smart thermostats gaining in popularity, which is the right one for your household? In this blog post, we break down the things you should consider when picking a thermostat for your home.


In theory, programmable thermostats work by allowing you to set a schedule by which the thermostat will automatically heat and cool your home. For example, in the summertime, you can program it to keep the temperature in your house warmer while you are out of the house working on weekdays, begin cooling the house down just before you get home and then adjust the temperature to be a few degrees warmer again when everyone in the house is asleep. Furthermore, most programmable thermostats also allow you to set different schedules for the weekend, giving you some level of flexibility and ability to adjust the schedule to fit your lifestyle—assuming your schedule fits into the typical Monday-Friday work week.


Enter smart thermostats. These new generation thermostats seek to address the usability issues of their programmable thermostat predecessors by improving usability on multiple fronts.

Broadly speaking, smart thermostats fall into three categories: Those that allow you the ability to make decisions to program the system entirely on your own, those that learn from your behavior to automatically program themselves and make decisions toward comfort and energy efficiency for you, and those that give you the ability to take either or both routes.

By way of providing more easily understood interfaces, many smart thermostats have easier to read displays and commands, can be programmed via mobile applications and also provide users with the data they need to assess the effectiveness of their heating or cooling system by giving insight into usage patterns and how they stack up to the usage patterns of other people in the same geographical area.

Additionally, many smart thermostats are also able to take into account more factors and adjust themselves accordingly. Rather than focusing just on temperature, things like humidity can be accounted for to keep households more comfortable. Some smart thermostats can tell when people are home and when they have left and let users know how long it will take to cool down the house so that they can use their mobile device to turn the AC on just in time to get the house comfortable before they get home.

Additionally, smart thermostats may be good options for people who take care of elderly relatives who live alone. Instead of burdening them with trying to read the small print on their programmable thermostat or guessing at what their heating or cooling needs will be over the course of a week, you can use your mobile device to monitor the temperature inside their house, help them remotely if adjustments need to be made. This can provide the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they are being efficient while remaining comfortable in the home.

You can read about some of our favorite smart thermostats at this link.


The bottom line is this: A programmable thermostat can work to help you reduce energy consumption, provided it is used correctly and that you are disciplined about it. If you have a predictable schedule and would rather not fork out the extra money upfront for a smart thermostat, the best thing to do would be to consult with an expert to 1) make sure your HVAC system is in proper condition for peak efficiency and 2) to help you out by showing you exactly how the programmable thermostat works and to give you advice about how to effectively program it. The confidence you will have in your ability to operate the programmable thermostat may be the push you need to finally start using it to its potential.

If on the other hand, your schedule is all over the place, you do not have the patience or discipline to dedicate yourself to mastering the programmable thermostat or if you just really like cool new gadgets, a smart thermostat may be a wise investment for you and your household. Having been invented to specifically address the usability issues that plague programmable thermostats and inhibit people from using them correctly, the smart thermostat will allow you to have as much or as little direct control over your HVAC system, all while providing specific reports and data along the way for your information and peace of mind.

For more information about programmable thermostats and smart thermostats, contact us today. We would be more than happy to discuss your specific situation and to make a recommendation on the type and model of thermostat that is right for you. Having been in business since 1979, we have seen it all and are happy to share our decade’s experience with our neighbors in the Phoenix area.