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What is a Setback Thermostat?

By K. Testa
Updated May 16, 2024
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A setback thermostat, also known as a programmable thermostat or a digital thermostat, is one way to promote energy efficiency in the home. The typical role of any thermostat is to regulate the indoor temperature by sensing changes and adjusting to the desired temperature. Users can program a setback thermostat with the specific times they want their heat or air conditioning to turn on and off. The term setback here also can refer to setting back the temperature to a lower one in winter or a higher one in summer. These adjustments can help conserve energy and save money.

If reducing heating costs and air conditioning costs is a high priority, then a setback thermostat might be a way to achieve that goal. Non-programmable thermostats usually remain on one temperature setting until they are manually changed. Many people think that maintaining a constant temperature by letting the heat or air conditioning run throughout the day is more economical than periodically changing the temperature setting. Yet most energy experts maintain that programmable thermostats often can save both money and energy by adjusting the temperature based on the time of day and who is at home.

Setback thermostats are also a convenient way to save money and energy. People can use a setback thermostat to automatically regulate the temperature in their residence, especially if they are not going to be there for a long period. Rather than spend money to heat or cool an empty house, they can opt to set the temperature to adjust to a comfortable level just before they arrive home.

A setback thermostat usually contains various features and programming options. For example, one type might offer the ability to program temperature settings for each day of the week for various time windows. Some others offer the ability to set one program for weekdays and one for weekends. Most programmable thermostats feature manual overrides, low-battery indicator lights, and other conveniences as well. If there is more than one heating or cooling zone in the house, the homeowner might want to invest in an additional setback thermostat in order to maximize energy efficiency.

Typically, new homes come with a setback thermostat already installed. Many of them include suggested settings programmed into the unit. These settings usually are intended to maximize energy efficiency and minimize costs by only heating or cooling the home at certain times. Consumers can follow the suggested time and temperature settings, or they can make adjustments to suit their own comfort levels. If someone has a non-programmable thermostat in his home and wants to upgrade, he could either do it himself or contact a trusted Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) consultant to install a digital thermostat.

In order to save energy and money, many energy efficiency experts offer some tips for using a programmable thermostat. During the winter, they recommend lowering the temperature a few degrees at night and when away from home, and then setting the heat back to a comfortable level when at home. During hot months, they suggest that residents keep the temperature set relatively high at night or when away from the home, utilizing the air conditioning only when they are home and during the hottest parts of the day.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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