Programmable Thermostat vs Smart Thermostat

Modern digital programmable Thermostat

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Thermostats are vital to keeping your home or office cool or warm throughout the year. A thermostat allows you to control the temperature and monitors how hot or cool it is so you can maintain a comfortable temperature level.

With the improvements in digital technology in the last two decades, there are many new thermostat options, allowing you to select between a smart or programmable thermostat for your needs.

Both of these options allow you to regulate the temperature and save money. Unlike how manual thermostats work, programmable and smart thermostats adjust the temperature of your system automatically without you having to touch it.

But which one of these systems should you choose? And what are the differences between programmable thermostat vs smart thermostat? Let’s take a look at the answers to these questions to find out.

Programmable vs Smart Thermostat: The Differences and Benefits

If you are planning to upgrade from a manual thermostat or install a new system in your home or office, it is critical to know which options are available to you. We are going to go through the primary differences between a programmable and smart thermostat and the benefits and advantages of each. This will allow you to make the best decision for your preferences, needs, and budget.

Programmable Thermostat

The programmable thermostat first gained popularity when California stated that all constructions post-1978 needed a setback or clock thermostat. As thermostat technology evolved, so did programmable units, with additions like data storage and digital display.

This type of thermostat lets you pre-select a temperature that you would like in your home each day for every day of the week. This is particularly useful if there is a specific temperature you prefer during the day and at night.

A programmable thermostat, when set appropriately, can be equally as effective and energy-efficient as a smart thermostat. In fact, if you program it properly, you can save as much as 20% on your energy bill.

There are various options when choosing a programmable thermostat. Some allow you to program your desired temperature for each day of the week, whereas some let you customize the settings for weekdays and weekends.

If your family is at school and work during the week, you can set the thermostat to switch off while you are out and back on before you get home, but have it on all day over the weekends. The opposite is true if the system is for your office – it will switch off over weekends and nighttime, but back on for office hours.

Smart Thermostat

There are so many things that smartphones have changed in our lives, including cooling and heating. Smart thermostats allow you to control your home’s thermostat and temperature using an app on your device. You can do it while sitting on a bus, at the airport, or in your office.

This type of thermostat is very similar to a programmable thermostat, but it takes the technology to the next level as it is much more intuitive for cooling and heating your home. It learns from your behavior when altering the temperature to determine your preferences.

You can also typically program and adjust a smart thermostat using an app, giving you complete control of your home’s temperature from your computer, tablet, or smartphone. A smart thermostat learns your preferences and habits and can create different schedules to suit your lifestyle.

Smart thermostats also allow you to manage and accurately track the information about your energy usage so you can monitor how effective your system is. Much like a programmable thermostat, if you use it correctly, you can save up to 20% on your energy bill.

Lastly, most smart thermostats connect with home automation systems like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, so you can adjust your home’s temperature with verbal commands.

How to Choose a Thermostat

Even though good programmable thermostats have been around for the better part of 30 years, many people still choose to use a manual thermostat, particularly if they have an older house. Switching to a programmable thermostat is a good choice due to the inability to make schedules and the limited accuracy of the manual thermostat, especially as these can cost a lot of money.

Digital thermostats offer better control and precision when setting the system. But when comparing programmable and smart options, we have to say that the smart unit is far superior due to the mobile app and the scheduling features. Using a smart thermostat will also allow you to reap the maximum benefits of energy savings.

Smart Tips for Your Thermostat

A smart thermostat has a lot going for it, but its biggest downside is its cost, with some getting as high as $500 or more. Some people may also have issues and worries about compromised internet security and privacy.

Although a programmable thermostat may not give you the same connectivity as a smart unit, they have plenty of upsides. But you need to use them properly to maximize energy efficiency and enjoy lower energy costs.

We have a few tips to keep in mind when using your thermostat, no matter which you choose. These are vital to reaping the benefits of your unit.

Don’t Ignore the Owner’s Manual

Every manufacturer is different, so you need to make sure that you know how to properly use your thermostat, even if you have used one before. Some models have new or different features that you may not know how to use and will increase the efficiency of the system. Other thermostats may just have different programming settings than what you are used to. So read the manual to ensure you know how to use the unit to the best of its abilities.

Don’t Make the System Overwork

A big mistake that is commonly made by thermostat users is that they crank the heat all the way up because they believe it will heat the house faster. Or they set the thermostat to a much colder setting than needed, thinking it will cool the space more quickly. Both of these options waste energy and are very ineffective and inefficient.

Reducing Electricity Use

Time Your Usage Properly

As they say, timing is everything. Set your unit to shut down 30 minutes before you leave the house, and to turn back on 30 minutes before you come home. You should also set the thermostat to reduce cooling or heating an hour before you go to sleep and to increase 30 minutes before waking up.

Avoid Going to Extremes

Your home or office does not need to be an icebox in summer and a sauna in winter. Set the temperature to the warmest you can handle in summer and the coolest you can handle in winter. The less your system has to work, the more money you will save.

In Summary: Programmable vs Smart Thermostat

  • It is much simpler to adjust your heating or cooling schedule using a smart thermostat.
  • Be aware of how many schedule options your programmable thermostat has – it may only come with one, whereas a smart thermostat typically comes with many.
  • Programmable thermostats allow you to set the precise temperature you want at any moment in the day.
  • Smart thermostats will automatically change the settings of your system based on your day-to-day activities, the local forecast, and your local time changes.
  • Both programmable and smart thermostats are very user-friendly, but smart units are often more simple to set.
    Smart thermostats have an app that gives you complete control over the zones in your home.

Programmable Thermostat vs Smart Thermostat: Which is Best?

While both of these thermostat options can save you money and energy, the final decision will come down to your budget and preferences. Start by looking at the features and technology used in a smart unit and decide if they will be beneficial to you. If you would prefer something more controllable and simple that still has all the benefits, a programmable device would be great for you.

However, if you are looking for the best of the best option, irrelevant of budget or anything else, we would have to recommend a smart thermostat as the ideal option for most people.

If you have a manual thermostat or any older unit, upgrading to either one of these above options will be well worth it. You just need to ensure that your new thermostat system is compatible with the cooling and heating system you have installed already.

Slava is a man of mystery and no-one seems to know exactly where he is at any point in time. When he isn't enjoying writing about all things audio and technical he can be found researching his next project of interest. The man never rests.

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