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A step-by-step guide to installing a new, programmable thermostat to help reduce heating and cooling costs.
BY: Larry Bilotti
Looking for another way to save on your heating and cooling costs? Consider replacing your thermostat with one of the Energy Star programmable models. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the change could result in savings of more than $180 a year by regulating your home’s temperatures not only in winter and summer but also during the day when you’re out and at night when you’re asleep. Best of all, you can install a programmable thermostat yourself in less than 15 minutes. Just follow these steps.
Programmable thermostat (be sure to look for the Energy Star label)
Batteries (check thermostat packaging for requirements)
1. Shut off the electric power.
Remember, a thermostat is an electrical device, so you will need to shut off the power supply before you begin. Since the circuit that powers your heating/cooling system also controls the thermostats, simply shut off your furnace at the power source and the circuit corresponding to your furnace on your electric panel.
2. Remove the old thermostat.
Unless your thermostat has been updated, it is more than likely round with a manual temperature dial. Simply lift off the outer metal cover to expose the wall-mounted plate underneath. Take a close look at how the wires are connected, and write down which color wire is attached to which terminal (this will be important when you install the programmable thermostat). If your wires are not colored, attach a piece of tape to each one to distinguish which wire goes where. Loosen the wire connections, and remove the mounting screws securing the plate to the wall. Carefully remove the mounting plate, making sure not to let the wires drop behind the wall. (If the wires drop, you may have to open up the wall to retrieve them or call an electrician for help.)
3. Install the programmable thermostat.
Place the new base plate to the wall, make certain it is level, and mark where the anchors and mounting screws will need to go (anchors and screws should be included with your new thermostat). Using a drill bit slightly smaller than the anchors, drill holes, and insert plastic anchors into the wall. Now weave the wires through the base plate and secure it to the wall. Reconnect the wires to the correct terminals, install the batteries, and affix the new thermostat cover.
4. Restore the power.
After turning on the power at the circuit box, try turning on the furnace at the power source, and test to see if the new thermostat is functioning properly. (It should automatically communicate with the furnace.) All you need to do now is follow the manufacturer’s directions on programming the device to start saving you money in home heating and cooling costs.
Larry Bilotti has an extensive background in DIY home improvements and home maintenance, not only from his years as executive editor of Country Living magazine, but from personal hands-on experience restoring his Catskills, N.Y., retreat -- Trout House. Larry's articles have previously appeared in Home Sweet Solutions.