By Beth Murray
Now that the cold winter weather is finally here, heating bills are on the rise. One way for households to cut their energy bills by as much as 20% is to use a programmable thermostat. Yet according to a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, nearly 90% of Americans say they’ve rarely (or never) programmed their thermostat because they’re not sure how to do it.
A tech-savvy group of local volunteers is offering to help residents start saving money now by programming their thermostats – or installing programmable thermostats – free of charge.
“Figuring out how to tweak a system to make it run more efficiently is what I love to do,” explained volunteer David Director of Wallingford. “If I can help my neighbors save a few hundred dollars a year while I’m at it, that’s even better.” Director leads the tech volunteers from aFewSteps, the local environmental group.The other volunteer programmers/installers include Charlie Pell, David Page and Marty Spiegel of Swarthmore, and Jim Audley of Rose Valley.
“All we need is a portable drill and screwdriver,” said Pell. “It takes about 30 minutes.” Pell swears by Apple’s Nest learning thermostat, which he calls “A high-tech thermostat that’s actually easier to use than the old ones.” Besides the $250 Nest, aFewSteps suggests two other programmable thermostat models which are highly rated by Consumer Reports: Lux TX9600TS at approximately $68, and Honeywell RTH7500D at about $55. Both can be ordered online or at Swarthmore Hardware.
“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to save energy and money,” said aFewSteps president Phil Coleman, a research analyst/program manager for Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. “Programming a thermostat may seem like a hassle, but for every eight hours someone turns back their thermostat 10 degrees – from say from 68 degrees during the day to 58 degrees at night – they can cut their heating bill by 10%. If they can turn it back again while they’re at work, that’s another 10% saved.”
For more information about aFewSteps’ free thermostat help, visit afewsteps.org.