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Thermostats Buying Guides

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Getting started

Programmable thermostats can help save energy by automatically raising or lowering temperatures at night and when you're away. But confusing controls on some can make it easy to burn more energy than you bargained for.

Manufacturers have taken steps to make programmable thermostats less daunting. Today's top thermostats have built-in energy-saving programs that are designed to cut heating and cooling costs by up to 20 percent, eliminating the need to create programs from scratch. But you'll still have to set the time, date, and the system they'll control. Odds are you'll also want to tailor those programs to your schedule.

Before you buy, by making sure any programmable thermostat you're considering works with your heating or cooling system. Also decide how many programs you need. Then keep these tips in mind when shopping:

Also try the device it. Along with large screens and friendly controls, look for easy-to-follow instructions and controls with arrows and other clear prompts, rather than unmarked buttons and mysterious symbols. Some models include simple programming steps on a flip-down cover.

Most models attach to your heating or cooling system with as few as two low-voltage wires, making do-it-yourself installation relatively easy. Just be sure to check which wire goes where before removing your old thermostat. Learn how to install a programmable thermostat.

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