4 Top Programmable Thermostats for Frugal Homeowners

Photo credit: bestv/shutterstock

As winter rolls in and the temperature begins to drop, the extra-warm comforters come out of the closets and the heat gets turned on. Using a programmable thermostat to run the heat only when you need it most can help keep your heating costs down and still keep your home nice and toasty. According to an estimate by the government's Energy Star program, if you use the recommended settings on a programmable thermostat, you can save an average of $180 a year.

At Cheapism we researched a variety of budget thermostats and found four models that should help you save money and stay warm.

  • The Hunter 44260 (starting at $34) lets you set three different heating or cooling schedules: one five-day program (for the workweek) and two one-day programs (for the weekend). Reviewers note that the backlit display makes adjusting the thermostat easy at night. Some consumers say they've stuck with the Hunter brand because of positive experiences with older models.
  • The Lux TX500E (starting at $29) lacks a backlight but lets you to preset a five-day/two-day schedule and warns you when it's time to replace your system's air filter. Reviewers have found this unit easy to install and use.
  • The White-Rodgers 1F78-151 (starting at $32) is a basic thermostat that reviewers say is simple to install. Users can program a 5-day and a 2-day schedule to account for changes in their routine from the workweek to the weekend. This model has a backlit display.
  • The Honeywell RTH221B (starting at $17) is the cheapest of the batch and, as such, lacks features including a backlight and a notification to change the air filter. Users set a single schedule for all seven days of the week. Still, the price, simplicity, and reliability of this model have attracted many happy customers.

These low-cost thermostats are set up so you can program up to four different temperatures per day. That way the device can automatically turn down the heat while you're asleep and while you're at work or out for the day and warm up the house before you get out of bed and before you come home. Of course, when summer returns, you can use the thermostat to control the AC in a similar manner and reduce cooling costs.

The four thermostats listed above use two AA or AAA batteries, which manufacturers suggest replacing every year. All include an indicator, though, to alert you when the batteries have run dry. The Hunter and Lux models, our top two picks, also remind you to change your air filter, which will help keep your heating and cooling system working efficiently. The models that lack this feature still offer the basic functions consumers need to keep costs down.