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Programmable thermostats at bargain prices

As the mercury heads south for the winter, heating costs move in the opposite direction. With a programmable thermostat, you can save money by setting the heat to turn down automatically during the day while you’re away and again at night while you’re snug under the covers. The average savings can amount to $180 a year, according to the U.S. government’s Energy Star program. You just ha
The Hunter 44260 has a backlit display to make middle-of-the-night adjustments easier.
The Hunter 44260 has a backlit display to make middle-of-the-night adjustments easier.Hunter 44260 / Today

As the mercury heads south for the winter, heating costs move in the opposite direction. With a programmable thermostat, you can save money by setting the heat to turn down automatically during the day while you’re away and again at night while you’re snug under the covers. The average savings can amount to $180 a year, according to the U.S. government’s Energy Star program. You just have to be smart about the settings you choose and resist the temptation to tinker with them.

Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable, programmable thermostats.

  • The Hunter 44260 (starting at $34) has one five-day mode and two one-day modes, so that users can set different heating and cooling schedules for the workweek and for the days they have off, depending on their routines. Consumers who have posted reviews online appreciate that the display is backlit to let them manually adjust or check the temperature without having to turn on a light. (Where to buy)
  • The Lux TX500E (starting at $29) has a five-day mode for the workweek and a two-day mode for the weekend. Thanks to its solid overall performance, this thermostat counts many repeat buyers among consumers posting online reviews. (Where to buy)
  • The White-Rodgers 1F78-151 (starting at $32) is simple to install and program, reviewers say. It comes with clear, easy-to-follow instructions and also features a backlit display. As with the Lux model, users can set separate schedules for weekdays and weekends. (Where to buy)
  • The Honeywell RTH221B (starting at $17) is a basic model with a small, vertical shape that fits tight spaces. Users set a single schedule for the thermostat to follow every day of the week. Reviewers appreciate the fact that this model is straightforward and inexpensive yet is still effective. (Where to buy)

All these thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature at four different times within a 24-hour period. The idea is to set the heat to a lower temperature when you go to bed at night, kick in before you wake up, die down again when you leave the house for the day and fire up just before you return home.

The Energy Star savings estimate assumes that you’ll program the thermostat to reduce the heat 8 degrees (and the air conditioning 4 degrees during the summer) for 10 hours during the day and eight hours overnight. You can always manually override the settings you choose if you get too chilly. They’ll revert to normal with the next scheduled thermostat adjustment or, in some cases, after two hours.

The thermostats listed above run on two AA or AAA batteries, and all include an indicator to let you know when the batteries need to be replaced. The Hunter 44260 and Lux TX500E also remind you when it’s time to change the filter on your heating and cooling system — another best practice for consumers looking to keep their energy costs down.

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