How to set your programmable thermostat
08 November 2023
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Your thermostat is the lifeline of your heating system. Allowing you to adjust the temperature in your home, understanding your thermostat is the key to keeping your home warm and making your money go further. So, how do you set a thermostat for heat? Well, that depends on the model and format of your device. To help, we’ve created this handy guide.
Before we get into the details, it’s essential to understand what your thermostat is, what it does, and how it works.
A thermostat is a device that allows you to control your home’s heating quickly and conveniently. From phone apps to traditional wall temperature dials, thermostats can vary in shape, size, and design, but at their core, they all control your heating system.
You can set a preferred temperature, and your thermostat works to keep your room or boiler at the desired heat. If your home drops beneath this level, your thermostat switches the heating on to warm your space. Your thermostat will also automatically switch its functions off once your interior has reached the desired heat, preventing your home from overheating.
Within this general framework, several features and options are available to you. These include:
- Some thermostats are wireless and battery-operated
- Others are connected with wires to the boiler itself
- Programmable thermostats use a set schedule to run the heating at certain times of the day
- Smart thermostats learn and adapt to your routine.
Setting a heating routine using your thermostat has many benefits. The first and most important benefit is that it makes your home much more efficient. Selecting your heating to turn on and off at peak times for your lifestyle will allow you to get the most from your heating while ensuring you’re not spending unnecessary money on your energy bills.
The second benefit is convenience. No one likes leaving their warm bed for a cold home office or living room, especially in winter. With a heating routine in place, that cold start to the morning is a thing of the past.
If you’d rather turn your heat up and down as and when you want rather than setting a preferred time, or you feel a chill during your lower use time, manually setting your thermostat is the solution. Here are some handy steps to set your temperature directly.
Learn what all your settings do
If your home has central heating and cooling, you most likely have a central thermostat to control it. Whether programmable or not, thermostats will have many similar settings, including fan options, heating options, and cooling options.
Turning on your fan
With the fan option, you'll likely have an 'on' or 'auto' setting.
By choosing the 'on' setting, you'll engage the fan on your system to circulate air around your home without heating or cooling it. The fan will run for as long as the 'on' option is engaged. The 'auto' button will only engage the fan when the heat or the air condition turns on and needs circulating.
The 'on' setting is generally considered an energy waster as it requires a decent amount of energy to constantly move that much air around your home. Due to this, most people leave their thermostat to 'auto.'
Setting your air conditioning
Depending on your make and model of thermostat, you'll likely see either a small switch on the faceplate or a cycle button between the heating, cooling and off options. You can prep your system to cool your home by moving the switch or pressing the button until you reach the 'cool' setting.
You will see a number appear on your thermostat's display screen, this number is the ambient temperature in your home. Use the up and down arrows on your thermostat to set the temperature you want your home to reach. You should see a different display number related to the selected temperature.
You may hear the system click as it engages and turns on the air conditioning to lower the temperature in your home.
The system will run until the home reaches the chosen temperature, then automatically turn itself off and only restart when the internal temperature is warmer than the desired heat.
You can use the same switch or button to cycle the system to 'off' at any time.
Setting the heat
Setting the heat for your thermostat is similar to setting the cooling option. Use the same switch or button to cycle through the options until you see 'heat'. You can then use the set of arrows you used to set the cooling temperature to set the heating temperature. The system will only run when the internal thermometer detects the ambient room temperature is colder than the requested heat.
Now that we’ve covered how to set your thermostat manually, it’s time to cover how to program it to work conveniently through digital scheduling. Here are some steps to follow:
Read the manufacturer’s manual
While all programmable thermostats have similar functions, they aren’t universally operated in the same way. If you have the manufacturer’s manual to hand, keep it handy in case your thermostat has a unique set of steps to program .
If you live in a Places for People rented home and don’t have a manual to hand, contact our friendly contact centre on 01772 667 002 in England and Wales or 0131 657 0600 in Scotland. If you own your home or need extra support, try contacting your thermostat’s manufacturer directly, you can usually find their customer service number with a quick Google search.
Decide on your schedule
Make notes of the typical times you leave your home and are away regularly for at least four hours. Track your schedule for at least seven days, including the hours you’re asleep, to get a complete overview of when you use your heating the most and your downtimes. This context will inform what times you program your heating to kick in and die down.
Program your time and date information
The current time and date must be entered into your programmable thermostat to ensure it works correctly. Nearly all thermostats have a button that reads ‘set’ or ‘day/time’. Press this button, and a clock should appear on the display. Use the up and down arrows to set the correct time and date, then press the same ‘set’ or ‘time/date’ button after each step to continue to the next.
- The prompt will tell you whether to enter the time as a twelve-hour or twenty-four-hour figure
- You may also need to set the day of the week, but it will follow the same process as the time and date.
Press the ‘set’ or ‘program’ button
Once the date and time have been established, you can program the thermostat’s schedule. Some brands will have an actual ‘program’ button, while others may require you to scroll past time and date information to reach it by hitting the ‘set’ button several times. You should reach a screen on your display that prompts you to set a ‘wake’ time for the weekdays. You may want to fix this for a time slightly before your alarm clock goes off so that the system is already running by the time you get up.
- Most thermostats will allow you to schedule a weekday and weekend routine separately. In contrast, others may require you to schedule each day separately.
- You can use the up and down arrows to cycle through the times to your desired setting.
Press' set' or 'program' again to set the temperature
With the 'wake' time now set, you must set the 'wake' temperature. Press the relevant button again, and the temperature will begin blinking on your display. Use the up and down arrows again to find your ideal heat.
Some models also allow you to set temperature ranges so that you don't have to reprogram the thermostat with each season. For example, it may prompt you to set both wake summer and winter temperatures to save effort later. This will ensure that the system heats when the ambient temperature is lower than a certain threshold and cools when it's above this threshold.
Set the 'leave' time and temperature
Now that the 'wake' time and temperature are set, it's time to repeat the process for your 'leave' time schedule. Your 'leave' time is a period during the day that you're not home for four or more hours, for most people, these are the hours spent at work.
Most people set these temperatures higher during the summer and lower during the winter to conserve energy and save money. Use the same process of hitting the 'set' or 'program' button and then use the arrows to find the time and temperature you want. If you’re interested in learning more about saving energy during the winter, check out our Busting Home Energy Saving Myths blog.
If you want to keep your heating system from running while you're away, you can set it to turn on at a temperature you know your home won't reach.
Set the 'return' time and temperature
The next time and temperature to set on your thermostat is your 'return' time during the week. As with the 'wake' setting, you may want to set this time fifteen minutes before you expect to get home to ensure your space is already toasty for your arrival.
Set the 'sleep' time and temperature
The final weekday setting on your thermostat will ask for the time you go to sleep at night. Since many people might open their windows during the warmer seasons or pile on the blankets during the colder months, you can save some money and energy by raising or lowering the overnight temperature settings to fit your habits. Whatever you set this temperature at will hold over until the 'wake' time and temperature you have selected kicks in on the following morning.
Repeat the process for the weekends
Once you finish setting the weekday schedule, it's time to set your weekend times and temperatures. Your thermostat will prompt you to set four times – wake, leave, return, and sleep. As with the weekdays, keep using the 'set' or 'program' button to advance the menu and use the arrow button to adjust the times and temperatures. Press the 'run' button to begin your schedule.
Depending on your thermostat model, once you've set your final weekend time and temperature setting, it may return you to the current day, time, and temperature and begin following the set schedule. Other models may have a 'run' button to start your programming.
Setting your heating schedule is a little different for those of you with a smart thermostat. However, you can get it all up and running in just four simple steps.
Learn the settings on your smart thermostat
Smart thermostats tend to come with three or four standard settings. For example, if you're using a Nest thermostat, click the red 'mode' button on the top left of the dial. From there, you'll have the option to heat, cool, heat/cool, off, and eco. You can also run the fan. To do this, return to the home screen on your dial and click the fan image on the top right. This will circulate the air through your home without cooling or heating it.
- Heat controls the heater
- Cool controls the air conditioner
- Heat/Cool allows you to run both at the same time to give your home a more personalised temperature
- Eco sets the thermostat according to energy-saving temperatures when you're out of the house.
Schedule your settings
Smart thermostats allow you to set the temperature in your home through a schedule, much like a programable thermostat. If you're using a Nest thermostat, click the calendar image on the bottom right of the dial. Once it takes you to the schedule, twist the dial until you reach the date and time you want to set a new temperature. Tap the button on the dial and click 'new.' Twist your dial to the left or right to pick your preferred time, then twist the dial up or down to the desired temperature.
Connect your smart thermostat to the Wi-Fi to program it remotely
Smart thermostats allow you to program or change your thermostat setting anytime through an app on your phone or computer. If you have the Nest thermostat, click ‘settings’ on the thermostat’s home screen, then select ‘network’, click your Wi-Fi network, and enter your password.
Use the app to program your smart thermostat.
You’ll need to be at home to connect your thermostat to the app for the first time. Begin by downloading the corresponding app to your smart thermostat. If you have a Nest model, go to your thermostat at home and select ‘settings’. Next, click ‘Nest app’ followed by ‘get entry key’. Use that key to connect the thermostat to the app.
- To enter the entry key, open your app and select ‘settings’. Click ‘add product’ followed by ‘continue without scanning.’ The app will then ask you to enter the entry key.
- Once you connect your app to your thermostat, you’ll be able to access your thermostat’s home screen through the app anytime.
Setting up your ideal thermostat settings can be complicated if you don’t know the steps you need to take. However, with some preparation and instruction, you can develop a heating routine that works for your lifestyle and wallet.
We hope you’ve found this blog helpful, and if you would like to discover more guides like this, check out our My Place hub.