What is a Programmable Digital Thermostat?

R. Anacan

A programmable digital thermostat is a device which controls the operations of a climate control system. A programmable digital thermostat is more accurate, efficient and flexible than an analog thermostat. Digital thermostats have continued to grow in popularity as more consumers become both environmentally and energy conscious.

A programmable digital thermostat.
A programmable digital thermostat.

Both analog and digital thermostats perform the same basic function. Both types of thermostats provide an interface to turn climate control systems on or off. They also allow the user to determine the general temperature range where the heating or cooling system turns on or off. A thermostat eliminates the need to manually turn the climate control system on and off as desired, and can maintain a consistently comfortable interior environment.

The main difference between an analog thermostat and a digital programmable thermostat is that digital technology increases the level of functionality over an analog thermostat. By some estimates, the increased functionality and accuracy of a digital thermostat helps decrease cooling and heating costs by as much as 30 percent over an analog model.

Unlike an analog thermostat, which is only able to set a general temperature range for the climate control system, a programmable digital thermostat provides the ability to set the system at a specific temperature. A programmable digital thermostat also allows users to set specific start and stop times for the climate control system. With this type of thermostat, users can program the thermostat to keep the temperature of their home warmer in the morning when they wake up, cooler during the day when no one is home and warmer again in the evening when they get home.

There are three major types of digital programmable thermostats. The first type is known as a seven day thermostat and offers the most flexibility. The seven day thermostat allows the user to program start and stop times with specific temperature settings for each day of the week.

The second major type of digital programmable thermostat is the weekday and weekend model, which is also known as a five and two model. With this type of thermostat, the user is able to create one programming schedule for the five weekdays and one schedule for the two weekend days. The third type of digital thermostat is the five/one/one model, which enables the user to set one program for the five weekdays, one for Saturday and one for Sunday.

A programmable digital thermostat is generally simple to install and can be installed as a “do-it yourself” project. Often times the installation will only require a screwdriver, pencil, drill, and the new thermostat. The exceptions to this are programmable digital thermostats for heat pump systems. Heat pumps require a different type of thermostat than other HVAC systems and should only be installed by a qualified contractor.

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