Weekend DIY: Programmable thermostat

Replace your old thermostat with one that will help you save on your heating bills

By Jay Somerset



The average Canadian household spends more than $2,000 a year on energy bills-nearly half of which going to heating and cooling, according to the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC). Even if your abode is well insulated, with tightly sealed windows and doors and sufficient shading for summertime heat, chances are you’re still wasting energy–if you haven’t installed a programmable thermostat.

Installing an Energy Star-backed programmable thermostat will save you at least $200 a year merely by turning itself down at night–lowering the temperature by a mere five degrees at night will save you about 10 per cent in energy costs, according to CMHC–and during the day when you’re at work.

Energy Star-backed programmable thermostats come in a variety of sizes with varying features; some allow for voice and/or phone programming (you could, for example, call your cottage before driving up for the weekend and arrive to a toasty, warm cabin); hold/vacation features (to maintain a constant temperature while you’re away); indicators that tell you when it’s time to change air filters; and so on. What’s more, some offer seven-day scheduling, whereas others allow you to set weekdays and weekends.

“You can get a good one for about $45,” says Boris Sherman, owner of heating and cooling company Cozy World in Toronto. “The city rebates you about $40, so you’re getting it almost for free,” he adds, referring to a city-wide rebate program in Toronto for homeowners that install Energy Star and other highly efficient fixtures in their homes. Check to see if your municipality offers something similar. Typically, says Sherman, the more expensive models have larger screens and more programming features; their ability to measure temperature, however, is the same.

Programmable thermostats aren’t just easy to operate; installation is also a cinch, the perfect Saturday project. Here’s how to get rolling.

Step 1: Choose a location and turn off the power

The thermostat reads the temperature of the room, so don’t install it near the front door or in a hallway that gets a lot of sunlight. If you’re replacing an existing thermostat, just put it in the same spot, so long as it’s easily accessible (about five feet from the floor).

Before touching any wires, make sure you’ve turned off the electricity before removing the old unit and installing the new one.

Step 2: Remove the old thermostat

Remove the old thermostat, including the wall plate (older thermostats usually contain mercury, so check with a local recycling company about disposal).

The thermostat will have two to four wires depending on whether your heating and cooling systems are separate or one unit. Label the wires, noting where they were attached on the old thermostat. Secure them by tying a loop or taping them to the wall to prevent them from falling inside.

Step 3: Mount the new thermostat

Install the new wall plate. You may need to drill new holes, so use appropriate anchors and screws. Also, make sure the thermostat is level.

Finally, connect the wires as directed, install the batteries and mount the unit to the wall plate. Then restore power and read the manual to properly program your model.


Sort order:

Oldest Newest


Sep. 29, 2013

8:16 am

I live in an older home where the previous owner thought he was an expert on everything, he wasn't ! Now we are paying the price to correct everything to the way it should be, so...that being said, Please read the following:

I would Strongly Recommend that the average home owner NEVER touch the thermostat, or any other electric wiring. Most home owners do no have the knowledge or ability to safely and correctly install or repair such items. So Please...Leave those items to Professionals, it will save you money and frustration in the end and it will work correctly when the Pro is finished !



Dec. 8, 2012

8:51 am

first thing if you are going to install a new t-stat call a pro. the new t-stat will have to be setup to run with your furnace, these new digital t-stats are not all plug and play. If you do something wrong you could void your warranty if you still have one.

second of all if you lower you temp by 5 degrees you will spend more money in the long run trying to reheat your home. DO NOT go more then 2 degrees, it is a much less gap to make up. common sense if you think about it. I am a journeyman gasfitter and this is what i do for a living.

and finnaly a good t-stat will cost more then $45, don't be fooled.

To leave a comment, please log in

Don't have an user account? Register for free


How do you heat your home?

Loading ... Loading ...