Almost half of a homeowner's energy bills go toward heating and cooling the house, according to ENERGY STAR. If you can reduce that by even a little, you are well on your way to saving money. One easy way to do this is with a programmable thermostat. By taking a few minutes to program it once and then forgetting about it, you could save as much as $180 a year. 

Let's take a look at the different types of thermostats: 

Non-programmable thermostat The basic, non-programmable thermostat displays the current temperature of your house and/or the temperature you set the thermostat to. You have to manually change the settings on the unit any time you want to alter the indoor temperature. If you set your thermostat for 68 degrees on a cool winter day, it will remain at 68 all day and all night, regardless of whether there are people there to enjoy the warmth. 

Programmable thermostat Instead of setting your regular thermostat to one temperature and leaving it there, you can set a programmable thermostat to alter the temperature for different times of day. When you're at work or sleeping, you can keep the temperature at an energy-efficient level then have it warm up or cool down in time for you to get home or wake up. While programmable thermostats are popular, many people who buy them don't bother to actually set them up properly. Most are easy to install and have simple on-screen directions on how to set different temperatures for weekdays and weekends or whatever routine you need. 

Smart thermostat The latest thermostats on the market are "learning" or "smart" thermostats that can help homeowners save even more money by being even more precise than a programmable thermostat. Smart thermostats are often Wi-Fi enabled, allowing you to adjust the programmed setting from your smartphone or computer if you ever need to make a manual adjustment. For example, if you will be getting home earlier or later than usual you can use this feature to override the thermostat's normal routine. 

Smart thermostats are really useful for vacation homes. Instead of waiting for hours while your weekend getaway comes to the right temperature you can set it to adjust before your arrival. Some devices can also automatically adjust settings based on the size of the home or the weather forecast. Many even give feedback on ways you can improve your energy use and increase your savings. 

With so many options, it's not difficult to save money by choosing a new thermostat that's right for your household.

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