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Programmable thermostats

Buying guide

A programmable thermostat acts like a programmer and a thermostat combined. It communicates with the boiler to maintain your chosen temperature, but you can also programme it to come on and off at different times. You may also be able to vary temperatures throughout the day, and set different profiles for each day of the week.

This section focuses on digital programmable thermostats. We have also reviewed a new type of programmable thermostat which you can use through the web or your smartphone.

How much control?

Programmable thermostats give timed temperature control. However, you can only set up a programme that suits your lifestyle if the control is accessible to you. Consider whether you want to do all the setting up yourself or whether you'd be happy to make only basic changes on your own.

Saving energy

Turning down your thermostat by just 1°C could cut your heating bill by 10%, saving £55-65 a year on average. But don’t turn it down too low. Ideally, most rooms should be 21°C during the day, and bedrooms should be 18°C at night.

Once you have found a good temperature, you shouldn’t have to adjust the thermostat often. Turning it up won’t make a cold room heat any faster!

You can also use the time control to turn off the heating when it’s not needed. Think about when your household is at home and awake, and how long the house takes to heat up and cool down.

Think about...

Screen visibility. Make sure all the information is large enough for you to read comfortably. A backlight can help.

Product reviews

Horstmann AS2 (£63)

Horstmann AS2 programmable thermostatThis control is aimed at people with sight loss. Profiles can be set up for a warm mode and a cool mode, which you can then switch between. Each mode has temperatures specified for times of day and days of the week, which are meant to be set at installation and not changed. A central button lets you switch between the two modes, and large plus and minus buttons let you adjust the temperature (but only by a few degrees each way).

  • The controls that let you switch modes and adjust temperature are accessible, but the programming controls are not.
  • The digital display is quite small. It lights up when you make an adjustment, but not for long.
  • The temperature adjustment buttons have good tactile labelling (embossed + and - signs).
  • The warm/cool button is difficult to find by touch. It's labelled in Braille, which doesn't suit everyone.
  • A light flashes and it beeps whenever you make a change, and it buzzes when you try to change the temperature too much. These are noticeable signals, but they need explanation.
  • To set up the heating profiles, you need to be able to use smaller, unlabelled buttons and read the screen.

Who is this suitable for? People who want their heating to follow a schedule, but don't want to make many alterations.

Score: 3 out of 5

Also tested

Rica last tested programmable thermostats in 2004. You can see the results of those tests in our previously tested section.

Last updated: February 2014

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