Technology was caught up with heating and cooling thermostats. With more and more Internet based devices coming out, tech savvy people can utilize this technology to save money. Since the heating and cooling of a home makes up the majority of the utility costs, it makes sense to keep a tight rein on how long and often it cycles off and on.
The thermostat has evolved somewhat over the years from simple manual controlled units with a mercury switch to programmable ones that gave people the ability to have their air conditioning or furnace temperatures set back during the night or at work to the newest version that can be controlled through the Internet. Programmable thermostats may not benefit everyone, for example if someone is at home all day it may not make sense to have automatic set back feature. But depending on the lifestyle of the household, having greater control may prove to provide significant savings.
One problem with standard programmable thermostats is that your household may have an unpredictable schedule with people coming and going and leaves programming the thermostat useless. The new Internet controlled thermostats, or "smart thermostats" are controlled through a wireless gateway connected to the home's Internet connection and transmits signals to the wall mounted thermostat to lower and raise temperatures and even switch between heating and cooling modes. This allows you to remotely control the thermostat through any Internet connection from anywhere, even with Internet enabled phones and PDAs. Most of these have the ability to control up to four different thermostats so if you lived in a two story home for instance, you could turn on the air conditioning to your upstairs office before you get there and leave the downstairs set back.
Not all electric providers have the service, but may in the future. TXU is offering these at a low price if you join their energy conservation program. For more information, you can visit their website at: https://www.txupartners.com/thermostat/programdetails/index.php