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The average American household using natural gas is projected to spend $649 on heating this winter. Americans in the coldest states, and those who heat their homes with more expensive fuels like propane or heating oil, will pay a lot more than that.

These households can save around 10 percent on heating if they turned down the temperature in the middle of the day (when everyone is at work or school) and at night (when people can throw an extra blanket on the bed). Similarly, households in warmer climates could save on air conditioning costs in the summer if they turned the temperature up when no one was home.

For decades, there have been programmable thermostats designed to help people do this. Unfortunately, these products are so complex and cumbersome that many of the people who have them don’t actually use them.

But a new generation of smart, internet-connected thermostats promises to change that, making the energy-saving potential of smarter thermostats a reality. This type of Thermostat was pioneered by Nest, a startup that was acquired by Google for $3.2 billion last year. Honeywell, one of the biggest names in the thermostat business, created its own Nest-like offering last year.

Instead of forcing users to program a weekly schedule — a process many users find confusing and time-consuming —these thermometers program themselves automatically based on users’ movements and temperature adjustments. And they have other neat features, like the ability to change your home’s temperature using a smartphone anywhere in the world.

Programmable thermostats can save a lot on your gas and electric bills

If you have an old-fashioned mechanical thermostat, your furnace (or air conditioner in the summer) is doing a lot of unnecessary work. It keeps your home at the same temperature all day, even when everyone is at work or school. And it keeps the temperature up at night, even though you might be just as comfortable with a lower temperature and an extra blanket. If you turn down the thermostat during these times, you can save a lot of energy — and money.

The result, according to the Energy Department, is savings of roughly 1 percent for every 1 degree (Fahrenheit) the temperature is reduced overnight.

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