If your utility bill tends to lean high, it's time to try a programmable thermostat. They reduce energy costs and keep your home at a comfortable, pre-programmed temperature. And though those perks might sound expensive, the best programmable thermostats under $50 are out there, and they get the job done.
When choosing a thermostat, you'll first want to consider how much time you spend at home. Programmable thermostats come in three different models that offer different levels of customization and dictate how many days a week you can set temperature schedules. For instance, with seven-day models, you can set a new schedule every day. Five-two-day models, however, let you set one schedule for five days a week and another for the remaining two days. Lastly, five-one-one-day models give you the same schedule Monday through Friday, a second one Saturday, and a third one Sunday.
Here, I've included the best of each of these models with compact designs and sleek digital displays. Though most thermostats are made to be used with central cooling and heating systems, I've also included a plug-in option that's great for portable systems like window AC units and space heaters. The best part? Every single one is under $50.
1. The Best Seven-Day Programmable Thermostat
The Clear Comfort Pro Thermostat by Orbit is the top choice for a seven-day model, and considering its ample features, it's a steal at $40. While the unit itself is pretty compact, it has an attractive design with a large digital display and a warm backlight for easy viewing. The battery-operated unit is highly-customizable and lets you set four different temperature periods each day. It also includes a temporary hold mode — great for times when you'll be away — and a copy feature, making it easy to program the same settings more than one day per week. Customers love this option, with one happy Amazon reviewer writing: "I needed the basics, but I wanted it to look modern and sleek, and be unobtrusive. This fit the bill. Easy to install, easy to use, looks great. And best part is, a fraction of the cost of anything else on the market, and I looked at everything."
2. A Highly-Rated Thermostat That Follows The Five-One-One Model
If you don't need a seven-day model (but still prefer some customization with temperature settings), this five-one-one-day programmable thermostat by Honeywell is your best bet. It's battery-powered and lets you schedule up to four temperature periods Monday through Friday, another one on Saturday, and another one on Sunday. Even better, it has an auto-change feature to go from heating to cooling and a "hold" button if you want to stray from your regular settings one day without reprogramming anything. This one also uses a backlit digital display with soft buttons that are easy to navigate. With over 500 customer reviews, it comes highly-rated by Amazon users who say it's super simple to install and use. One person noted, "It auto switches between air during the day if it gets over a certain temp in the house, and the heat kicks in at night if it falls below a certain temp. This has really helped me not having to constantly watch the weather! Easy to use, program, and override."
3. A Programmable Five-Two-Day Model That's Budget Friendly
The Emerson programmable digital thermostat by White Rodgers is a solid choice for a five-two-day model. These models offer the least amount of customization settings-wise, but they'll do the job if that's all you need. This compact, battery-powered unit is compatible with single-stage heating, cooling, and heat pump systems. Plus, it includes a small digital display for the temperature. At a $29 price point, it's also super affordable and comes highly-recommended by users. "It's easy to install and program, and the temperature reading seems to be accurate," reads a satisfied review. "If you're looking for a basic, user-friendly thermostat this is perfect."
4. An Outlet Option For Portable Cooling & Heating Units
For portable units — including a window AC unit, electric fan, or space heater — Lux's programmable outlet thermostat is ideal. It can be plugged into any standard, 120-volt outlet and lets you program your heating or cooling unit anywhere from 45 to 90 degrees following the five-two-day model. With digital temperature controls and a touch keypad, this one's easy to both navigate and install (read: plug in). Featuring more than 2,000 mainly-positive Amazon reviews, it's safe to say people love this innovative gadget. One user raved, "I absolutely love this thermostat. I live in an old house where space heaters are needed and this does a fantastic job of making sure I go to sleep and wake up in a nice toasty room, while also not wasting energy during times when the heater doesn't need to be on."
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