Significantly Fewer Southerners Use Programmable Thermostats With Central Air Conditioning

central air conditioning equipment image

Table 2. Central air conditioning equipment usage varies by region Image credit:EIA

Based on the most recent USEIA Residential Energy Consumption Survey, regional preferences for thermostat use are surprisingly divergent. Specifically, proportionately fewer Southern state residents have programmable thermostats. Only 38% of Southern homes have one for their central air systems, whereas in the rest of the USA, 57% do.

The survey also tells us central air systems are most common in the South; so, it can't be that word about benefits of a programmable thermostat - saving money mainly but also reducing your carbon footprint - hasn't gotten around. Let's see if we can figure out what's up?Below is a preliminary list of reasons why I think Southerners might tend not to have programmable thermostats and therefore have missed out on an opportunity to save money.

Order does not indicate rank importance. It's a brainstorming list; and obviously the items are speculative. I numbered them so you can reference the numbers in your comments. Jokes are fine; but really...let's put the networked reader brain to work and figure out what's behind this.

  1. It's what Lloyd said when he posted Good Design Saves Energy; Bad Thermostat Design Is Throwing It Away. Southerners figured this out first.

  2. Because Southerners got central air before the rest of the country did, they became used to the old Honeywell single set-point "Round" model (pictured below) and haven't yet bothered to upgrade.
    Picture of Honeywell's iconic model T87 thermostat, also called "The Round". Image credit:Wikipedia

  3. Echoing the previous point about having a more mature market for central air equipment, Southern HVAC contractors face intense competition and tend to 'low-ball' their bids by proposing the cheapest possible equipment.

  4. Southerners often rely on separately-controlled space heaters during the cold months and therefore would see the savings from a programmable only half the year.

  5. Ignorance. There are plenty of ignorant people outside the South, of course. (My AC repair guy here in the Philly area tells me that every summer a good portion of his repair visits are to people who need him to reset the thermostat... because they feel cold or too hot or whatever. No kidding.) But how else can one explain the lack of programmable thermostats?

  6. Weather during the warm months is so unbearably awful that people can't stand the idea of randomly encountering an interior space over 72F.

Just so we don't get too far afield debating cost issues, I checked on Amazon and the Basic Honeywell Programmable costs about $23. There are far cheaper Brand X programmables offered, but the point is you don't have to spend $500 to get a good programmable, even though there are many models offered on the high end - some of which are set up to be remote programmed via WiFi, using your smart phone.

Closing thought. How can we expect to sell people on Smart Meters when so few have even moved to a programmable thermostat? Is mankind going to hell in a hand basket for ridiculous reasons or have I missed something?