Saving a Buck: Money-saving thermostats

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With all the nifty gadgets out there these days, you might be surprised to learn which one actually sold out as soon as it hit the market.

We're talking about a new thermostat designed to cut your energy bill. 

The Nest Learning Thermostat was designed by part of the same team that came up with the iPod.

You're supposed to "use it like your old thermostat and it'll program itself."

Consumer reports tested the Nest and 29 other programmable thermostats.

One of its unique features, motion sensors that detect when you're home.

"The Nest will actually set up its own program and then it keeps tweaking the program based on the input it gets from you and from its sensors," Consumer Reports’ Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman said.

The nest is one of several new thermostats that lets you use your smart phone to change the temperature, even if you're not at home.

A key test, just how easy each thermostat is to use.

Turns out programming the Next manually wasn't always so straightforward.

But Consumer Reports still recommends it, unlike the Venstar wireless remote model t-1100-rf; it was the toughest to set up.

"I want to program it. So what button do I press? Well, it's probably 'mode.' So I press this button and nothing happens,” she said.

Another important assessment, the clarity of the display.

In the end, these thermostats were some of the easiest to use with their colorful, touch-screen displays.

  • A different Venstar, the color-touch series t-5800, is the least expensive of the three at $170. Its clear graphics make programming a snap.
  • No-frills $70 lux Thermostar from Lowe's is a Consumer Reports best buy. It's relatively easy to program and lets you enter different settings for each day of the week.

A programmable thermostat can potentially save you up to $180 a year.

Consumer Reports said to get maximum savings, depending on the season, raise or lower the thermostat five to 10 degrees overnight and when you're out.

That should cut your bills, on average, about 10 to 20 percent.