How people use thermostats in homes: A review

Publication Type

Journal Article

Date Published



Residential thermostats control a substantial portion of both fuel and electrical energy—9% of the total energy consumption in the U.S. Consumers install programmable thermostats to save energy, yet numerous recent studies found that homes with programmable thermostats can use more energy than those controlled manually depending on how—or if—they are used. At the same time, thermostats are undergoing a dramatic increase in capability and features, including control of ventilation, responding to electricity price signals, and interacting with a home area network. These issues warrant a review of the current state of thermostats, evaluating their effectiveness in providing thermal comfort and energy savings, and identifying areas for further improvement or research.

This review covers the evolution in technologies of residential thermostats; we found few standards and many features. We discuss studies of how people currently use thermostats, finding that nearly half do not use the programming features. The review covers the complications associated with using a thermostat. Finally, we suggest research needed to design—and especially test with users—thermostats that can provide more comfortable and economical indoor environments.


Building and Environment



Year of Publication