We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
If you’re still using an old analog thermostat or even a non-programmable digital unit, a properly configured programmable thermostat can make a huge impact on your comfort, the lifespan of your HVAC system, and especially your utility bill.
“A majority of a house's total energy use comes from appliances that maintain heating and cooling,” says Sarah Jameson, marketing director of Green Building Elements. “However, a programmable thermostat on a preset schedule for heating and cooling can help reduce the cost of your electricity bill while keeping your home at optimum temperature.”
We researched dozens of thermostats and looked at compatibility with different HVAC systems, programming options, ease of installation and use, and extra features to find the best ones. The Honeywell Home RTH8560D 7-Day Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat is our favorite because of its flexible programming options, intuitive touchscreen controls, and clean, modern design.
Here are the best programmable thermostats.
Best Overall: Honeywell Home RTH8560D 7-Day Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat
Flexible scheduling options
No C-wire needed
Difficult to read when backlight is off
Programming codes aren’t immediately clear
Who else recommends it? Insider, Bob Vila, and Consumer Reports also picked the Honeywell Home 7 Day Programmable Thermostat.
What do buyers say? 88% of 2,100+ Amazon reviewers rated this 4 stars or above.
Whether you’re looking to save some money on your heating and cooling, replace your old thermostat with something that looks nicer, or even ditch your smart thermostat for an intuitive experience that doesn’t require Wi-Fi, the Honeywell Home RTH8560D 7-Day Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat is our top pick. This thermostat is easy to install, works with a wide variety of heating and cooling systems, and has many flexible scheduling options.
The Honeywell Home RTH8560D features a sleek, modern look, with a highly legible LCD touchscreen with intuitive and easy-to-learn on-screen controls and a soothing blue backlight that makes it easy to see at night. The initial setup is a little complicated, so you may want to keep the instruction manual on hand, but it’s all smooth sailing after that.
The initial setup is a little complicated because this thermostat can function as a 7-day, 5-1-1, or 5-2 thermostat. Most thermostats only give you one programming schedule, but this one lets you change it up as your scheduling needs change. If you’re consistently working five days with two days off, then a 5-2 schedule is likely to provide the most comfort while minimizing your utility bill. If things become more hectic and you need a different heating and cooling schedule every day of the week, you can switch to a 7-day or 5-1-1 schedule at any time.
This thermostat works with both single- and multi-stage systems, including heating-only and cooling-only systems, forced air, heat pumps, and more. It also relies on batteries for power, so there’s no need for a C-wire. If your system does have a C-wire, you can connect to that and forego the batteries.
Best Budget: Honeywell Home RTH2300B 5-2 Day Programmable Thermostat
Filter change reminder
Supports heating and cooling
Separate week and weekend schedules
Doesn’t work with two-stage systems
The Honeywell Home RTH2300B is a 5-2 programmable thermostat that provides some benefits of more expensive units without the associated cost. It allows you to set separate heating schedules for your work week and weekend, so it’s perfect for individuals and families with a schedule of five days at work or school and two days off.
This model is a no-nonsense programmable thermostat that’s perfect if you’re sick of smart features or are just looking to save money. It switches on and off exactly when you program it, with up to four temperature changes per day in one-degree increments. It handles both heating and cooling with built-in compressor protection, but the catch is that it’s only good for single-stage systems. The special feature on the RTH2300B is a reminder that pops up if you go too long between filter changes, which is great for prolonging the life of your HVAC system.
Best Digital: Orbit 83521 Clear Comfort Pro 7-Day Programmable Thermostat
Crystal-clear screen with blue backlight
Easy operation with manual override
Schedule copy feature
Screen has poor viewing angles
Doesn’t work with multi-stage HVAC systems
The Orbit Clear Comfort Pro is a 7-day programmable thermostat with a big digital display that’s exceptionally easy to read. It lets you set separate heating and cooling schedules for each day of the week, with four temperature changes per day. If you don’t need a different program for each day of the week, it also has a copy feature that saves time by letting you copy one schedule to multiple days. It supports gas, oil, and electric furnaces, air conditioning, and even two-wire hot water systems, but it doesn’t work with multi-stage systems.
If you’ve had trouble seeing digital thermostat readouts in the past, the Clear Comfort Pro addresses that issue. This thermostat features a large display that’s about 3.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches tall, and about a third of that real estate is dedicated to showing the current temperature. That crucial information is front and center in clear digital numbers. The set time and temperature are about half the size, and the other text is even smaller, but the layout is clear and easy to understand. You might experience an issue with viewing angles, but only if you look at the display from the side with the backlight off.
Best 7-Day: Honeywell RTH7600D Touchscreen 7-Day Programmable Thermostat
Intuitive touchscreen controls
Smart Response Technology
Difficult to read with the backlight off
Touchscreen is a little unresponsive
The Honeywell Home RTH7600D is an extremely flexible 7-day thermostat that’s ideal if you don’t have a traditional work week. It features Smart Response Technology, which allows it to learn how long your HVAC system takes to heat and cool. After a brief learning period, this technology allows it to turn on early to achieve the ideal temperature at just the right time. Auto changeover allows it to switch between heating and cooling automatically, which is a key feature for anyone in a climate that necessitates both during the same day.
The RTH7600D has a bit of a dated look compared to our top pick, the RTH8560D, but these two thermostats share much of the same functionality under the hood. The RTH7600D is an excellent alternative if you don’t mind the dated aesthetic, prefer a bright green backlight, or just want to save a bit of money without compromising on features.
Best 5-1-1: Emerson 1F80-361 5-1-1 Day Programmable Thermostat for Single-Stage Systems
Programmable while removed from the wall
Auto fan option
Only works with single-stage systems
The Emerson 1F80-361 is the ideal choice for individuals and families that have work or school five days a week but need some flexibility on the weekends. This 5-1-1 thermostat lets you set four different temperature changes per day, with one schedule for the work week and independent schedules for each weekend day. If you need to change the temperature on the fly, an override option will hold your new setting until the next scheduled temperature change. A flip-down panel hides most of the controls, so the unit has a clean, simplistic aesthetic.
This thermostat can run on batteries, so it works in both systems that have a C-wire and ones that don’t. If you do install batteries, you can pop the thermostat off the wall for easier programming and then snap it back on the wall when you’re done. The only issue with this thermostat is that it only works with single-stage heating and cooling, so it won’t work with multi-stage systems.
Best 5-2: Honeywell RTH6360D1002 5-2 Day Programmable Thermostat With Backlight
Easy to program
Large display with big numbers
Separate weekday and weekend scheduling
Initial setup requires the manual
Needs batteries even with a C-wire
The Honeywell Home RTH6360D1002 5-2 Day Programmable Thermostat With Backlight is an affordable option with some nice features that work with most types of heating and cooling, including both single- and multi-stage heating systems. It lets you set one schedule for the week and one for the weekend, so it’s an ideal choice for anyone who is typically away from home most of the day during the week and home most of the day on the weekends. It includes Smart Response Technology that optimizes heating and cooling based on the performance of your HVAC system, and it will remind you when it’s time to change your air filter.
This thermostat features a modern design aesthetic that’s similar to Honeywell’s higher-end models. The buttons are flat and integrated into a rounded viewport window with the display, which creates the illusion of a touchscreen, but they are physical buttons. The controls are intuitive, and it’s easy to program, but we recommend keeping the manual handy during the initial setup to avoid any confusion or frustration. The only other issue with this thermostat is that while you can connect it to a C-wire if you have one, it won’t operate without batteries.
Best for Heated Floors: SunTouch SunStat Command Touchscreen Programmable Thermostat
Large, colorful display
On-screen help for easy setup
The SunTouch SunStat Command is the ideal thermostat if you have a radiant floor heating system paired with a dated, non-programmable thermostat. It works with both 120-volt and 240-volt systems, has built-in GFCI protection for safety, and can connect up to 10 optional SunStat Relays to control exceptionally large heating mats. It comes with a 15-foot-long floor temperature sensor, but it also has an air temperature sensor and can regulate the head through air temperature alone. Its SmartStart Technology uses the sensors to learn how long it takes the system to heat up, which allows it to get started early and have your floors at the right temperature—and right at the programmed time.
While this thermostat is pricey, it more than makes up for that in functionality and ease of use. This thermostat features a generous touchscreen display with multiple color theme options to match your decor, and the intuitive interface includes on-screen help to walk you through programming and other controls. Installation is typically plug-and-play if you’re replacing an existing radiant floor thermostat since there isn’t anything out of the ordinary going on with the wiring, and SunTouch provides useful DIY guides on their website.
Best for Electric Baseboards: Aube by Honeywell Home TH106 Electric Heating 7-Day Programmable Thermostat
Buttons are hidden for a clean look
Compatible with 120- and 240-volt heaters
Limited temperature change options
If you have electric baseboard heaters with analog controls, the Aube TH106 Electric Heating 7-Day Programmable Thermostat can save you money while also making your home more comfortable. This thermostat offers a great deal of flexibility, as it's compatible with both 120-volt and 240-volt heaters, and it gives you the option to set a different heating schedule for each day of the week. Since baseboard heaters can take a while to get up to temperature, it includes an early start feature to make sure your home is at the right temperature the moment you step in the door.
The thermostat has a clean look, with no visible buttons, thanks to a flip-out cover. With the cover closed, all you see is the display. The display is clear and easy to read and offers easy programming and setup, but there is no backlight, which could make visibility difficult if the lighting isn't perfect. The lack of light is because this is a two-wire line voltage thermostat that doesn't require a battery. On the plus side, this model saves your settings in the event of a power outage despite not having a battery. If the power comes back within four hours, you don't even need to reprogram the clock.
Best Wi-Fi: Honeywell Home Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat
Works with Alexa
Strong Wi-Fi connectivity
Requires a C-wire
Loud click when the AC activates
Limited to 7-day schedule with four changes per day
The Honeywell Home Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat has most of the same features as our top recommendation, with the addition of Wi-Fi connectivity. This model is ideal for anyone who needs a separate heating and cooling schedule for every day of the week and also wants the flexibility of adjusting a thermostat remotely. This thermostat lets you connect via an app on your phone, and you can even control it with voice commands if you have an Alexa smart speaker. It isn’t a smart thermostat, but the Wi-Fi connectivity and compatibility with Alexa and other smart home systems set it apart from other programmable thermostats.
The main drawback of this thermostat is that it requires a C-wire, which complicates installation if your system doesn’t already have one. It needs extra power from the C-wire to run the Wi-Fi, which is the key feature.
Our top pick is the Honeywell Home RTH8560D 7-Day Programmable Thermostat based on its flexible scheduling options, compatibility with a huge variety of heating and cooling systems, and clean, modern design. If you want an upgrade and either have a C-wire, or you’re willing to install one, the Honeywell Home Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat has all the same great features with the addition of Wi-Fi connectivity, which lets you control it via a smartphone app and integrate it with your smart home.
What to Look For in a Programmable Thermostat
Compatibility and installation
When selecting a programmable thermostat, it's important to look for one that will work with your HVAC system. Most of the thermostats on this list work with single-stage heating and cooling and are compatible with various heat sources, including forced air and heat pumps.
If you have a multi-stage HVAC system, then it's important to choose an option like the Honeywell Home RTH8560D, which specifically supports multi-stage heating and cooling. Other heating systems, like heated floors and electric baseboard heaters, have more specific requirements.
In terms of installation, the only important thing to look out for is whether a programmable thermostat requires a C-wire. Most don't, but units that include advanced features like Wi-Fi sometimes do. If your programmable thermostat needs a C-wire, and your system doesn't already have one, that makes installation more difficult. "If it's your first time attempting it, you have to be very wary of the configurations of your thermostat," cautions Jameson. You may even need to hire an electrician if you don't have any experience with electrical wiring.
Programmable thermostats have three primary scheduling options: 7-day, 5-1-1, and 5-2. The first option allows you to set a separate heating schedule for each day, while the other two give you one schedule for the work week and then some flexibility on the weekend. Since 7-day thermostats are the most expensive, opting for a 5-2 or 5-1-1 will save you some money if you don’t need a separate heating and cooling schedule for every day of the week.
The easiest way to decide which type of programmable thermostat you need is to look at how your schedule varies throughout the week. According to Jameson, “7-day thermostats are best for homeowners with different work and home schedules throughout the week. Meanwhile, 5+2 or 5-1-1 can be good for families that almost have the same schedules of when they leave home and get home.”
Beyond the basic scheduling features found in all programmable thermostats, there are many extra features you may want to be on the lookout for. Auto-changeover is the most important if you live in an area that requires both heating and cooling on the same day. If you’re worried about indoor air quality, fan mode is a useful feature that lets you circulate air through your home whenever you want.
Some thermostats include upgraded displays that are easier to see from farther away and have automatic backlights or intuitive touchscreen controls that are easier to use than standard push-button controls. These features don’t necessarily improve the functionality of a programmable thermostat, but they can make it easier to use one.
Wi-Fi connectivity is an option that allows you to control the thermostat remotely via a web interface or an app on your phone. Some thermostats work with smart home systems like Alexa and HomeKit to add voice controls and other advanced functionality.
Can you install a programmable thermostat yourself?
Installing your own programmable thermostat requires a basic knowledge of wiring, but it is a job that most people can do themselves. “It's safe to install a programmable thermostat by yourself as long as you understand the right wiring to connect and have the proper tools,” according to Jameson.
Very few programmable thermostats require a C-wire, which provides extra power to more complicated thermostats, so installation is usually just a matter of disconnecting the old thermostat and connecting the pre-existing wires to the correct terminals on your programmable model. If your programmable thermostat does require a C-wire, and your system doesn’t have one, it’s best to seek the help of an expert rather than self-installing it. Jameson cautions: “It's also not advisable if you do not know your way around wiring.”
How do you program a programmable thermostat?
Programmable thermostats make use of set points, and most provide four set points per day. When you program one of these thermostats, you create temperature targets for when you typically wake up, leave the house, return home, or go to bed. You can set unique set points for every day with a 7-day thermostat, one group for the week and one for the weekend with a 5-2, and one group for the week and two for the weekend with a 5-1-1.
“For the winter season, it's highly recommended to set the thermostat at 72 degrees when you're awake and 62 degrees when away or asleep,” suggests Jameson. “For the summer season, it's best to keep the same temperature at 72 degrees when you are home and let the home be a little warmer than normal when away.”
How much money can you save with a programmable thermostat?
“According to Energy Star, homes that use programmable thermostats can save about $180 each year,” says Jameson. That savings isn’t guaranteed, though, as a programmable thermostat is only as good as the programming you put into it. Jameson recommends that “setting your thermostat at least 7 to 10 degrees lower for 8 hours a day from its normal setting will help you achieve around 10 percent less in your energy bills."
Do programmable thermostats have batteries?
Most programmable thermostats have batteries, but they aren't always required. The batteries in a programmable thermostat provide a little extra power that some of these units need to run big screens and bright backlights, and they also serve as backup power so that you don't lose your settings during a power outage. In some cases, you can remove a battery-powered programmable thermostat from the wall, program it in a more convenient location, and then place it back on the wall when you're done.
Is there a reason to get a programmable thermostat instead of a smart thermostat?
Smart thermostats offer much the same functionality as programmable thermostats, but there are significant differences. “Preference and budget can be factored in when choosing between a programmable or a smart thermostat,” says Jameson. Programmable thermostats are less expensive than smart thermostats, don’t require a home Wi-Fi network, and are less likely to require a C-wire, which simplifies installation.
While smart thermostats are more expensive and typically harder to install, they are superior in most other aspects. “Ultimately, smart thermostats are way more intuitive than programmable thermostats as they track behavior patterns and recommend temperature alterations based on gathered data,” says Jameson. “They can also be controlled from smartphones as they are Wi-Fi enabled.”
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Jeremy Laukkonen, a freelance writer and product tester for The Spruce. His home heating and AC are competently managed by a Honeywell Programmable Wi-Fi thermostat, complete with Alexa voice controls, and he has over a decade of experience reviewing electronics for outlets like Lifewire and Digital Trends in addition to the Spruce.
Laukkonen contacted Sarah Jameson, marketing director of Green Building Elements, to receive her expert opinions on the most important smart thermostat features, advice on installation and programming, and how programmable thermostats stack up against smart thermostats. With Jameson’s insights in mind, Laukkonen prioritized factors like system compatibility, ease of installation, and intuitive controls to identify the best programmable thermostats for various situations.