Did you know that you can save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10°–15°F for eight hours? Sounds great, but I know when I'm rushing out the door, the last thing on my mind is turning down the thermostat.

Luckily, programmable thermostats make it easy to save without much effort. In fact, once you get the thermostat installed and programmed to your schedule, you can stop thinking about it; your home is programmed to save.

First, decide what to set your thermostat at when you are home and awake; 68°F is a good guideline in the winter. From there, program the thermostat to set back 10°-15°F during the times you are normally out of the house and sleeping. You can even program it to set back a bit before your normal bedtime (especially if, like me, you rarely sleep for eight hours!); you likely won't even notice the house cooling off. ENERGY STAR® programmable thermostats are pre-programmed with settings that will help you save without sacrificing comfort.

You might be asking yourself, "What about now, during the holiday season, when my routine is anything but normal?" Even if your schedule is suddenly hectic and has changed from the normal day-to-day, consider keeping your thermostat programmed to operate as usual. While you're rushing in and out, running errands, cleaning, decorating, or wrapping gifts, you may not even notice the cooler temperatures. If you do become chilled, you can simply temporarily override the programmed settings to a more comfortable temperature.

At my house, we follow this strategy on weekends all winter; we keep the thermostat programmed to a lower temperature because our schedule is never normal on the weekends. If we're gone or working around the house, we save without thinking about it. If we're home and lounging around, we will sometimes override the settings—or just grab a sweater or blanket.

If you're traveling for the holidays, be sure to use the "hold" or "vacation" feature to set back the thermostat for the time you'll be gone. And if you're entertaining, consider holding the temperature at a lower setting or letting your normal, lower settings stand while you have guests. The heat from the extra bodies and cooking may be enough to keep it comfortable. Check out more tips to save energy during the holidays. A programmable thermostat could even be that perfect last-minute gift idea you've been looking for!

At what temperatures do you set your thermostat? Comment here, or add to the conversation on the Question of the Week from December 11th!