For most people, a thermostat is simply a box on the wall that they visit to turn up temperatures when they’re too cold. But if you have a programmable thermostat and that’s all you’re using it for, you’re missing out on an easy way to save 10 percent or more on your electric bill.

According to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, nine out of ten Americans say they’ve rarely (or never) programmed their thermostat because they don’t know how to use it – which is a shame, considering how easy today’s thermostats are easy to learn and operate.

If you don’t have one, installing a programmable thermostat is a smart move: if you use it correctly, it could pay for itself in energy savings alone the first year you own it – not to mention the wear and tear you’re avoiding on your furnace or boiler.

Here are tips to program your thermostat:

Find out what kind of thermostat you have

If you already own a thermostat, first determine if it is a programmable model or simply one you have to adjust manually. If it is a programmable thermostat, it’s helpful to know what kind of flexibility your model offers. Programmable thermostats feature different “modes”, depending on the model you own.

Program your thermostat to match your lifestyle

No matter which of these options you own, you will want to customize your thermostat so it works with the way you live. The settings you can control on most programmable thermostats include:

Wake time, Sleep time, Leave time, and Return time

Each thermostat operates a little differently, so you will want to spend a little time studying the owner’s manual to adjust these settings; considering the potential savings, it’s worth the time and effort.

Use sensible settings

The U.S Department of Energy suggests the following settings for the best balance of comfort and savings:

Heating season:

When you’re home and awake, set the thermostat for 68°F.

Lower temperatures by 7-10° for the hours you’re asleep or out of the house.

Cooling season:

When you’re home and awake, program air conditioning to 78°F.

Program the AC to shut off during the hours you’re out of the house.

In general, program heat or A/C to shut off 20-30 minutes before you leave home; return them to normal comfort levels 20 to 30 minutes before you come home.

Program reductions in heating or cooling to begin 60 minutes before you go to sleep; return them to normal comfort levels 30 minutes before you awaken.