Well, folks, it’s official: Winter is on its way. The proof? This week, for the first time in a long time, I fiddled with my thermostat. While doing so, a distinct sense of dread hit and I thought: “I don’t want to be doing this. How can I go about winterizing my apartment so that my gas bills aren’t so terrifying?” What I was not thinking was: “How can I make this here thermostat more personalized and pretty like my cell phone?”

However, many homeowners do think about this when fiddling with their thermostats. And for them, there is the new ColorTouch from Venstar, a programmable, touch-screen thermostat designed to help homeowners save on home heating and cooling costs and give home energy management a sense of "me" through customizable wallpaper and photo slideshows.

Yep, with the ColorTouch thermostat — described by Venstar as “the thermostat that thinks it’s a digital picture frame” — the next time you crank up (or down) the heat you can look at snapshots from your family trip to Costa Rica, your wedding photos, an image of Paris Hilton eating a cheeseburger, a basketful of kittens, or Santa Claus. Whatever you fancy.

Using free ColorTouch Assistant software and a SD card (not included), homeowners can upload up to 100 photos to the ColorTouch and use the images as either a wallpaper or a slideshow screensaver. A slew of preset nature- and holiday-themed backgrounds are also included. And to top it off, customizable faceplates — white, black, silver, and wood grain — are available so that the unit matches your home décor.

Most importantly, the ColorTouch’s appearance isn’t the only thing that’s customizable. With the thermostat’s Energy Usage Information feature, homeowner’s can track their heating and cooling habits over a weeklong span and adjust accordingly when trying to conserve energy. Additionally, there’s a Vacation Setting that helps homeowners save energy while they’re away and a nifty, intuitive Time Period Scheduler feature that automatically changes the temperature up to four periods daily.

My favorite feature of the ColorTouch? An optional automatic security screen lock that requires users to enter a special pass code for access. It’s ideal for curious kids and meddling mother-in-laws who thrive in sweat lodge-esque temperatures (if she protests, just hand her a sweater and tell her to deal. If that doesn’t work, send her your next heating bill). 

According to Venstar, at under $200, the ColorTouch costs about 50 percent less than other touch-screen thermostats. Interested? Click here to find a Venstar distributor near you. What do you think of the ColorTouch? Would you invest in one when it comes time to replace an old thermostat? 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

When digital picture frames aren't enough: The ColorTouch thermostat
Want a touch-screen thermostat that helps you monitor your household energy use <i>and</i> displays a photo slideshow of your wedding? Then the ColorTouch from