Should I Change My Own Thermostat?
One of the most common repair calls that we get is from people who install their own thermostats. You may be a "do it yourself" minded person but years of experience tells us that HVAC and electrical work should not be attempted without first having the proper training. Here are 4 good reasons why it's not a good idea to install your own thermostat...
- Most thermostats have to be programmed. The average homeowner doesn't know things like if their reversal valve energizes in heating or cooling, if they have single or two stage cool/heat, if they have a variable speed motor, if they need to select smart response, if they need to select adaptive recovery, how long to select for compressor lock out, etc.
- If you have a heat pump, make sure your new thermostat has a (C) terminal. The (C) terminal ensures that you run on constant power instead of battery power. Batteries eventually die and when that happens, your system stops running. You may want to avoid buying a thermostat from a retail store because they often sell battery powered thermostats that don't have the (C) option.
- Removing a thermostat from the wall without cutting power off to the unit can blow a fuse at the unit or worse, blow a transformer.
- Most homeowners don't know what these letters stand for that the thermostat wires connect to. (R,C,G,Y1,Y2,O/B,X,W1,W2,S1,S2,E,L) Not all thermostats are color for color so the red wire might not hook up to R terminal and the yellow wire might not hook up to the Y terminal.
In our experience, it generally costs more money in the long run to do it yourself than it does to hire someone to install the thermostat correctly the first time.
Thermostats have come a long way since the days of the old mercury style thermostats. The old mercury thermostats are far less accurate and not nearly as user friendly as the new digital thermostats. The numbers on the old thermostats are smaller and it’s a lot harder to see what the thermostat is set on, especially in the dark. The newer digital thermostats that we have today have a backlight with large digital numbers making the thermostat a lot more legible. Unlike the old design, newer thermostats don’t have a lot of moving parts which means it generally doesn’t break or require the use of a screwdriver to adjust it. Most importantly, it won’t leave you out in the cold because it has lost its calibration.
If you are a plain jane type of person that doesn’t like all the technological bells and whistles, you might be happy to know that manufactures are still producing non-programmable thermostats. As you can see in the picture above, the display is super easy to read and it’s very easy to operate also. A non-programmable thermostat is exactly as it sounds. You won’t have the option of tasking the thermostat to follow a weekly schedule such as when to turn itself on and when to turn itself off. If you set the thermostat to auto, cool and 72 degrees, it is designed to maintain that temperature within 2-3 degrees until you either turn it off or change the setting to something else.
Programmable thermostats can make life a lot easier for you if you have a set schedule that you are used to keeping. Most programmable thermostats have four settings to choose from when making a schedule which are wake, leave, return, and sleep. The wake feature is what you want the temperature to be when you wake up in the morning. The leave feature is what you want the temperature to be when you leave your home for the day. The return feature is what you want the temperature to be when you come home and the sleep feature is what you want the temperature to be when you go to sleep at night. As you might imagine, this feature allows the system an opportunity to run less (during sleep and away times) which means less wear and tear on the system and less energy is being used.
Touchscreen technology is just about everywhere these days, and many of the newer thermostats have touch screen capability if you are in to that sort of thing. Touch screen helps to minimize the need to clean thermostat buttons which tends to turn a yellowish color over time. Buttons are also prone to sticking and you can wear the contacts out behind the button which can make it unresponsive over time. This is the reason why some homeowners feel like they have to mash the button on their thermostat or press it more than once to get it to respond.
Keep in mind, not all thermostats have the same interface or touchscreen navigation for you to follow. They are all a little different in their own way. Some have small touchscreen buttons that are better suited for people with small fingers and some have larger buttons. Some have small displays and some have large displays. The other thing to keep in mind is that most touch screen thermostats have a lot more features and programming options which requires the help of a trained technician to set up the thermostat’s internal parameters properly so that the system performs the way you want it to.
Wireless WIFI Thermostats
Wireless thermostats are a bit pricier but they are state of the art and worth every penny for those individuals who want their thermostat controls at their fingertips. Having the ability to know when the thermostat isn’t working is equally as nice because you can be alerted to the problem on your phone or pc. They are great for situations where you aren’t near your thermostat but need to change the setting. You may want to reset the thermostat on your way home from vacation so that it’s nice and comfortable when you walk in the door. It’s also great for someone that is selling or renting a home that isn’t occupied and you want to set the thermostat for energy efficiency when it’s not in use but you also want the option to reset it to a more comfortable setting without having to drive there. What if you if you have family coming to your house to visit or you need to check or change the temperatures at your work place? These are all common scenarios that make having a wireless WIFI thermostat a great option for people who need immediate access to their thermostat.
Wireless thermostats are also great for those certain individuals who want to reduce their utility bill by reducing the operation time of their HVAC equipment while they are away. If you have a sudden change of plans and realize you aren’t going to be home for a while, you can access your computer or your phone’s thermostat app online or via WIFI and change the thermostat setting for however long you need to. Most WIFI thermostats allow you the capability to see your local outdoor and indoor temperature both on your thermostat and your phone. You can see if the system is running in cooling, heating or auxiliary heat. Some WIFI thermostat phone apps will alert you when someone changes the temperature in your home or if someone has walked in front of the thermostat sensor prompting it to come on. This alert feature can help you to know if someone is in your home that maybe shouldn’t be.
Some WIFI thermostats use a technology called Geofencing as shown in this map. This is where your thermostat syncs with your phone and keeps up with your location. The thermostat can automatically go into your preferred mode when you drive within a certain mile radius of your home and it can also go into energy efficiency mode whenever your phone goes outside of the circle mile radius. The Geofencing feature on the phone app will allow you to draw a perfect circle around your home or office on an app which you can set at 3 miles, 10 miles, 20 miles, however far out you want to go before your phone tells your thermostat to turn on or off.