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Installing a New Thermostat and Best Practices for Year-round Use

  • February 18, 2014

Thermostats are the brains behind any heating and cooling system. Without this small device, you would not be able to control the temperature in your home for year-round comfort. That’s why installing a new thermostat is not something you should take lightly. Sure, you can complete the process yourself to save money, but you must do so correctly to ensure proper operation today and for years to come.

In this guide, learn about choosing the right new thermostat for your home and operating it according to best practices for both summer and winter use.

Selecting a New Thermostat

It’s not as simple as visiting a home improvement store and picking up the first thermostat you see. To make your selection, follow these steps:

  • Survey your HVAC system: A standard thermostat works fine with the typical furnace and air conditioner combination. However, heat pumps need a special type of thermostat that can handle setback periods without kicking the less-efficient supplementary heat on. Also, if you have a boiler, you need a thermostat with the right types of wires. If you’re not sure what your system needs, consult an HVAC contractor.
  • Determine the number of stages: Two-stage heating and cooling means the blower motor operates at different speeds based on demand. The thermostat must be compatible with this function. If you’re not sure whether your system has more than one stage, open the thermostat and explore the terminals in the back. Multi-stage cooling features y1 and y2 terminals while a multi-stage furnace has w1 and w2 terminals.
  • Verify the power source: Check out the existing thermostat. For digital thermostats, look for a C terminal. If this is present, you can use a system-powered unit. If you don’t see one, or there’s no wire attached to it, plan on purchasing a battery-powered replacement. For mechanical thermostats, it’s also best to find a battery-operated replacement. A flexible solution is to choose a thermostat that can be powered by either the system or a battery. Product packaging should identify this feature for you.
  • Compare programmable vs. smart thermostats: If you’re installing a new thermostat, chances are you’re looking for something more advanced than a non-programmable thermostat. The question is, do you need a regular programmable thermostat or is “smart” the way to go? The major difference between the two is that smart thermostats have Wi-Fi capabilities so you can program settings remotely. This step above your average programmable thermostat is ideal for people who have unpredictable schedules, travel a great deal, or forget to program settings before leaving home for the day. If you fall into any of these categories, seriously consider a smart thermostat.
  • Choose a quality brand: Dozens of options exist when installing a new thermostat. Along with choosing the right type of thermostat to fit your lifestyle and HVAC system, be sure to consider various brands. Carrier and Honeywell are two of today’s top brands that are certainly worth considering.

Properly Operating a Thermostat

With the replacement complete, it’s important to understand the best operational techniques to get the most from your investment. By using programmable settings to the fullest, you can expect the thermostat to lower your heating and cooling bills by 5 to 15 percent, thus paying for itself in energy savings very quickly. Here are the top tips for affordable heating and cooling after installing a new thermostat:

  • Set a reasonable temperature: Set the thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer. Dress for the season to stay comfortable while saving on your energy bills.
  • Run a fan: The wind-chill effect created by a fan helps your home feel up to four degrees cooler, making your 78-degree room feel more like 74 degrees. Ceiling fans are even useful in the winter. Simply set them in reverse and run them on low to circulate warm air trapped near the ceiling back down to the living space without creating a draft.
  • Use energy-saving set points: At night while everyone is sleeping or during the day while you’re at work, set the temperature back 7 to 10 degrees. Enjoy the most savings possible by using these energy-saving set points for at least eight hours at a time.
  • Override settings sparingly: Programmable and smart thermostats let you override any preprogrammed setting, but each time you do, you negate energy savings. Try changing what you’re wearing before touching the thermostat for a cost-free solution to your discomfort.
  • Use the correct hold setting: When overriding programs from day to day, use the temporary hold. This resumes the regularly scheduled program when the time comes. For extended absences and family vacations, use the permanent/vacation hold. This cancels all future programs until you instruct the thermostat otherwise. You can enjoy great energy savings while away from home by using the vacation hold.
  • Change the temperature but just a degree or two: It’s tempting to crank the temperature up or down 10 degrees when you’re uncomfortable, but this doesn’t heat or cool your home any faster. Instead, it increases the risk of tremendous energy waste when the temperature rises or lowers beyond your comfort zone. Instead of cranking it, try altering the temperature by a degree or two. You’ll be surprised what a difference it makes.
  • Consider a zoning system: Zoning is when your home is outfitted with multiple thermostats to control the temperature in different sections of your home independently. Dampers in the ductwork allow a single HVAC system to heat and cool different zones exactly the way you want. The result is enhanced energy savings and better comfort for every occupant.
  • Change the batteries: If you choose a battery-powered thermostat, make it a yearly habit to change the batteries so you’re never without heating and cooling when you need it most. Some models have an indicator light telling you when the battery is low.

For more information about installing a new thermostat, and for more heating and cooling tips and tricks, please contact Comfort Services, Inc. today.