What you should know about your smart thermostat
If you are like most of our customers, you probably have a programmable thermostat or smart thermostat. These are great for the home and keeping up on your equipment’s efficiency. As great as “smart thermostats” are, I am sure you suffer some of the same irritations we hear about from our customers. No matter what the technology is, we are always going to have questions and frustrations, so let’s get into some things that can help ease some of those frustrations.
An important thing to remember is - make sure you have and keep the user manual. This will help you with a lot of troubleshooting that might need to be done.
Some thermostats run off battery power while others need to be powered from the equipment. We have had calls where we send the technician out for a faulty thermostat and it turns out, it just needed batteries. Those thermostats usually show an indicator of low battery power.
Programmable and smart thermostats are very helpful in many ways, but there might be things that you are doing that are preventing you from getting the full benefits from your thermostat:
Setting the wrong temperature
These days a lot of people tend to overheat their homes, leading to wasted energy, restless nights, stuffy noses, and even headaches.
Everyone has a different comfort level, and it might take you a while to find yours, but it is suggested that the living room temperatures be 70°, bedrooms and other occupied rooms should be at 64° and no room should exceed 75°.
Turning up the Thermostat to heat the rooms quickly
If you’ve just come home to a cold house on a chilly winter’s day, it might seem reasonable to turn up your thermostat, but that won’t help you feel warm and comfortable any faster. The reason for that is simple: a thermostat has no control over how quickly your house heats up; all it does is set the final temperature. When you come home to a house that is only 64° and then crank up your thermostat to 72°, this can make your unit work way harder than it needs to and possibly cause issues with the performance and efficiency of your unit. Do a couple degrees at a time, and adjust accordingly from there.
Utilize a scheduled program
The best thing to do is lower your temperature when you’re not at home. Most electronic thermostats are capable of a schedule so you can have it turn the temperature down while not at home. The thermostat will “teach” itself an algorithm of how long it takes to get the conditioned space up to the setpoint you want by the time set in the schedule. As long as it is not a big spread in temperature, it is an efficient way to save energy.
Turning the heating off instead of using a setback temperature
A lot of people turn off the heating completely when they leave the house. This can put your home at risk for mold growth and, in extreme conditions, burst pipes. Getting the recovery temperature can take a while and might require a bit of experimenting. The average home needs approximately 1 hour to warm up by 10°. So, if you like your home at a comfortable 72°, your setback temp can go down to 62-65° and have the time to get your home to your comfort level when you arrive.
Thermostats measure the temperature of the room that they are placed in via an air sensor and/or a floor sensor. These readings are key when programming setback temperatures and assist in running an efficient heating system. If your thermostat is installed in a very cold or overly warm room, it may not correctly reflect the true temperature of your home.
*We recommend installing a thermostat on interior walls, at an optimal height of 60” from the floor. Thermostats should not be installed near windows or in direct sunlight and they should be positioned away from heat sources such as fireplaces, lamps, ovens or other electronic devices that may produce heat. If it cannot be moved and is around the conditions listed above, have a thermostat installed that has a remote sensor that can be mounted in a more suitable location.
Turning the thermostat up instead of putting on an extra layer of clothing
Did you know wearing an extra layer of clothes can increase the temperature you feel by up to 5°? Lowering the average temperature in your home by 2° can save up to 10% on your heating bills. In other words, putting on a sweater or wrapping up in a warm blanket while you relax on your couch, allows you to set the thermostat at a lower temperature and can save you roughly $185 per year on your average heating bill.
Not checking the troubleshooting guides if the thermostat isn’t working correctly
Like all technology, sometimes your thermostat may encounter a problem or two, but more often than not, any issues can be quickly resolved by reading your instruction manual and learning how to use your thermostat’s features. YouTube is also a good resource for troubleshooting your thermostat, but the manufacture is the best source. Most offer a consumer option in their phone system so they can walk a homeowner through an issue without having to pay a professional to visit.
Using a simple on-off thermostat instead of a smart thermostat
If you are not tech savvy or just don’t want to deal with the technical details of a smart thermostat, a manual thermostat offers simple functionality and ease-of-use. There is no need to program a manual thermostat, instead you can control your heating system with a flick of switch or twist of a dial for immediate heat.
Now that we have shown you ways to get the most out of your thermostat, here are some pros and cons of using a smart thermostat to help you decide if this is the best option for your home and your sanity.
Smart thermostats save you money
One of the first questions that likely come to mind when considering a smart thermostat is “does it really save money?” In short, yes it does, but how much specifically will vary by usage, home conditions, and occupancy.
Set it and forget it
Over time, a smart thermostat’s ability to predict your coming and going improves, and in turn, can more accurately control the temperature in your home. There is a bit to do for the initial setup, but once it is done, smart thermostats tend to take care of themselves, with minimal adjustments. The flexibility and adjustability mentioned above is the first upside for programmable thermostats. If your home is empty all day while you’re at work and the kids are at school, set the temperature a few degrees colder during the day, and have it begin to warm up about an hour before you get home.
*Note: Adaptive Intelligent Recovery (AIR) is a learning algorithm and can take a couple weeks to fully determine how far in advance to turn on your equipment. You may notice that the thermostat is engaging earlier than it should, however it will be continually learning your HVAC equipment’s efficiency and become more accurate with use.
Control from anywhere
Some models have an app that you can use, allowing you to check-in, change temperatures, and monitor your energy uses from anywhere. This is very helpful when you are on vacation or a quick trip out of town for the weekend.
Installation can be a hassle
Installing a smart thermostat requires a little bit of elbow grease. If you’re not comfortable dealing with the wires in your walls, or navigating studs and drywall when mounting the thermostat, you may have to hire a technician to come out and get everything set up. Keep in mind that not all heating systems are compatible to allow the thermostat you may desire.
Benefits depend on occupancy and other factors
If you have a lot of traffic in and out of your home, this can largely affect the way a smart thermostat makes adjustments. Same goes for the age of the home. If your insulation value and windows are in poor condition, no thermostat will save anything in heating cost.
Can be expensive
Though some of the newest smart thermostats are becoming more affordable, the most fully featured models currently available can get pricey. In most cases, you’ll be looking at paying over $200 for a smart thermostat, and if you need it professional installed, it can run you up a bit more.
Buyer beware: When you are shopping for a thermostat you should confirm if your thermostat is compatible with your unit and if it relies on the power that is provided by your HVAC system. If it does, you will need 24-volt power to the thermostat.
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