How to Choose a Replacement Thermostat
- By: Cheli Scott
- Date: Nov 22 2022
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How to choose a replacement thermostat
The part of your HVAC system you interact with the most is your thermostat, but you might find yourself confused when it comes time to find a replacement thermostat. Modern thermostats offer a ton of features, often ones we don’t even use.
Energy Star found in a study that 40% of consumers don’t use their programmable thermostat’s features. Like any piece of technology thermostats have a learning curve, but learning to use your thermostat features can save money!
Fortunately technology has advanced in the past few years and smart thermostats have overtaken the manual thermostat and have gotten much easier to operate.
Now you can use your smartphone to change your thermostat over WIFI.
Some modern thermostats have voice activation, AI “learning” capabilities, and automatic automation, among other things, to make your job a lot easier.
According to Consumer Reports there are currently 64 smart thermostats that have received Energy Star certification.
That is a lot of options and can sound a bit overwhelming when you start shopping.
We’ve put together some information to help you sort through the different options and find the thermostat features that will save money.
Programmable thermostats vs. Smart thermostats
The mechanical thermostat your parents used work by the expansion of metal strips as the temperature in your home rises. When it reaches a certain point the strip completes a circuit and your cooling system starts.
It also works the opposite direction, when the strip contracts it triggers the circuit that starts your heating system. Those are the basic mechanics of all thermostats, but with modern technology there are many more options available to you than what your parents had.
Programmable thermostats work basically the same way, but they take more accurate temperature readings and a special resistor helps them activate your heating or cooling system.
While a programmable thermostat still offers some great features, it doesn’t have the same capabilities of smart thermostats. The benefit of a basic programmable thermostat is the cost. Programmable thermostats are inexpensive and easy to install.
Most programmable thermostats don’t require any additional wiring to set up, while most smart thermostats will need some electrical work to install in an older home.
What really makes smart thermostats stand out are the features that allow them to communicate with the internet. With that connection they are able to gather information about the weather, respond to voice control, and connect to your smartphone.
How do smart thermostats lower heating and cooling costs
Smart thermostats have the potential to save money on heating and cooling costs because your heating and cooling equipment is only running when it needs to be. In general, smart thermostats can save you around $180 per year on home heating and cooling costs and save you money on wear and tear on your HVAC system.
Instead of having to guess or remember to turn on or off your air conditioner, you can set pre-programmed schedules or some smart thermostats even “learn” your hours and local weather conditions to create a schedule customized to you.
While many families remember chasing around their children because they wouldn’t stop monkeying with the thermostat, smart thermostats make it easy to adjust temperatures with a smart phone interface that lets you use your handheld device as a remote.
Many smart thermostat systems offer information to consumers about how much energy you are using and when. With this data, you can make smarter choices about your HVAC system. Some even offer an energy saving mode, that helps lower costs by prioritizing energy over comfort.
What are some smart thermostat features?
Smart thermostats come with a variety of features depending on the price point you choose, but we’ve summarized some of the most common ones to look out for. Choosing a thermostat with these features will help you get the most out of the latest technology and save money on your HVAC system. Though smart thermostats are more expensive than traditional thermostats initially, they quickly make up their cost with valuable features that save money on energy bills.
One of the coolest features of modern smart thermostats are their integration with existing systems like Google Home. These integrations allow you to use voice commands to change or report temperatures. This way you can quickly change temperatures in any room as you move through the house.
Smart thermostat systems often come with more sensors than traditional thermostats. With these new data collection points, your thermostat can give you helpful suggestions like when your air filters need to be changed.
Additional sensors also give your thermostat a better picture of how your HVAC system is heating and cooling your home so it can do its work in a more energy efficient manner.
They will be able to alert you when there are sudden spikes in energy use that could be caused by problems in your HVAC system.
Advanced smart thermostats can “learn” your habits and create a heating and cooling schedule that both keeps you comfortable and saves money.
In only a few days the Nest thermostat, from Google, claims to learn your habits based on when you are home and when and how you adjust your air conditioner.
After a few days, it is able to come up with a schedule on its own based on your preferences and hours.
Smart thermostats use geofencing technology to help develop schedules to keep your home cool. Geofencing is simply establishing a virtual boundary around your home, when you cross that boundary, your thermostat knows to prepare for your arrival and adjust the HVAC system.
Easy to use interfaces
One of the reasons people in the past didn’t use their programmable thermostats to their utmost capabilities was the learning curve. Thermostats could be a little confusing to set up.
Modern UI designers have created easy to understand interfaces to make your smart thermostat easy to use. There is also tons of information on the internet about how to use whatever thermostat you choose.
Reports and Alerts
Since your smart thermostat is constantly collecting data, it is able to provide you with information you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Your thermostat can show you when you are using the most energy and deliver alerts directly to your phone to prepare for inclement weather.
How much will a smart thermostat cost?
As we mentioned before there are more than 50 Energy Star certified smart thermostats available, but the range of features available is wide. You can buy a basic smart thermostat for as little as $80, but it won’t have many of the advanced features you want and will likely only allow you to use WIFI to control your thermostat.
Higher end models get up to as much as $800, not mentioning installation costs. It’s widely accepted, however that these products quickly pay for themselves in energy bills. It’s likely you will want to have your thermostat professionally installed unless you are a confident DIYer. While some models are designed to be installed yourself, they all require a little bit of research to install correctly.
In some cases the manufacturer will insist on a professional installation, so it’s important to take these costs into account when choosing a model. You may want to save money on installation by choosing a model that is simple enough for a homeowner to install without a professional electrician.
Smart thermostat installation can be a little more pricey if you are in an older home. Smart thermostats require a C-wire, which does not usually come in old homes’ electrical wiring. In order to update an older home, you will need to contact an electrician to install the additional wiring. This can add up to $100 per hour in labor costs.
Time to buy
It may seem like there are many options for smart thermostats, take the time to review the many options available to find the right one for your home.
Smart thermostats save money and can protect your HVAC system from costly repairs with lots of data and alerts to keep you in the know on what’s going on with your air conditioning.
Don’t be intimidated by the variety of products available. You can always call an HVAC specialist for recommendations on which thermostat works for your unique situation.