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08 Jun 2022

What is a Thermostat?

In a general sense, a thermostat is the brain of your home’s heating or cooling system, always working to keep the temperature at a desired “set point.” In your house, the thermostat is typically located on a wall, and as it senses the temperature, it turns the HVAC system on or off to maintain the desired temperature.

How Does It Work?

Thermostats work on a fundamental principle that you learned in science class: heat makes things expand, and cold makes things contract. When the room becomes warmer, heat causes a metal strip inside the thermostat to expand to where the strip turns the HVAC system on or off. When the room becomes cooler, the metal strip contracts to the point where the strip turns the HVAC system on or off.

The benefits of thermostats are apparent. Instead of manually measuring the temperature of your house and making constant adjustments for comfort, the thermostat does it for you. Aside from the convenience, they also save money and energy because the house never gets too hot or cold. Without a thermostat, a too hot or too cold house would cause the HVAC system to work harder to get the temperature back to the desired level.

Thermostats 101: Functions, Types & More

When you’re at home, you want to make sure that the temperature is always at a comfortable setting. And you want the convenience of a device that can take care of temperature control for you. That’s what a thermostat does. Thermostats can be set to automatically adjust your home’s temperature according to the level you desire.

With all the different thermostat types available, deciding which one is right for your home can get confusing. Do you want a basic thermostat with simple settings, or do you want a thermostat with wi-fi capabilities and an app you control from your smartphone?

Whatever you desire, this guide will look at different types of thermostats to help you decide which one is right for you.

Where is a Thermostat Used?

When we think of thermostats, we think of them being used in the home. But, they are used in any device or system that needs a temperature to be maintained. That could be your home, a supermarket, the office building where you work, or even the climate control system in your car.

And the next time you bake cookies, remember that your oven has a thermostat that maintains the oven temperature at a constant 350 degrees, so your cookies don’t burn.

What are the Various Thermostat Types?

There are many different thermostats available, and some of the newer models may even be eligible for a tax credit. Let’s look at the different types and what each of them can do for your home.

Non-Programmable/Manual Thermostats:

These are the most basic types of thermostats. You might even still see the old-style thermostats with the dial for programming, but newer models also have a digital display. They are simple and don’t have any frills while still getting the job done.

Pros:

Very easy to use; just set the temperature you want. They are great for those who are not technically inclined because of their simplicity. They are the least expensive of all thermostats.

Cons:

You have to change the temperature to your desired setting manually. And you have to remember to set it when you leave the house, return to the house, go to bed, and wake up. If you forget, you’ll return to a too cold or too hot of a home. If that happens, the system will have to work overtime to get the temperature back to the desired point, wasting energy and money.

Programmable Thermostats:

A big step up from manual thermostats, programmable models give the user far more control and convenience.

Pros:

You can set different temperatures for different times of the day. You can also program it for different temperature settings on other days. For example, on the weekend, you might sleep a little later and not want the heat to start until later.

Programmable thermostats are cost-effective since they control the temperature for you. The system doesn’t have to work extra hard to get the temperature back to your desired setting because you forgot to adjust it before running out the door.

Cons:

They can be challenging to program. You have to set different temperatures, for other times, for different days. Pressing the buttons on the device to program it for the week’s temperature settings can be confusing for even the most tech-savvy people. Also, they are battery-operated, so you have to remember to change the battery when necessary.

Wi-fi Thermostats:

Wi-fi thermostats add the convenience of wi-fi to their programming.

Pros:

Like a programmable thermostat, you can set different temperatures for different times on different days. These are even more convenient since you can program the thermostat on your smartphone through wi-fi. This makes programming easier since you don’t have to get up and walk over to the thermostat to change the settings. Also, you can make changes if you are away from your home as long as wi-fi is available.

Cons:

More expensive than other thermostats. You have to have a smartphone and make sure wi-fi is accessible to both the phone and the thermostat. If your home wi-fi goes down because of provider issues or a power outage, your thermostat becomes a simple, programmable thermostat.

Digital Thermostats:

Digital refers more to the type of display on the thermostat. Most newer thermostats will have a digital display rather than the old-style dial.

Pros:

Easy to see and read; accuracy in temperature reading.

Cons:

They need a power supply for the display, usually a battery. Once the battery dies, the thermostat doesn’t work.

Smart Thermostats:

Smart thermostats are the newest, latest, and most extraordinary of all thermostat types. They can learn the temperature patterns of your home and set the temperature accordingly.

Pros:

The most convenient types of thermostats available. They are wi-fi programmable through an app on your smartphone. They have touchscreens and can learn your home’s temperature patterns. These thermostats can even monitor local weather forecasts to factor that data into setting the ideal indoor temperature. With all these advanced features, they have the potential to save the most money and energy of any other type of thermostat.

Cons:

All these features and added convenience come at a cost, making smart thermostats the most expensive iteration. They are not always compatible with older HVAC systems and can easily overwhelm a non-tech-savvy homeowner.

Which Thermostat Should I Choose?

With so many thermostats to choose from, it may seem like a daunting task. But it’s not that difficult if you think about what you want in a thermostat. If price is the most significant consideration, then a manual or straightforward programmable thermostat makes the most sense. For the most convenience and features, consider a wi-fi or smart thermostat. They cost more, but you get a lot for your money. Also, check which types of thermostats are compatible with your HVAC system.

How Long Do Thermostats Last?

In general, a thermostat lasts about ten years. Of course, this will largely depend on the make and model of the thermostat and the wear and tear that it endures over time. Issues such as dust accumulation, rusting, or wiring issues can affect the lifespan of the thermostat.

When Should I Replace a Thermostat?

A few factors may determine if you should replace your thermostat. The first is functionality. If it’s not working or not correctly setting and maintaining temperatures as it should, it may be time to replace it. Otherwise, it could be outdated or not have the functions you want. If you have a thermostat from 20 years ago and want to control it with your smartphone, it’s time to replace it.

Can I Replace a Thermostat Myself?

You might be the handy type that likes to try things yourself. With the proper tools and precautions, it’s certainly possible to replace the thermostat yourself. However, as with all do-it-yourself projects, the potential is always there for costly errors. When in doubt, it’s always best to seek out professional help for a thermostat replacement.

How Much Does a New Thermostat Install Cost?

Considering the cost of the device and the cost of labor, it could range from $100 to $450, with about half of that going toward the unit’s price.

We know it can be tough to decide which thermostat is best for you. Nick’s AC will help you choose a thermostat that is right for you and your HVAC system. Call today at (346) 471-2499 or contact us online so we can provide you with HVAC solutions that work for you.

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