When you are too hot or too cold, you typically reach for that small device on the wall. It may have a dial or it may have some fancy buttons… it may even talk to your smart phone. It’s your thermostat. This is the device that regulates temperature by turning heating and cooling devices on and off. There are so many different devices out there. Here is a quick list of common thermostats.
Manual Thermostat (Mechanical / Non-programmable)
Odds are, this is the thermostat you grew up with. Like the name implies, it allows you to set a certain temperature and it will stay at that temperature until it is manually turned up, down or shut off. If this type of thermostat is installed in a home with heating and central cooling, you need to manually switch it between modes. These used to be the most common style of thermostat but have been steadily phased out as many contained mercury.
Digital Non-Programmable Thermostat
This style of thermostat has been the common replacement for the older manual thermostats. The obvious difference is the lack of mercury and the easy to read display. These still require you to manually raise and lower the temperature and switch between operational modes.
Digital Programmable Thermostat
This style of thermostat has become the most common type used. These allow you to change the temperature without manual adjustment. Once you create and set the digital program, the thermostat will adjust the temperature on its own. Programmable thermostats offer a variety of programming options including 7-day programming, 5-1-1, 5-2 and 1 week. These allow for different temperatures at different times as well as different days of the week. The other appeal of the programmable thermostat is increased energy savings.
Don’t confuse these with “Smart” or “Learning” thermostats. The word wireless does not refer to WiFi. These thermostats primarily allow for wireless communications between the thermostat and the HVAC equipment. This comes in handy when you want the thermostat relocated to a place where running wires is not possible. Some of these units can also include the ability to add remote indoor and outdoor sensors.
Smart or Learning Thermostat
These devices have become all the rage. They range from thermostats that will learn your habits, detect your presence in the home and utilize outdoor conditions. The latest are the units that utilize geo-fencing. This will use your smart phone (and all the others in the house) to detect your comings and goings in order to maximize comfort and energy efficiency. The smart thermostats are WiFi enabled and can be managed remotely from your PC, tablet and smart phone.
As HVAC equipment advances… so too does the thermostat. In many cases these have been rebranded as “wall controllers”. These thermostats utilize unique protocols to communicate between the various pieces of HVAC equipment in order to provide more advanced features, comfort and energy efficiency. Most of these are proprietary to the specific brands and require much newer equipment. These controllers are typically smart thermostats and offer similar benefits. In addition, these wall controllers allow for advanced trouble shooting and diagnostics.
Thermostats should be chosen based on your equipment, desire for programmability and your lifestyle. The smart / learning thermostats have some specific wiring requirements so be sure to do your homework. Better yet, contact your local HVAC company to help you decide and to install the right thermostat for you.