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When Should I Replace My Thermostat?

In this article, we will discuss how to know when your thermostat is failing as well as solutions to accurately balance the temperature in your home and when to replace it.

When Should I Replace My Thermostat?

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Joshua Rodriguez


May 10th, 2022

HVAC equipment is essential to keep your family comfortable in Central Ohio’s variety of weather throughout the year. Keeping your energy bills down is paramount that everything communicates effectively and runs efficiently. This includes your thermostat, which frequently gets overlooked for replacements. 

A thermostat can be looked at as the GPS for your home’s comfort; if it is not communicating the correct directions to the HVAC system, it will throw it off course.

How can I tell if my thermostat is going bad?

Pay attention to how your home temperature feels. If the temperature in your home feels colder or warmer than the readout on your thermostat, then your thermostat may be to blame. Your system can also start “cycling” or turning on and off irregularly, leading to high energy bills. You can also try measuring the temperature in different rooms of your house to see if the temperature is inconsistent.

  • A dirty internal sensor

  • Incorrect wiring or a wiring issue

  • Thermostat placement in the home

  • Mechanical failure

Dirty Internal Sensor and Wiring issue

The internal sensor on your thermostat can get clogged with dust and debris. This debris will create a barrier between the airflow inside your home and the motherboard of your thermostat. As you might guess, this impacts your temperature readings. Frequently your incorrect temperature reading can be corrected by calibrating your thermostat.

A wiring issue with your thermostat can cause it to not connect properly with your HVAC system. This can cause communication issues between your HVAC system and the thermostat causing the motherboard to interpret temperatures incorrectly.

Thermostat Placement in the Home

Temperature accuracy can also be impacted by the placement of the thermostat in your home. If it is in a sunny location, it is not going to give accurate temperature readings. The ideal place for a thermostat is on the main floor of your home or in a centralized location where it is not directly underneath the sun. Your thermostat can be moved if the current location is causing issues with your HVAC, but this can be expensive as more wiring may need to be added.

Mechanical Failure

Mechanical failure of a thermostat can consist of the motherboard failing or any of the internal equipment that makes up your thermostat’s  “brain” and how it communicates to the HVAC system. If this fails, the thermostat will need to be replaced. In general, most thermostats last as long as the HVAC system.

What is Thermostat Calibration?

Thermostat calibration should be done by your HVAC professional and start with taking the temperature of your various points in your home. After that is assessed, if the temperature is plus or minus over three degrees, there is an issue with your thermostat’s functioning.

How does my thermostat work?

A thermostat is a device the primary purpose is to control your HVAC system. There are two different types of thermostats; digital and analog.

Analog thermostats measure the temperature in a home with thermal heat expansion due to the metal strip or a coil connected to the thermometer. When the temperature goes up, the metal expands; when the temperature drops, the metal contracts. The movement is what causes the contacts to connect.

These are connected to a mercury bulb. The mercury acts as the conductive material to complete the circuit. On one side, the heater connections are waiting for the mercury. When the temperature changes, the metal causes the mercury bulb to tilt towards the heating contacts completing the circuit to turn the heater or air conditioner on. Most of these thermostats are illegal because of the mercury contained inside them.

Digital thermostats and more modern, technologically advanced thermostats are more modern, safer, and operate differently. These thermostats use a thermistor, a resistor that allows electrical resistance changes with temperature. The circuit then converts that into an actual temperature reading.

Most modern digital thermostats come with a myriad of options that allow you to customize the comfort of your home, such as:

Programmable Thermostats

The programmable features of these thermostats will allow you to create schedules for varying temperatures. There are a few different ways to program thermostats that are most common with this technology:

  1. Program by the day. For example, you might have a different schedule for Saturday then you do for Tuesday. There will be a weekday and weekend schedule for many on a typical work schedule.

  2. Program by the time of day. If you have more of a fixed schedule, you might program temperatures based on your sleep schedule or errands.

This is a basic level of control that will come with the vast majority of modern thermostats, which is already a step up from many of the previous generations of HVAC equipment.

Wifi Thermostats

Most modern homes at this point have a wifi signal or phones that can access wifi at various businesses and wifi hotspots. A lot of devices are now able to connect to wifi, giving them internet access. Thermostats are no exception.

What’s the advantage of this? The primary one will be remote access to your system. Any wifi-capable thermostat, like the Trane XL824 and Trane Comfort Link II XL850, will have an app associated with it, through which you can program, change or view your home system.

The classic example here is the family that forgets to turn off (or at least turn down) the system during a vacation. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars to heat or cool an empty home, you can remotely tell the system to shut down (or at least run less often).

On a day-to-day level, it allows for customization for those with unpredictable schedules.

Communicating Thermostats

You might be confused about what precisely “communicating” means when it comes to thermostat technology. For example, doesn’t a thermostat communicate to the HVAC system already?

This means that every part of your HVAC equipment “talks” to the thermostat, actively managing your comfort based on the parameters you set.

Variable-speed  HVAC systems allow this level of customization, allowing a much larger degree of control over your home’s airflow. Imagine cruise control on your car and how the mph you set as the cruising speed stays steady, but the inner workings of your motor will change depending on the terrain and incline. Having a communicating thermostat is like having cruise control for your entire HVAC system.

Thermostat Installation

Here at Fire & Ice, we include a compatible thermostat free of charge with the installation of an entire HVAC system. Compared to the cost of a full system installation, it might seem small, but more advanced thermostats can routinely cost $500 or more.

Even if your HVAC system doesn’t need to be replaced, but you feel like you’re missing out on the benefits of more modern thermostat features, a new one can be installed anytime. The  HVAC equipment will always come first, but they’re going to have limited functioning without a control system that gives access to the full range of options.

If you’re looking to maximize the comfort and efficiency of your home,  give us a call and schedule an appointment for a consultation. Check if you’re within our service area and start that process today.

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