Programmable and Wi-Fi Thermostats
Let’s talk about the one piece of equipment most of us tend to ignore – the thermostat. Modern thermostats have advanced far beyond the wall dial you knew growing up. Today, thermostats offer a wide range of features that can match your needs, style and level of comfort with gadgets. Today we will be talking about the benefits of programmable and Wi-Fi thermostats.
Because the average household can spend $2,000 a year on energy bills – it makes sense to find ways to increase savings. The EPA’s Energy Star program has reported that homes with programmable or smart thermostats can save up to $180 per year on heating and cooling, by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings. In addition to energy savings, a new thermostat will also help extend the life of your HVAC system overall.
Depending on the make, model and features, a new thermostat will cost you more to buy initially. However, when you think about the fact it can save anything up to 20% on your energy bills, they can pay for themselves in just one year.
When it comes to the benefits of the newer thermostats, accuracy of temperature isn’t the issue when selecting which unit to install. Consumer Reports found that many on the market are not intuitive to install or use. Today’s thermostats are basically micro-computers. But you should not have to read a manual to install or simply set the temperature in your home.
So what are a few basic considerations when purchasing a new thermostat?
Interestingly, thermostat selection has in many ways become a choice of your style and personality. Are you someone who prefers to do things once and then forget about it? Do you want your appliances to communicate with you, or even each other? For you, is aesthetics important? When shopping for a thermostat, all these questions can influence the make and model you purchase. As the old car commercial said (kind of), “this isn’t your father’s thermostat.”
Adding a programmable thermostat often is an easy project that you can quickly do on your own. You simply purchase a thermostat, read through the instructions, remove the old unit from the wall, and wire in your new thermostat. However, to save yourself time and frustration, be sure to do a bit of research before you buy. Know what features you want, the benefits of a particular make and model, and most importantly, make sure the model you want to install is compatible with your HVAC system. Most units are universally compatible but there are exceptions — so CHECK before you buy.
Non-Programmable vs. Programmable Thermostats
Traditionally, thermostats have fallen into two categories: non-programmable and programmable. Non-Programmable thermostats are the most affordable, but very antiquated. They require a manual temperature setting and manual setting of heat or cool to cycle your HVAC unit, and can be rather imprecise. There still are non-programmable options on the market. While they may have a LED display, you still have to manually turn on/off and raise or lower the temperature.
Programmable options come in a variety of different designs. Programmable thermostats offer a digital interface designed to adjust the temperature according to a series of programmed settings that take effect in both summer and winter – when you are home, asleep, or away.
The most basic models allow you to choose a temperature for the morning and one for the afternoon or evening. Others will allow you to choose different times for different days. Touchscreen technology is found in most models. A benefit of the lack of buttons is a reduction of the chance of pressing something you didn’t mean to, resulting in the need to re-program the unit. Another plus is that touch screens eliminate the need for you to pour over a paper manual because everything can be accessed just by touching the screen.
Neither of these style thermostats come close to the technology available with today’s Wi-Fi thermostats.
Wi-Fi, Wireless or Remote Access Thermostats
A wireless thermostat is just like a programmable unit, but if you want the freedom to access your HVAC system and/or control what your system is up to when you’re not there.
As a part of the growing trend in “smart home” technology, these models allow you to control your thermostat from a remote location via your computer, or iPhone, Android or Windows smartphone. They build upon the basic temperature setting, scheduling and digital interface options of non-programmable and programmable thermostats with a variety of added features. Some of these features include improved energy efficiency and feedback, remote programming, geofencing, learning and alerts. Many employ multiple sensors to monitor temperatures in various parts of the home, and can even detect and adjust temps if a room is occupied. Through manufacturer apps, some can collate data on your energy usage to help customize your heating and cooling schedule. Another very useful extra you can get with a wireless thermostat is that various models allow you to set warnings so that if the temperature in your home gets too high or too low, you will receive an alert via email or text.
The four primary disadvantages of this type of unit is: 1) they are more expensive; 2) you must have working internet access in the home and wherever you are when you want to check on your HVAC system, 3) they have a certain degree of comfort with smart technology, and 4) not every remote access thermostat works with a home’s existing HVAC system.
Regular thermostats let you adjust the temperature in your home—it’s just a control panel for your heating and air conditioning system. Programmable thermostats let you set the temperature and have the thermostat change it based on the time of day. What makes most smart thermostats so “smart” is that they learn from your behaviors, allow you to control the climate in your home remotely, show you energy consumption in real-time, and can even adjust themselves based on ambient conditions like humidity.
Choose your model of thermostat carefully
• A new thermostat can be an investment in your home. Do some research and make your selection wisely.
• The type of HVAC system in your home. Is the model of thermostat you want compatible with your system?
• Some thermostats are not designed with large fingers in mind and others use complicated interfaces so it’s hard to easily choose which option you would like.
• A thermostat with a lot of cool features may be great but will you actually use those features. Be realistic and know how you most likely will use and how often you are likely to pay attention to the thermostat. Why pay for features you may not ever use.
• Consider your past behavior with the current thermostat and what other automated ‘smart’ systems you already have in your home. What user type are you?
If you’re the type who religiously turns the thermostat off when you leave the house, and then turn it back when you come home, you may be able to get away with a more affordable programmable thermostat instead. You’ll get all the energy savings, without the hassle of adjusting it yourself every day.
If you don’t have a programmable model, or if you’re the forgetful type who’ll leave the AC or heater running all day even if you’re not at home, a smart thermostat will really save you some money. The learning models can take all of the hassle out of managing your home’s temperature, so you can just go about your daily business and let the climate in your house take care of itself.
If you’re the type who loves data and loves tweaking systems to improve them, a smart thermostat will definitely save you money on your energy bill. You can obsessively check your thermostat’s mobile app to see how much money you’re saving or energy you’re actively using, and use the web apps to plot out how much more you can save if you adjust the temperature by a few degrees here or there.
• Lastly — be realistic about your level of comfort to install a new unit. Don’t hesitate to have your HVAC service technician come in to ensure your investment is properly installed. A good time to speak with your HVAC specialist to help you selecting a unit that is right for your system is during your spring AC check up!