Choosing a Thermostat

Different types of thermostats and how to choose.

You could have the most advanced air conditioning system available on the market, but without a thermostat, you wouldn’t be able to use it. This seemingly small piece of your HVAC system has a simple and important job – controlling the function of your heating and cooling system and regulating the temperature in your home.

It does this through the use of a temperature sensor combined with a switch for turning your HVAC system on and off. When your thermostat is installed and powered on, you can set the preferred temperature of your home. The built-in sensor then detects the indoor temperature and either turns your system on or off to make sure your home stays at your desired temperature.  

When it comes to the types of thermostats you can have in your home, there are two ways of classifying them. The first classification is based on the mode of operation of the thermostat and it can be considered on of two types: live voltage and low voltage. This is a technical classification and, for the sake of the thermostat types we will be reviewing,  most homes will be using a low voltage thermostat. The second classification is focused on the features and functions of the thermostat.

To help break down the different types of thermostats and to help you decide which one you might want in your home, we’ve put together an overview  of a few common types.

Programmable Thermostats

A programmable thermostat is what you’ll find in most homes and these thermostats offer basic features that let you preset your preferred temperatures. Once those temperatures are programmed, the thermostat handles the rest and will adjust the temperature in your home as needed.

For example, you can set the temperature it will need to maintain while you are at work, then another for when you are home. Additionally, you can set preferences based on the day of the week, allowing you to set temperature ranges for weekends versus weekdays. This adjustability will help you save on energy costs as your HVAC system won’t need to be on all day, every day.

Non-Programmable Thermostats

A non-programmable thermostat usually has a digital display, but does not allow for the advanced functionality of a programmable thermostat. Instead, all settings and changes will need to be manually input into the thermostat. The upside of a non-programmable thermostat is that it is an inexpensive option. However, it will require a bit more attention if you are trying to cut back on energy costs.

Mechanical Thermostats

A mechanical thermostat is the most basic type and is being phased out for newer digital thermostats. A major reason for this is that older mechanical thermostats used mercury to gauge temperature. Newer versions use a metal coil that expands or contracts with temperature changes, rendering them much safer. That being said, the expansion of a metal does not make for accurate temperature readings and there is typically a delay associated with mechanical thermostats as the device reacts to temperature changes.

While a mechanical thermostat is going to be very inexpensive compared to the other types, we recommend going with something more advanced. If you have a mechanical thermostat in your home, upgrading to a programmable thermostat will help you save on your energy costs and will help you keep your home a lot more comfortable.

Smart Thermostats

On the other end of the spectrum relative to mechanical thermostats are smart thermostats. A smart thermostat utilizes the functionality of a programmable device and takes it one step further. Also called a learning thermostat, these devices take your inputs over the course of a few days and ‘learn’ your preferences on what you want the temperature of your home to be.

Once it learns your schedule and your preferences, you can mostly leave it to task as it adjusts the temperature based on the time of day and season. A smart thermostat can also detect when there is no activity in your home and power down to save energy. When you return, it will turn back on and bring your home up to your preferred temperature.

Some smart thermostats can also be controlled remotely with a wireless device over a wi-fi network. Have you ever wanted to turn on your air conditioner when you left work so you could come home to a cool, comfortable home? Now you can! And after a few days of this the thermostat will figure out your schedule and handle this action on its own.

If you’re looking for the most functionality and the potential to save the most on your energy bill, installing a smart thermostat in your home will help get you there.

Choosing a Thermostat

Deciding on which type of thermostat to install in your home comes down to your needs and the functionality you desire. While a smart thermostat will cost more initially, it has the potential to save you money on your energy bill down the road. If you’re looking for something simple, though, a traditional programmable or digital thermostat is still a great choice that won’t break the bank.

If you have further questions about which type of thermostat would be best in your home, give us a call. We’re happy to help you not only make a decision on the type you want, but also install your new thermostat when you’re ready.

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