The thermostat is the central hub of the HVAC system. It gives homeowners control over their furnace and AC units. Not all thermostats are the same. Over the years, thermostat technology has evolved for more customization and energy efficiency. Choose the best thermostat here at HomElectrical while we break down the different categories of thermostats.
Traditional analog thermostats, or mechanical thermostats, are the original and most basic kind available. Although mechanical thermostats are the cheapest option, they do come with some limits. For example, the temperature setting must be changed by hand with a turn dial or sliding switch.
A knob or pin shows the room temperature and furnace temperature. Keep in mind that analog may not always show the true temperatures. An analog thermostat can be off by up to 10 degrees in some cases. If you want to be able to set different temperatures for different times of day, you'll need one of the programmable options below. But if cost is your only concern, analog is the way to go.
How they work
Most analog thermostats work using a bimetallic strip. Two different pieces of metal expand and contract based on the temperature. Like a light switch, as the strip moves it will open or close the contact to turn the HVAC on or off. Analog thermostats feature only 'on' or 'off' settings for heating or cooling and fan positions.
Digital thermostats are an electronic version of the analog thermostat. They include an easy-to-read display and are most often used to replace aging units. Although they are electronic, they still need to be controlled manually from the mounted thermostat. The display will show modes for heating and cooling, as well as a fan control position to 'on,' 'off,' or 'automatic'. The automatic feature will shut off the AC once the home has reached the desired temperature.
How they work
Digital thermostats work in the same way that the mechanical thermostats work. The main difference is that the electronic thermostats sense temperature changes with electronic controls and connectors instead of a bimetallic coil. Digital thermostats are much better at reading the temperature than the mechanical ones.
Programmable thermostats (also called "setback thermostats" or "clock thermostats") a type of digital thermostat that can be changed to fit your needs. Programmable thermostats clearly display in numbers the temperatures of both the room and the HVAC unit. They must be set up by hand from where they're mounted on the wall. Unlike a plain digital thermostat, a programmable thermostat can be programmed. It has controls for setting the day of the week, the time, and the temperature. Homeowners can save up to 10% on electricity costs every year by switching to a programmable thermostat.
How they work
Using a programmable thermostat’s controls, a homeowner can set their AC unit and boiler to specific temperatures based on the time and week day. Here's an example: If someone lives alone and works Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., they can program the thermostat to allow uncomfortable temperatures (much colder in the winter or much warmer in the summer) between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Between working a full day and commuting to a job nearby, this is the time of day they're guaranteed to be out of the home. They may program the thermostat to turn on at 5:30 p.m. to start heating or cooling the space to a comfortable temperature. Then they can walk into a house that is a pleasant climate. Programming also means you don't have to remember to adjust the thermostat on the weekends, before leaving the house, or before going to bed each night. The unit does all the adjusting automatically once the desired settings are established.
Smart thermostats bring the latest and greatest technology to the world of thermostats. Smart thermostats take programming to a whole new level because they can learn! A smart thermostat will learn your preferences and adjust accordingly. For example, a sensor can be set up to notice if no one is home and automatically shut off the AC or heating units.
The thermostat can be controlled through the high-quality display on the wall-mounted unit. You can also use the thermostat's companion app from a smartphone or other mobile device. This allows you to monitor the temperature of your home while you're at work, school, or even on vacation.
As a bonus, many of the apps come with detailed statistics about heating and AC usage so that you can optimize power savings. HomElectrical carries a variety of smart thermostats from leading companies like
How they work
Unlike other thermostats, a smart thermostat is connected to both your HVAC system and your home Wi-Fi network. The connection with the Wi-Fi allows the thermostat and mobile app to communicate with each other.
Smart thermostat installation is relatively easy. But it's important to note that some systems may not be compatible with all forms of this newer technology. Most brands provide compatibility lists online so that you can make sure your system can function with a smart thermostat before you buy one.
There are numerous options when it comes to finding the best heating and air solution for your space. Consult with a certified electrician before choosing your thermostat. Here is a quick wrap-up of the features of each of the thermostat types discussed so you can find what works for you.
Be sure to check your HVAC compatibility before making a purchase, and don’t be afraid to reach out to us at HomElectrical with any questions.
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