Is there really a difference between one thermostat and another? The short answer is yes, but unless you’re a licensed HVAC technician, there are very few times throughout the year when that knowledge would be useful for the average homeowner. The major exception to that would be when you’re going to replace the old one, which can be done for a number of reasons. I don’t feel there is any need to explain what a thermostat is, as we all at least know it’s “that thing on the wall that has something to do with the temperature.” Instead, let’s go through the different types of thermostats on the market and why each one might be useful to you. That way, when it’s time to pick out a new one, you’ll be equipped with all of the knowledge you need to make your HVAC project a success.
Historically, there have been two major types of thermostats: manual and programmable, with the addition of smart thermostats in the past ten years. The type of thermostat that you use really depends on your personal preferences and the type of system you have in your home, so let’s go through each type and explore their differences as well as their similarities.
Manual thermostats (the old round ones you might find in your grandparent’s house) use mercury and electrodes to regulate the temperature. These models weren’t especially sophisticated or efficient as they were basically the same as thermometers you’d find on the side of a barn in the 19th century but with electricity running to it. Manual models are also called “non-programmable” thermostats. These models don’t do anything other than regulate the temperature, so they usually consist of a dial with numbers on it and nothing else. You turn the dial to set the desired temperature and then walk away confident in the knowledge that you don’t have to do anything else.
While these units are certainly the easiest to use, they also aren’t as efficient as they should be, meaning every year your utility bills will be higher than if you had a different model. Less efficient models also come with a burden. You have to return to the thermostat once in a while to adjust the temperature again to your liking, rather than having it be automatic.
Manual thermostats gave way to the more advanced programmable thermostats which had gained in popularity by the end of the 20th century. Programmable units, in addition to being able to set the temperature of an HVAC system, also provide a number of other useful features such as fan settings, date and time (for scheduling the system’s operation), reminders to clean filters, and more. These models have digital screens which make them much easier to read. If you aren’t making any changes to the fan, timer, etc, then you basically adjust the arrow buttons up or down until you get to the number of your desired temperature. Of course, these models come with standard AC maintenance such as changing the batteries and they happen to be a little more difficult to navigate because of the many settings.
However, the appeal of programmable is that, once you set them, they pretty much regulate the temperature all on their own. This means you can set the temperature and then walk away without having to worry about coming back later to turn it off because suddenly the house is too hot.
Smart thermostats are the most recent additions to the HVAC world and represent a larger evolution of all home technology in the 21st century. They have features that monitor efficiency to adjust the system accordingly without you having to make any manual changes at all and can be controlled from afar with an internet-connected device. Great for those hot summer days when you want your home to be chilly before you even leave the office. As with most things these days, the measure of its success really comes down to whether or not it can be controlled by your phone or tablet. More advanced models run internal diagnostics tests on a semi-regular basis so you can know exactly when to call the HVAC company and why.
Smart thermostats essentially eliminate the need to retain any knowledge of HVAC maintenance and/or scheduling, which allows users to fill that brain space with more useful things like who the best celebrity dancer was on tv last night or which cat video was the “absolute cutest.” As was previously mentioned, these models are representative of a larger change in technology as we move forward as a society.
Finding the right thermostat for your home really comes down to which type of system you have. It’s important to figure out whether or not the new fancy thermostat you want is compatible with the system in your home before making any purchases, which can be done with a little online research into your specific brand and model. If you’re not sure which brand or model you have, then a simple check of your air handler in the basement, attic, or maintenance closet (or where ever it happens to be in your home) will tell you all of the details you need to know on a large sticker on the front of it.
Of course, if you’re unsure about what to get or are afraid of buying the wrong thing, then you can always call an HVAC service company to take care of all of your thermostats needs. The more time and money you invest in your HVAC system, the less you’ll have to worry about things going wrong in the future.
For state-of-the-art thermostat installations or commercial thermostat services in the Jacksonville area, call J&W Heating and Air. Our service techs are available to cover any and all AC maintenance and installations that you may need to make sure your home is at the perfect temperature at all times, and in all seasons. Call us now at (904) 595-9644 to get a free estimate.