Decisions, Decisions: What Kind of Thermostat Do I Need? A Buyer’s Guide for Homeowners
Did you know that the right thermostat can help you save up to 10% on heating and cooling costs per year?
Of course, finding that perfect thermostat can be a bit tricky. There are so many types, and brands of thermostats on the market, and not all of them may suit your home’s equipment and wiring.
With some solid research, however, it is possible to find that thermostat that can keep your energy bills at the minimum.
If you’re wondering, “What kind of thermostat do I need?” then keep reading. We answer this question and more in this comprehensive post!
Types of Thermostats for Homeowners
There are multiple types of thermostats out there. But don’t get overwhelmed!
Thermostats only differ in two ways: what type of equipment they control and how they themselves operate.
All thermostats measure the temperature in your home and adjust your heating and cooling system accordingly.
Electronic thermostats function a lot like miniature computers when sensing your home’s ambient temperature. They rely on circuitry and electronic elements to assess temperature and make adjustments to your home’s heating and cooling.
In fact, all electronic thermostats are programmable. This means that you can set your thermostat to run at different temperatures throughout the day.
You can even program an electronic thermostat to activate your heating system before you wake up or after you crawl into bed.
Electronic thermostats work with most heating and cooling systems, including electric, oil, gas, and hydronic systems and air conditioners.
As their name suggests, electromechanical thermostats operate in more of a mechanical way. They rely on a heat-sensing mechanical device, often coiled metal or wires, to assess your home’s ambient temperature.
Electromechanical thermostats also typically have a small vial of mercury, which completes an electrical circuit. These thermostats often appear in older homes.
Unfortunately, you can’t program electromechanical thermostats to the extent you can program electronic thermostats.
Still, these thermostats work with most gas, electric, and oil heating and cooling systems.
If you use a smart thermostat in your home, you can remotely monitor your home’s temperature. You can do so using your smartphone or your computer!
Depending on the smart thermostat, you can adjust heating and cooling in different rooms. Some smart thermostats may also be able to optimize your heating and cooling settings for maximum efficiency.
These thermostats tend to be highly efficient for this reason. While more costly than programmable thermostats, they enable you to almost 100% automate your home’s heating and cooling.
Keep in mind, however, that smart thermostats may be limited in the type of HVAC systems they complement.
Unlike smart thermostats, programmable thermostats don’t need an internet connection to operate. Homeowners control all functions on the thermostat itself.
With these, you can set your home’s temperature whenever you wish. You can even choose between different heating and cooling cycles, depending on your HVAC system.
Programmable thermostats also enable homeowners to schedule specific temperature changes. For example, you can program your thermostat to shut off while you’re away at work and turn back on an hour before you get home.
Like smart thermostats, programmable thermostats can improve your home’s overall energy efficiency. They tend to be more cost-effective than smart thermostats, even if they aren’t fully automated.
What are some well-known household thermostat brands? Here’s a brief list of what’s out there.
Nest has been around for nearly a decade and is actually owned by Alphabet, a Google parent company. Nest’s “learning” thermostats are smart thermostats designed to adapt your home’s temperature to your lifestyle.
If you’re looking for a thermostat to improve your home’s energy efficiency, Nest is for you. These thermostats have earned an EPA Energy Star. Plus, they claim to pay for themselves in energy savings in less than two years.
These thermostats range from $140 to $240. Nest thermostats aren’t compatible with all HVAC systems, though.
Honeywell is a pretty big name in the thermostat world. This company provides a full range of smart, programmable, and manual thermostats at varying prices.
These thermostats start at about $20 and are available at most local home supply stores. You can easily check your HVAC system’s Honeywell thermostat compatibility on the manufacturer’s website.
Like Honeywell, Lux is a tried-and-true thermostat manufacturer. According to its website, there are over 16 million Lux thermostats in use today.
Lux offers electronic and mechanical thermostats, including smart and programmable ones. These start at about $30.
You can even check your system’s compatibility with a Lux product on the manufacturer’s website.
Like Lux and Honeywell, Emerson offers consumers the whole gamut of thermostats, including electronic, mechanical, and smart thermostats. Emerson is especially known for its Sensai smart thermostat.
Prices for Emerson products vary, but most start at $30 and range up to $200+.
What Kind of Thermostat Do I Need? Thermostat Buying Guide
The thermostat you need for your home will depend on multiple factors, including your thermostat preferences and your home’s heating and cooling system.
Keep these tips in mind when buying a thermostat!
1. Know Your Equipment & Your Wiring
This may be the most important step in this list. Not all thermostats are compatible with existing HVAC systems, especially smart thermostats!
Some thermostats work only with furnaces and air conditioners, for example. Others may be designed to monitor heat pumps or multiple-stage heating and cooling systems.
You may also have a separate heating system and a separate cooling system.
Identify what type of equipment your home relies on for heating and cooling before you buy your thermostat!
Keep in mind that the more sophisticated your HVAC system, the more sophisticated your thermostat will have to be.
Zoned heating systems, for example, change the temperature of individual rooms at given times. If you have one of these, you’ll probably need a programmable or smart thermostat.
If you already have a thermostat in place, inspect its current wiring. This is crucial for determining if your home can support a smart thermostat.
Newer thermostats, for example, often require what’s called a common wire (C wire) to power displays and support Wi-Fi connections. Programmable thermostats, on the other hand, only need a couple of low-voltage wires.
Confused about your system’s current wiring and what it can support? HVAC professionals are always here to help.
2. Choose Your Type and Identify Compatibility
In a perfect world, what kind of thermostat would you like to have in your home?
Would you like to automate your home’s heating and cooling processes with a smart thermostat? Or will a programmable thermostat work just fine?
A lot of homeowners have to consider the budget when installing a new thermostat.
In general, programmable thermostats are more cost-effective than smart thermostats. Electromechanical thermostats will also be generally cheaper than electronic models.
There may also be certain thermostat features that you want. These include air filter change reminders, automatic temperature changes, digital display, color and size, and even geo-fencing.
In most cases, these features come down to personal preference!
Think of your home and work habits, too. Do you spend a lot of time outside the home? Or do you have a more erratic schedule? Your answers to these questions can help you decide how automated you’d like your system to be.
Of course, system compatibility may make your choice for you. Before buying your thermostat, check to see if the model you want works with your HVAC system.
You can do this on manufacturer websites or by contacting HVAC professionals.
3. Understand the Installation Process
You may or may not be able to install your new thermostat yourself. Some manufacturers offer simple user manuals and DIY install instructions for their thermostats.
It may also be easier to set up programmable, non-WiFi connected thermostats. Smart models may need the hands of professional, especially if you are unclear on wiring.
Inspect all packaging to see what route you will have to choose. Keep in mind that even DIY installs should have a professional’s eye, particularly smarter thermostats.
It’s also important to think of your thermostat’s location before you install it. Remember: your thermostat should be able to read your home’s ambient temperature as accurately as possible!
For this reason, install your thermostat on an interior (not exterior!) wall. Try to position it away from any direct sources of heat or air, such as windows, fans, or vents.
Choose Your Home Thermostat
After reading this article, hopefully, you now have answers to your question, “What kind of thermostat do I need?”
The kind of thermostat you choose for your home will first and foremost depend on your existing HVAC system. Most thermostats cater to standard HVAC systems, but some may be compatible with a select few.
Personal preference and budget can also influence the ideal thermostat for your home.
If you’re on the fence about thermostats, we recommend turning to the most trusted heating and air professionals in Seattle. We are here to help you with any heating and cooling issues, including choosing the right thermostat for your home’s energy system.
Interested in learning more? Give us a shout today!