- Posted by Hinged
I’m an outdoor guy. I love to swim, hike and bike ride, but I end up spending a lot of my summers sitting indoors in front of an air conditioner waiting for cooler weather. Even though I also love to ski, when we get into the short cold days of winter, I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a fire. Outside it’s always too hot or too cold. Fortunately, with modern thermostats, inside, the temperature can always be just right.
Older thermostats rely on mechanics to control your heating and cooling equipment. At their core is a fragile coil made of two types of metal. When the temperature changes the metals expand or contract at different rates causing the coil to turn. In a truly archaic bit of engineering, the turning coil is attached to a fragile glass tube with wires on the ends and a glob of mercury sealed inside. The turning coil rotates the tube causing the mercury to slide from one end of the tube to the other. As the mercury moves it contacts the wires and completes a circuit that turns your heating or cooling system on or off. These devices are still in use in millions of homes across the United States and yes if they break and the mercury spills out, your home becomes a superfund site.
Modern thermostats rely on electronic sensors and don’t contain mercury. They’re more accurate and reliable and they also incorporate clocks and computer chips with communication capabilities so that you can program your equipment from anywhere for more efficiency and comfort.
Here are ten tips for replacing your old thermostat:
- Make sure your replacement is compatible with your equipment. Some of the more elaborate and expensive programmable thermostats only work with basic systems. If you have a two-stage system or a hybrid that mixes radiant and baseboard, some of these popular thermostats may not work. Look on line or check in with customer support before purchasing.
- If there is any confusion about what type of system you have, take pictures of your thermostats and your heating and cooling equipment and send them to customer support for confirmation. Once you take the replacement out of the box and activate it, you own it, so unless you are 100% sure verify before buying.
- Pick a day where it is not too hot or too cold before trying to switch to your new thermostats. That way if you have any problems and your system is down for longer than anticipated, you’ll have a little time before your pipes freeze.
- Even though most systems work with 24 Volts at low amperage and there is only a low risk of electrocuting yourself, it is still a good idea to turn everything off before you start. The potential for ruining not only your new thermostat but also the even more expensive controls on your heating and cooling system is fairly high. Turn it off, even if it means a trip up and down the basement stairs.
- The wiring is fairly simple and most homeowners can tackle it on their own. Before you remove any wires from your old thermostat, take a picture so that if you can’t get the new one to work, you at least have the option of putting the old one back together and getting your heat to turn on. Labeling the wires helps too, but don’t count on the little stickers that come with the replacement thermostats to not slide off. For a belt and suspender approach, label, photo and write down what color wire was connected to what terminal.
- Cut off any exposed and corroded old wire and remove the insulation to expose a fresh clean section for your connections. Nicking the wire when striping the insulation can weaken it and cause it to break when being bent around a terminal so be careful.
- Wrap wire around screw terminals in a clockwise direction to keep them from popping off when the terminal is tightened and give each one a tug to make sure it is well connected before going to the next one.
- Even if you have your new thermostat installed, running and accessible on-line keep an eye on it for a few days as occasionally the wire that is supposed to provide power to the unit will not actually be hooked to a supply in the basement, and once the battery in the new unit runs down, your heating or cooling will go down with it.
- If you purchased a thermostat that advertises having learning or AI capabilities log in and check the programing every now and then, especially if there is anyone in the house that might be making temporary changes. Your new thermostat might learn from your mother -in-law’s visit that you want to turn the heat up to 75 every Tuesday from 3-11 pm for the rest of your life.
- After a successful replacement don’t just throw your old mercury filled thermostat in the trash or even a recycling bin. Call your town or refuse removal company to find out the correct way to dispose of it. You may have to wait for a hazardous waste collection day at your local facility.
If all of this seems like a lot of work or too full of potential problems, you can always have a professional like the ones available on Hinged, select and install a new unit to keep the temperature in your home just right. For those Hinged homeowners that have taken advantage of their free inspection, all the information the installer will need to select the right unit will be provided to them automatically when you schedule your appointment.