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  • Writer's pictureRob Mitchell

New Thermostat Considerations

Updated: May 4, 2023

If you’re thinking about installing a new thermostat, below are several important considerations.


(1) You’ll need to get a thermostat that is compatible with your HVAC system’s voltage requirements. Low voltage systems are the most common. But there are also millivolt and high voltage systems.

The most common thermostat voltage for a central heating and/or cooling system is 24 volts. Your current thermostat may say somewhere on it that it is for 24 volt (24Vac) or maximum 30 volts (30Vac). If you see 120 Vac or 240 Vac on your current thermostat, a low voltage thermostat will NOT work with your system.

Low-voltage thermostats are used with central forced air heating systems such as furnaces and heat pumps, as well as central boiler heating systems. They typically have between 2 and 8 thin wires, like old telephone wires. Low-voltage thermostats do not run on the heating system’s electrical circuit. They communicate with the heater through low-voltage signals.

The line-voltage thermostat gets its name from the fact that they run on the same electrical circuit as the heating unit and use the same circuit voltage, either 120 volts or 240 volts. This type of thermostat essentially acts as a switch that supplies the heater with power.

Line-voltage thermostats are most often used with electric baseboard heaters, in-wall heaters, radiant heaters, and other single heating units. However, they are sometimes installed to control central heat pump systems, including ductless mini split heating systems. Line-voltage thermostats generally have two thick wires, like those connected to a wall outlet.

(2) Make sure the new thermostat you are considering will fit on your wall. This may seem obvious. However, if you currently have a small thermostat tucked into a tight space, the new thermostat may not fit there. You may need to rewire to a new location to use that particular new thermostat.

Also, if your home has multiple heating and/or cooling zones, each zone will have its own thermostat. That means each thermostat needs to fit easily into your current thermostats’ positions.

Here are some items to keep in mind if you are planning on relocating your thermostat. You should install it on an interior, not an exterior wall. The closer to the center of the home the better. Another option is to place it in the room where you and your family spend the most time. It will then read the temperature from that particular room to make it the most comfortable. Don’t locate it close to a window or a door, where sunlight directly hits it, or above an air vent. It will also get a more accurate reading if it is placed between 52 and 60 inches above the floor.

(3) You need to ensure the new thermostat you are considering will work with the number of stages your current HVAC system has.

The speeds at which your HVAC system runs are called stages. Your system falls into one of three different categories.

1-stage = the system only runs at one speed

2-stage = the system works at a LOW or HIGH speed

Variable speed = the system can ramp up or down its cooling/heating levels depending on what’s needed at any moment

The important thing is that your thermostat’s wiring needs to be compatible with the number of stages your HVAC system has. If you don’t already know how many stages your system has you may be able to determine it by examining the wiring in your current thermostat or consulting the owner’s manual(s). If you are uncertain, it may be best to bring in a professional.

Once you have gathered the above information on your current system you will be ready to select a new thermostat from the following four options.

(A) Non-Programmable Thermostat

If you aren't looking for anything fancy, manual non-programmable thermostats are a great option. These are most commonly used in older homes. Manual thermostats can be analog or digital. Digital versions feature large screens for easy temperature readings. They are also the least expensive option.

Any time you want to change the temperature in your home, you simply adjust the setting on the thermostat. You cannot pre-program the thermostat to change the temperature when you are away or sleeping. However, a good non-programmable thermostat will achieve energy efficiency by accurately communicating with the heating system to maintain the temperature you have set on the thermostat.

(B) Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat lets you set schedules to control your heating and cooling systems. You are able to customize the setting with different temperatures depending on the hours you’ll be home, away or sleeping. Most programable thermostats fall into one of three different programming option categories. 5-2 (one setting for weekdays and another for weekends), 5-1-1 (one setting for weekdays and separate settings for Saturday and Sunday), or 7-day (a different setting for every day of the week).

Programming allows you to reduce the amount of time your furnace or air conditioner are running when they are not needed. This can result in reduced energy bills and reduced wear and tear on your equipment.

(C) Wi-Fi Thermostat

Wi-Fi thermostats connect to a wireless network. You can access the network via your smartphone, computer or tablet. This allows you to remotely adjust the thermostat’s temperature. A Wi-Fi thermostat is also a programmable thermostat. It allows you to remotely override a preprogrammed temperature setting if you get off work early. This type of thermostat is ideal for those who want control over a home’s temperature setting even when they’re away from the house. Wi-Fi thermostats are also very convenient for vacation or second home use.

(D) Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostat models are the most advanced thermostats available. They can do everything a programmable or Wi-Fi thermostat model can, and more. Over time, the thermostat learns your heating and cooling preferences and automatically adjusts based on said learning. Many of the best smart thermostats have diagnostic features, which can detect when there’s a problem with your HVAC system. Some smart thermostats come with voice control features and are compatible with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.

You might also consider a thermostat with additional temperature sensors. It is difficult for a single thermostat to measure the temperature of an entire home. This is where temperature sensors come in. They can be separately placed in other rooms. When turned on, the thermostat also reads the sensor’s readings, adding them up in the final value. You can even turn selected sensors on/off depending on the rooms you spend the most time in.

If you’re considering a new thermostat, hopefully, the above information will help you decide what will fit your needs the best. However, if you’re not feeling confident doing it on your own, we would be happy to help.

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