The short answer is yes. In recent years, many people have become more aware of their rising energy costs than ever before. Even if you take steps to lower your energy consumption, those bills seem to rise and it can be difficult to find a solution. Scheduling some essential HVAC maintenance and adding extra insulation can certainly make a huge difference. But, for many people, the answer is much simpler, and big energy savings can be made with an updated thermostat. In this article, we will take a closer look at the benefits of a modern thermostat to help you make an informed decision.
Is the Thermostat Important?
Yes. With an older model, we tend to think of a thermostat as a simple way to dial in a temperature for the entire home. It’s a set and forget system which is a big part of the problem when it comes to rising energy bills. It’s better to think of a thermostat as the brain of the entire HVAC system. A malfunctioning or out-of-date thermostat can cause a host of problems including faulty temperature readings, short-cycling, and more. These problems can lead to a loss of performance, poor energy efficiency, frequent repair bills, and even a shorter than expected lifespan for your HVAC equipment. Let’s take a look at five problems in more detail.
1. Faulty Temperature Readings
These are typically caused by dirty or bad sensors inside the thermostat that are confusing the HVAC system. The thermostat may be calling for cooler or warmer temperatures than are set on the unit which is a waste of energy. The entire system relies on accurate temperature readings to work efficiently. As a thermostat ages, the calibration of the sensors can be degraded and it may even turn on or off or change temperature unexpectedly. This can make it extremely difficult to set and maintain your desired indoor temperature for any meaningful period of time.
2. Ghost Readings
Older thermostats can register ghost readings which are not a true reading of the current indoor temperature. The trigger could be warm direct sunlight or a cold draft hitting the thermostat. Proper thermostat placement will mitigate these problems, but aging units can be prone to this behavior. It may be possible to remove the thermostat cover and clean the sensor or move the unit to a better location to prevent ghost readings. But if you have an older thermostat, it’s usually a better idea to replace it with a newer model that has better monitoring and programming features. This is an effective way to boost the performance and energy efficiency of older HVAC systems if they are compatible.
When an aging or malfunctioning thermostat is providing false temperature readings to the HVAC system, it can result in short-cycling problems. This is when the system turns on and off again rapidly without completing its cooling or heating cycling. This is a huge problem because the HVAC system will consume more energy for no reward, but it gets worse. An HVAC system that is short-cycling places the heating and cooling equipment under additional stress. Overworked components are more likely to wear out quickly and this can lead to an unexpected repair bill. HVAC systems that are exposed to these stresses also tend to have a lower than expected lifespan leading to an early replacement.
4. Accessibility Issues
The older analog thermostats lack the accessibility of modern units. The simplest units have no way to even turn the HVAC system on or off at set times throughout the day. Even the simple programmable thermostat doesn’t have the capability to make on the fly changes during the day if needed. Even small changes in temperature and timing can make a huge difference to an annual heating and cooling bill.
5. Connectivity Problems
Aging thermostats may lose a connection to the HVAC system entirely. This will prevent the user from turning the system on and off and it may be stuck at the same temperature throughout the year. This can make the home uncomfortable and nobody looks forward to freezing or baking in their homes because the indoor temperature is wrong.
What is the Alternative?
Many people are switching to newer programmable or smart thermostats to improve the performance and energy efficiency of their HVAC systems. These units may not be compatible with some older systems, but they offer unparalleled control over indoor heating and cooling. Even a basic programmable thermostat gives the user the capability to make temperature changes automatically when they are away from home. This ensures that the home is comfortable when they return at the usual time.
The next step up in terms of programmability and control is the smart thermostat. These units can be monitored and controlled remotely in real time via a dedicated app on your favorite mobile device or computer. All they need to work efficiently is a WiFi connection and if you’re going to be late coming home, you can program the HVAC system accordingly. These units have a host of handy programming and monitoring features to explore that can cut your energy costs with no loss of performance. The best models even send an alert if the HVAC system is behaving in an unexpected manner. When HVAC problems are identified and fixed at an earlier stage, the repair bills tend to be much lower.
When you consider the purchasing and running costs of your HVAC system it makes sense to protect that investment and to get the best possible energy efficiency. With a programmable or smart thermostat, it is possible to keep the indoor temperatures comfortable without breaking the bank. To further boost these positive characteristics it’s a good idea to pair a smart thermostat with a HVAC zoning system. This will give you control over the temperature in every room or zone in the home which can prevent the dreaded temperature wars.
If you’re interested in a thermostat upgrade or you want to schedule some essential HVAC maintenance, contact your local heating and cooling specialist.