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How We Replace a Thermostat in Your House

Like the manual dial of vintage radios, manual thermostats have given way to modern technology, whether it is a straight-forward digital-display thermostat, a feature-rich programmable thermostat, or a high-tech smart thermostat with Wi-Fi interfacing capabilities for ultimate convenience and control of home comfort and energy savings. As with any other sophisticated device or equipment, it takes expert knowledge of how to replace the thermostat to ensure proper operation of all linked home-comfort systems.

Selecting the Right Thermostat

Today’s smart thermostats are designed to monitor and control advanced features of home comfort systems, including zoning systems, whole house dehumidification, and humidification systems and heat recovery ventilators. Smart thermostats may link with the local utilities, where available, to adjust cooling and heating consumption in response to changing energy prices (i.e., higher peak hour rates), which results in substantial energy savings.

If you are upgrading your heating and cooling systems to a high-efficiency condensing furnace, a dual-fuel hybrid system or high-efficiency air conditioner, a smart thermostat is the way to go to leverage all performance capabilities and features for peak energy savings and home comfort.

Smart thermostats are gaining in popularity, but conventional programmable thermostats and simple digital display thermostats are still the most widely used models. A digital display thermostat does not offer all of the features of programmable or smart thermostats, but is a step above manual thermostats. A digital display thermostat may offer prompts, such as filter change reminders, or cooling and heating malfunctions or errors.

A programmable thermostat offers homeowners the ability to schedule temperature changes according to your lifestyle. This makes it easy to save energy without manually adjusting the temperature several times a day. A keypad lockout feature prevents unauthorized or accidental changes. Most programmable thermostats provide six or more programmed temperature changes and three model options for daily programming. These are the three basic options:

  • A 7-day model programmable thermostat can provide a different temperature-change schedule for each day of the week.
  • A 5+2-day model offers homeowners one five-day program for work schedules and the weekend may be programmed differently if desired.
  • A 5+1+1-day model provides the same programming capability as the 5+2-day model, except that each weekend day may be programmed individually.

Thermostat Location is Important

Whether you’re upgrading to a standard digital display thermostat or a fully integrated smart thermostat, there are specific steps that your HVAC technician takes to ensure safety, system performance and installation according to manufacturer specifications. It is best to select a factory authorized HVAC contractor with certified technicians with working knowledge and experience in how to replace the thermostat.

Knowing how to replace the thermostat also means knowing where to install it. Your HVAC pro should inspect your home, scouting for the best installation location for the new thermostat. Simply installing the new model where the old thermostat had been is not necessarily the best choice.

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best location. The new thermostat must be installed in a central location on the inner walls of your home, out of direct sunlight, away from entry doors and far enough away from heat-producing systems and air streams, such as a fireplace and air-supply outlets, to take accurate temperature readings.

Inaccurate temperature readings can make home comfort an unnecessary and unpleasant chore, especially if the cause of “phantom” readings changes.

Removing the Old Thermostat

Before removing your old thermostat from the wall, your HVAC technician turns off the power to the thermostat and to the heating and cooling systems at the circuit panel or fuse box. Your technician will be dealing with wiring and electricity, so safety comes first. Once the power is off, the old thermostat and face plate are removed. It’s important for your technician to write down how the wiring was connected to the thermostat.

Even though the wires are color coded, the colors may not match the new thermostat, depending largely on the previous installation. Your technician will also note and label any wires that weren’t connected to the thermostat. To prevent the wires from slipping back inside the wall, they should be taped or tied, and left hanging out of the wall.

How to Replace the Thermostat

The technician should use a level to ensure accuracy when installing the new wall plate. The old wires may need to be cleaned, using a utility knife to scrape away debris until the copper wires shine like new. For a standard digital thermostat or a programmable thermostat, the old wiring should connect without issues to the new thermostat according to manufacturer's specifications. The thermostat is then carefully attached to the wall plate until firmly in place.

The technician turns on the power at the circuit panel or fuse box for the thermostat and cooling and heating systems. A full system diagnostics should be performed to test all of the thermostat’s features to ensure correct operability. If you have installed a programmable thermostat, your technician should demonstrate how to use all of the programming functions, including “vacation” and “hold” settings.

Smart Thermostats and Advanced Home-Comfort Systems

If you are replacing your old thermostat with a high-tech smart thermostat, then standard installation procedures for how to replace the thermostat are an entirely different matter, especially if you are installing integrated home comfort systems, such as a zoning system.

Smart thermostats and high efficiency cooling and heating systems, if you are upgrading, require the expertise of a certified HVAC technician to ensure correct operation and peak performance. The smart thermostat will need to be linked to the Internet via Wi-Fi or hard-wired, depending on your situation. If you are participating in an energy-saving program with the utility company, that will need to be set up, too.

Programming Tips for Comfort and Savings

Knowing how to use your new thermostat is equally important as how to replace the thermostat. Your HVAC technician may give you some ideas of energy-saving programs that boost home comfort while curbing your energy expenses. Use the following tips as a starting point to learning which energy-saving programs work best for your household.

  • Working hours are prime time when it comes to saving energy. If you want to take a bite out of your energy bills, program a temperature setting 10 to 15 degrees above your normal comfort setting (during the cooling months). If you would like to enjoy arriving home from work to a nice cool home, program the event change to occur 20 to 30 minutes before the usual time that you arrive home.
  • During the heating months, program your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees below your comfort setting during working hours for substantial savings in your heating bill. If your programmable thermostat has Adaptive Recovery for a heat pump or dual-fuel system, set the temperature change at your normal arrival time and the programmable thermostat will ensure that your home is heated to your comfort temperature on time without activating backup electric resistance heating.
  • Sleeping hours are another opportunity to curb energy bills. Program your thermostat to turn up or down within your comfort zone for best results. For instance, if you adjust the temperature too extremely, you may be tempted to use the “hold” feature to quickly change the temperature. Using the “hold” feature too much negates any energy savings you have achieved. It’s better to make moderate temperature adjustments and increase the temperature differences until you find a program that suits the occupants in your home.

Most importantly, make sure you select an HVAC professional who can help you choose the right thermostat for your household and one who knows how to replace the thermostat and help you with any other HVAC issues you may have. Call the professionals at today for more information. We provide homeowners in Southwest Michigan, Northwest Indiana and the greater Chicago area with quality customer service and cooling and heating solutions.

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