Where Should Your Thermostat Be Located?

Thermostat_shutterstock_92965054Thermostats control the operation of heating and/or cooling systems in your home. Proper location, maintenance and operation of your thermostat keeps indoor temperatures comfortable and can save on utility costs.

Your thermostat should be located on an interior wall near the center of your home. It should not be in direct sunlight or near radiated heat from fireplaces, radiators or other heat sources. Generally, the thermostat is placed outside the kitchen. It should also be away from doors and windows that open and close frequently. Thermostats are generally located about five feet above the floor so they can be read or adjusted easily, and they may be controlled by a gauge, a dial or digitally with a panel of buttons. Thermostats should be assessed as part of a home’s general mechanical system during a home inspection.

Most thermostats for gas-fired appliances also have a variable anticipator to help prevent overheating. The anticipator “fools” the heating unit into shutting down just before the room hits the set temperature so the heat remaining in the furnace finishes the job.

Whenever changing a thermostat or performing routine maintenance, it’s a good idea to make sure the settings for the anticipator are correct.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

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It’s Cold: Turn the Thermostat Down — I Mean Up

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Thermostat_shutterstock_92965054As property inspectors, we are frequently asked to explain how various components of a home work. For example, if someone has never owned a heat pump, then a heat pump would certainly generate curiosity. The same holds true for any number of components, and we are happy to explain them. That’s part of our service and especially important to a first-time home buyer.

One of the calls that we receive with more frequency pertains to thermostats. Today’s programmable thermostats are nothing short of computers. Some even give weather forecasts and the like. Throw in phone apps, where a homeowner can adjust the thermostat from afar, and you get a lot more “this-thing-isn’t-working” calls.

Most professional inspectors become very familiar with programmable thermostats and are happy to explain them to the homebuyer. Let your inspector do so, or take the time to learn how to program your thermostat yourself. Don’t end up setting your thermostat to where you want it and pressing “hold.” That won’t affect the intended energy savings.

A couple of throwback stories pertaining to thermostats: I remember doing an inspection on a small house in the dead of winter and it was very warm inside. The prospective buyer commented that since the house was so warm it must be well insulated. That wasn’t the case. The thermostat was simply cranked all the way up. Another homeowner had sweating, poorly insulated single-pane windows. He figured out that if he turned the thermostat way up, the sweating went away. (Warmer air holds more moisture.) This didn’t fix the problem, but the thermostat helped to hide it.

In short, thermostats control the HVAC, which in turn leads to our personal comfort. And used correctly, they can save energy and more to the point, save you money.

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Why Get a New Programmable Thermostat if the Old One Still Works?

Submitted by Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

Thermostat_shutterstock_174184994Improving the efficiency of your home’s heating or cooling system may not require replacing the entire furnace and/or air conditioning system. One of the easiest and most effective changes you can make to your overall energy cost is replacing the one thing most people never think about as an effective means of conserving energy: your thermostat.

Thermostats are the one thing that control the temperature in your home, and the better they can do it, the more efficiently your HVAC system will run and the lower your monthly bills will be. However, your basic thermostats are not sophisticated enough to respond to your individual needs, such as adjusting temperatures at preset times during the day and night, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Newer thermostats have the ability to control themselves.

With an old dial-style thermostat, or even an older digital model, you have to manually set the temperature every time you want to adjust it. But newer, programmable thermostats remember what temperature you want your home to be at different times of the day and automatically adjust the temperature accordingly.

There are different types of programmable thermostats designed to fit a variety of preferences. The most common have two settings: weekday and weekend. Others are programmed for weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Some may have a unique setting for each day of the week, and some are can be controlled over a network using a portable device such as a smartphone. Almost all allow you to set a heating and cooling temperature and a start time for morning, day, evening and night, providing you with a comfortable house no matter what your schedule is.

The benefit of these new models over older thermostats is that you won’t have to pay for heating or cooling while you are not home. No forgetting to turn off the heat at night and racking up your bills, and no more struggling to cool your house all the way down after turning your AC off for the day. And, because a sophisticated thermostat will correct your temperature quickly, you really won’t ever notice the difference.

TemperaturesFor the greatest energy savings, you want to lower your heat setting and raise your cooling setting by at least 5 degrees during “off” periods. Changing your nighttime settings alone can significantly reduce your monthly energy use. This is something that’s outright impossible on old dial thermostats, and while there are older clock-style thermostats that do have programmable “zones,” there’s usually only a single “hot” and “cold” setting, which can actually lead to more discomfort, as they’re not designed to fit your schedule.

On the other hand, a newer programmable thermostat is designed to keep your home comfortable year round, through all portions of the day, with only a single programming. Some high-end thermostats don’t just give you control over time and temperature, but they also let you choose where that heating or cooling is going, with multiple temperature sensors in several areas of your home. These sophisticated thermostats allow you manage the temperature on a room-by-room basis. Modern thermostats are also much better about controlling the humidity in your home, and many can actually be specifically programmed to attain and maintain a specific humidity level, either throughout your entire home or in a specific area.

One of the most significant differences between an old thermostat and a new one is that the high-end thermostats do a lot more than control your home’s climate. They’re linked directly to your heating and cooling system and can actually help you maintain your whole system by checking for air quality and giving you periodic maintenance reminders. Some of them can even be linked to your smartphone, allowing you to receive maintenance updates directly and allowing you to control your thermostat remotely.

Even if your old thermostat still seems to be working just fine, a programmable thermostat can help you reduce energy consumption and lower utility costs while improving comfort.

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Making Your Thermostat Work for You

Submitted by Mike Hunger, NPI Franchise Owner, Winston-Salem, N.C.

My dad was a Marine. Until I reached age 15Thermostat 55 Degrees Heat and he retired, we moved around a lot. We always stayed in base housing or rented a house somewhere near the base.

One of my memories of those times was the fact that Dad was in control of this magical thing called the “thermostat.” I thought it was an interesting device, and I understood that it controlled how warm it was inside during the winter — we didn’t have AC. He would set it at a particular temperature, and it would click, and then there would be heat.

Later, when I was usually the one responsible for the temperature settings in our abode, I began to take an interest in how this thermostat thing worked. Dad was an aircraft mechanic in the Marines, and usually repaired everything we had, so he was forever tearing things apart and figuring out how they worked. Curiosity — and saving money — drove him.

Thermostats were pretty simple devices back then. You would slide the little tab along a temperature line to keep the interior temperature at the setting you (or your spouse) preferred. Simple.

Then came the digital age. Most of the houses I inspect today have digital thermostats. They are more complex, but they offer many more options, and they are more accurate.

Programmable thermostats are relatively new, and have become more popular as a way to save money on heating and cooling costs. At first, they may seem a little intimidating, but once you understand the basics of how they save money, you’re hooked.

Most simple programmable thermostats are fairly inexpensive — $60 to $90 at most home improvement stores. If used properly, they can pay for themselves in the first year in energy savings. That’s not bad. Not many things have a return on investment that quickly. Programmable thermostats save on costs by allowing you to set the temperature to several different settings over the course of 24 hours. But it’s important to understand a few simple rules to achieve those savings.

First, be careful if you have a heat pump for your HVAC system. Most heat pumps have an auxillary heat, and that will eat up any savings you might gain by adjusting the temperature higher or lower when no one is home. If you program the heat too low when you’re away during the day, and the house has to heat up significantly, the auxillary heat will kick in to rise the temperature quickly. Auxillary heat is commonly known as “strip heat” or “resistive heat” and consumes a lot of energy when used. The trick is to make sure your temperature setting does not vary more than three or four degrees. That may not seem like much of a difference, but it definitely will save energy if not exceeded.

Second, it is important to understand that it takes a lot of energy to change the temperature inside a structure by just a few degrees. If you have ever walked into a house that had the HVAC system off, and you turned it on to heat or cool the house, you’ve probably noticed how long it takes to move the temperature up or down. That’s because you are attempting to change the temperature of the whole structure, not just the inside air. It’s physics.

Finally, remember that you can change the temperature with a programmable thermostat in steps. I like to “step down” the temperature for sleeping during the cold months by changing it one to two degrees an hour or two before sleep, then again during the night. Then I “step up” in the morning before we rise. That makes it easy on the system and saves energy.

There’s a whole new type of thermostat out there now, and it’s pretty cool. You can program your house temperature via your smart phone. I like that, but remember, the same basic rules of physics still apply. Don’t get too crazy with that dial!

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Cold Room? Your Thermostat Could Be the Culprit

Submitted by Lawrence Englehart, Global Property Inspections Franchise Owner, Nova Scotia, Canada

photoMany factors can influence the temperature in any given room. As a home inspector I’ve seen baseboard heaters hidden behind thick drapes, furniture or even behind the bed. It is important to note that electric baseboard heaters can operate at extremely high temperatures and, for safety, all manufacturers recommend keeping electric cords, furniture, draperies and any other blocking material away from its surface, as it can negatively affect heat distribution and could even become a potential fire hazard.

If this is not the situation and you still have a cold room, then I would suggest focusing your attention on the type of thermostat you’re using. A lot of older, mechanical thermostats have a dial with a range of temperature printed on the cover, and some even had a defined area that was referred to as the “comfort zone.” Not only did these types of thermostats make it difficult to know the actual room temperature, but some were also known to have a high differential (±4°C).

Differential refers to the temperature range that the thermostat operates between on and off — in other words, between heat and no heat. For example, if the room was set to 20°C and the thermostat has a 4 degree differential, then the actual temperature could be anywhere between 18°C and 22°C.

If you are currently using this is the type of thermostat, then I would recommend upgrading it to an electronic programmable model. Programmable thermostats allow you the flexibility of accurately setting the temperature for each of the seven days of the week, plus there are at least four settings per day. Since the majority of these units will also have a digital display, this should make it easier to read the real temperature of the room. Think about choosing a model that is easy to operate.

Thermostats for electric baseboard heaters are typically line-voltage types, as they are powered by the same voltage as the baseboard heater (i.e., 240 volts). As such, this is a project that would be best performed by a licensed electrician and not by your typical DIYer.

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