Thermostat Troubleshooting

Thermostat problems can arise from a number of common problems.  Thermostat troubleshooting is usually the first place you start when your heating or cooling system isn’t working as it should. This is simply because thermostats are relatively easy to troubleshoot and if found to be the cause of all the trouble they are relatively simple and more often than not, less expensive to replace. Most DIYers and handymen will be able to replace a malfunctioning thermostat and just about everyone is able to embark on some thermostat troubleshooting thanks to this guide.

Getting started

Before we start with the thermostat troubleshooting exercise, it is necessary to clarify some terms. The setpoint temperature is the temperature the thermostat has been set it. The room temperature is the actual temperature. The idea is to have them as close as possible.

The thermostat will be connected to heating and cooling equipment, one of which will always be on if the thermostat is doing its job correctly. Many times in warmer climates the thermostat will just be connected to an air conditioner which will be on when the room temperature is above the set point temperature and vice versa.

  • Turn off all power before you begin just to be safe.
  • Confirm that the thermostats thermometer is working correctly by comparing it to the results on another thermometer, preferably a digital one whose results are generally more accurate.
  • To confirm if the thermostat is battery powered or not open up the cover. There are a number of connections. The thermostat is battery powered if the ‘C’ connection has no wire.
  • Check that the batteries are the correct ones and replace if necessary.
  • Ensure that there is power supply to the thermostat by checking that the backlight is on. At the same time double check that both the heating and cooling equipment is switched on.
  • Some thermostats do not use batteries; instead they gain their energy from the equipment that they regulate. If there is a malfunction with the heating system it will look as though the thermostat is faulty.
  • If the erratic heating is not sudden, it may simply mean that the location of the thermostat is not ideal. If it is located in a draughty area or a particularly warm area this can affect the way it behaves.

If you have chosen to replace the device after some in depth thermostat troubleshooting remember to look for one that uses power from the air conditioner or heating system, instead of an independent power source, that also comes with a battery backup. This is called power stealing technology. The reason for this is because programmable thermostats with their own power supply will lose their programs every time there is a power cut. Reprogramming a thermostat that may have a series of complex settings can be tedious. Having a better backup will eliminate this problem so that even when the equipment is out of action due to lack of power, the programmes are retained.

Thermostat Replacement

Thermostats can be found in just about anything that needs to be maintained at a specific temperature. Thermostat replacement is something that is necessary for the appliances that use them. This includes fridges and freezers that need to stay cold. Getting too cold can damage food and not staying cold enough can spoil it. Oil heaters for example also have thermostats to stay within the heat settings. Without this the heater would simply get hotter and hotter making the environment unbearable not to mention using an enormous amount of electricity in the process. Hot water cylinders are a massive drain on electricity; they too maintain the temperature of the water. By setting the thermostat slightly lower you can save on your electricity account.

When to consider thermostat replacement

The heating and cooling system in homes and even in bigger buildings is controlled by thermostats. Many of the newer buildings are equipped with modern looking touch screen digital thermostats while older building still have the ones that are adjusted by turning up a dial to the desired temperature. These older style ones are still so common because of their simple and easy to maintain design and many times you do not need to consider thermostat replacement, but rather a cleanup.

While it is true that older thermostats eventually do require replacement due to general wear and tear, they also have less functionality than the newer models in the ranks of digital and programmable thermostats. Some common indications requiring thermostat replacement include:

  • Erratic temperatures are a sign that the thermostat is not measuring the temperatures correctly. This can create a level of discomfort or inconvenience.
  • An increase in electricity bills is another indication that something has gone wrong with the thermostat, especially if the change is sudden

Some tips to consider when replacing the thermostat

It may be that you have decided to replace the thermostat to your home’s cooling system yourself. With a bit of DIY knowledge behind you here are some tips to consider before you get started.

  • Purchase a thermostat that meets your needs. Thermostats with higher levels of functionality are great but they are sometimes as much as three times the price. Rather purchase a thermostat that meets your requirements as well as fitting in with the style of the home.
  • Placing the thermostat is important because its functioning is based on the air directly around it. A thermostat high up will be surrounded by warm air and so will one that is near a window that receives plenty of sun. Some people prefer to hide the thermostat away in a cupboard forgetting how much cooler it is inside a cupboard than in an area where there is a free flow of air.

A thermostat replacement technician may need to be called in to make sure that it has been properly installed in the correct area. Once you have your new thermostat you can enjoy a reduction on your electricity bill.

Digital Thermostat

Digital thermostat technology has numerous features and advantages for modern living. You will find that many homes are still fitted with the older style thermostats which are based on the mercury switches and copper coils. While the principles behind these thermostats are simple yet ingenious they are making way for modern technologies to take over.

Digital thermostats no longer just control room temperature; they add convenience to the equation as well. Many are designed specifically for businesses that have the highest electricity consumption. By using a programmable digital thermostat they are able to automatically adjust heating and cooling during off peak times. The main benefit is energy saving while providing maximum comfort at the same time.

What is a digital thermostat?

As opposed to the old thermostats that contain mercury switches and bimetals the digital thermostats use a thermistor instead. The thermistor senses the temperature of the room, just as a regular thermometer does, judging from the air that enters the ducts. The setpoint temperature is what the dial is set to and the thermistor then goes to compare the setpoint temperature to the current temperature of the surrounding air.

The advantages of going digital

  • Digital thermostats have a wider range of functions.
  • They can be set to run various cycles during the week or over week-ends.
  • Touch screen thermostats are sleek and modern looking.
  • The thermostat does not simply kick in to increase or decrease the temperature; it can in fact adjust the temperature that has been programmed into it for as many as 6 time periods, each having a unique setting.
  • As the filter needs to be replaced or cleaned, the thermostat triggers a warning making heating and cooling trouble shooting simpler.
  • Modern advances now mean that some of these thermostats can be programmed over the internet or using a telephone.
  • A digital thermostat can mean programming your heating or cooling system to turn off when it is not needed and on when it is. This can lead to massive savings in electricity accounts.

Install a digital thermostat and save money

There are a number of ways that you can use a thermostat to save you hundreds of Rands on your electricity bill. Considering that your heating costs including hot water cylinder, account for almost as much as half of your electricity this is a powerful statement indeed.

Firstly, make sure that the thermostat has been installed properly. If in doubt call a specialist in to do the job. Otherwise make sure to follow the directions in the manual. Where you install the thermostat is of utmost important. Ensure that it is in an area that is most similar to the rest of the house and isn’t susceptible to many changes such as a sunny spot or in a cold cupboard. And most importantly, make sure that you have set the digital thermostat properly taking care to use as many energy saving tips as possible.