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Choosing a thermostat that best fits your home

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Home thermostat buying guide

The focus for this article is to provide a general overview of the varying types of thermostats that control the heating and cooling components of a home, the sum functions they may control, and to the best of our abilities we’ll keep an updated list of thermostat manufacturers so you can choose the most suitable thermostat.

The choices can be overwhelming, I know, and like all technology, something better seems to come along very soon, while other models become discontinued. But, at the core of all thermostats is the the the most basic function, controlling heating and cooling, and once you decide the best way to do that for your property and lifestyle, you now have a baseline on where to start looking at your list of thermostat options.

Line Voltage vs Low Voltage Thermostats

Most thermostats will be associated with controlling a forced air system consisting of a furnace and air conditioner, but you may be looking for a thermostat to control a heated floor, baseboard system, boiler system, heat pump, etc. and you need to make sure you choose a compatible thermostat.

  • Line Voltage Thermostat – A line voltage thermostat means the device accepts the full 120 – 240V from the electrical panel, much like a typical wall switch. These types of thermostats are commonly associated with baseboard heaters or electric wall heaters, e.g. Emerson line voltage thermostats.
  • Low Voltage Thermostat – A low voltage thermostat will be the most common type of thermostat controlling a heating and cooling system. These thermostats are low voltage because the line voltage of 120 – 240 VAC is reduced to a typical 24 VAC with a step-down transformer located inside the heating and cooling components.

How to tell the difference between line voltage and low voltage thermostats? The wires for a line voltage thermostat will be in the 12-14 gauge range, just like in-wall switches and outlets, while low voltage thermostats will have smaller 18-22 gauge wires, just like doorbell wiring. If there is a manufacturers product label present, the voltage specs may be listed as well.

Note: Consult the manufacturer if you have any questions or doubts about a specific thermostats compatibility, and if all the features you want to use can be used with your heating and cooling system.

Non-Programmable Mechanical Thermostats

Honeywell Round CT87 thermostat

The Honeywell “Round” CT87, shown, still remains very similar to the original Honeywell T-86, and a classic example of thermostat simplicity.

However, the “iconic round” design by Henry Dreyfuss, for Honeywell, was created to replace an even more traditional design, the rectangular, or now, square thermostat design with a set point slider. E.g. Honeywell CT5X, CT3X, or the Econostat.

These basic thermostats can control heating only, or cooling only, with just 2 wire installation in some instances, making them a simple and uncomplicated solution for the most basic of needs.

Pros

  • Simple installation
  • Quick and easy to operate
  • Cost effective
Cons

  • Non-programmable
  • Zero features to maximize energy efficiency

Non-Programmable Electronic Thermostats

Robertshaw RS300N non-programmable digital thermostat

A non-programmable electronic thermostat retains many of the simple aspects of a non-programmable mechanical thermostat, while adding digital controls and display, which allows more information to be shown, along with a few more features.

Instead of a dial or slider, pushbuttons control increasing and decreasing temperature setpoints, fan operation, and heat/cool mode.

With the ability to adjust temperature in 1 degree increments, you’ll get better temperature control compared to mechanical thermostats. This is very important when wanting to maximize energy efficiency.

The Robertshaw RS300 Series (shown) isn’t fully programmable, but does allow separate day and night setpoints.

Pros

  • Digital display
  • Backlit display for night viewing
  • Large numbers – varies per model
  • Clock – varies per model
  • Room temperature displayed – varies per model
Cons

  • Non-programmable

Programmable Thermostats

Section Update In Progress!

  • Wi-Fi capable
  • Individual Day Programming
  • Vacation mode
  • Security / Password
  • Energy¬†calculator
  • Touchscreen
  • Humidifier control
  • Zoned heating and cooling
  • Equipment Status
  • Air filter notification
  • Humidifier pad notification

Thermostat Manufacturers

The amount of manufacturers providing a basic mechanical thermostat is very minimal, but when wanting the latest in wifi, touchscreen, energy monitoring and whatever other tech that can be added; there is a slew of artistic and featured packed thermostat offerings.

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