types of thermostats explained

Types of thermostats explained

Thermostats are the control centre of your HVAC system. At the most basic level, a thermostat regulates the temperature of your home by telling your furnace or heater to turn on when the temperature in the home drops, or the air conditioner to turn on when the temperature rises. But with the advances in technology over the last two decades, they can be capable of so much more. Many thermostats today have wi-fi capabilities, allowing you to control and monitor the conditions in your home remotely. Some can control humidity, eliminating the need for humidistats, learn from your habits, and even directly communicate with your appliances allowing for maximum efficiency, and comfort. There are a lot of options out there, but which one might be right for your home, or the system you currently have installed?

Kinds Of Thermostats

Mechanical/manual thermostats
These thermostats are, to put it frankly, archaic. Most operate with a dial or lever which controls your set temperature, usually using a bi-metallic strip or mercury bulb to react with the changing air temperature to open and close the circuit that controls the appliances. Due to sensitive and out-dated components like heat anticipators, they can also be very inaccurate. One further example of their antiquity is the fact that some come with only heating and fan control functions, making them useless for cooling. These are being phased out more and more regularly for that reason, and besides, who wants mercury in their home? We have seen these still lingering in older homes that haven’t been updated in some time. Replacing a thermostat is really easy and inexpensive so there’s no reason for these older units to still be in your home.

Digital non-programmable thermostats
These are basically mechanical thermostats with digital displays, however most phased out the mercury bulb technology and widely introduced fan control and cooling functions.

Digital programmable thermostats
These thermostats operate entirely electronically. They use electronic sensors to detect variations in temperature more accurately and respond more accurately. A lot of digital thermostats also have wire terminals allowing for features like 2-stage heating and cooling, if you need such features. Additionally they introduce a feature that allows you to program temperature settings for various intervals in a day. Usually, the program function divides a day into four sections: One for when you wake up, one for when you leave for work, one for when you return, and another for when you go to bed. Most will program schedules in a 7 day or 5 and 2 day format. Some of these thermostats include a wi-fi feature that allows you to control settings remotely.

Smart/Learning thermostats
While still programmable, smart thermostats, sometimes called learning thermostats, monitor the way you use them, retaining the times during the day that you change the temperature and the temperatures you set them to. The more often you use it, it will retain the information and change its settings accordingly. These are also wi-fi compatible. The only downside is that these do not come with a standard programming feature and in some cases rely on the resident’s interactions with the thermostat to create a schedule of its own. Some popular brands of these include the Nest Learning Thermostat, EcoBee, and Sensi.

Communicating thermostats
These thermostats can only be installed with state of the art communicating or modulating systems. If you don’t have a modulating furnace and air conditioner, there would be no need for this kind of thermostat. However, if you do have a compatible system, Communicating thermostats offer the ultimate in home comfort and system efficiency. In these systems, the thermostat speaks to the equipment allowing for minor changes to system performance to maintain more consistent temperature levels, but it doesn’t end there. These systems also offer maintenance alerts and diagnostics when problems occur, making service easier. Communicating thermostats are brand specific, in the sense that in order to get optimal performance from communicating systems, they should be used with compatible products of the same brand and most brands have their own lines of communicating products: Lennox has the S30, Carrier has the Infinity, and Bryant has the Evolution, etc.