Energy Savings

What to know if you’re considering a smart thermostat

Smart thermostats save money, but not all homes are compatible

Most modern programmable thermostats, allowing you to manually schedule temperatures for specific days and times. But smart thermostats take money saving features even further by connecting to your home’s Wi-Fi. Smart thermostats can:

• Learn your habits and automatically create a schedule
• Adjust the temperature automatically while you are away
• Allow you to control your HVAC remotely from a mobile device
• Optimize use for current and upcoming weather conditions

In PEC’s service area, heating and cooling amounts to over half of members’ energy bills, so smart thermostats represent significant potential savings. But before you pull the trigger on one of these high-tech devices, make sure your system is compatible and that you are up for the installation.

If you are considering switching to a smart thermostat, here’s where you should start.

Check that your system is “low voltage”

Smart thermostats are generally only compatible with low-voltage 24V HVAC systems. Your system is likely low voltage if you have a single thermostat that controls a large unit that is outside or in the garage. And when you remove your thermostat from the wall, a low-voltage system will have several small wires of different colors.

Check for the correct wiring

Not all low-voltage HVAC systems are compatible with smart thermostats. Most smart thermostats require continuous power, which is supplied by what is called a C-wire. Remove your existing thermostat from the wall and then use the compatibility checkers offered by popular smart thermostat manufacturers like Nest and ecobee.

Some manufacturers allow you to submit a photograph of your existing wiring, which they can use to confirm compatibility and even create a customized wiring guide for use during installation.

Choose your smart thermostat

There are several popular options on the market for smart thermostats, each with advantages for different needs. After confirming that your system is compatible, carefully consider what you want from your thermostat. Some may be looking for a hands-off thermostat that will automatically optimize itself for comfort and energy savings, while others may want to have greater control and the ability to deeply analyze their usage. Not all smart thermostats are the same, so do your research.

Take good photos of existing wiring

Before installing your new thermostat, be sure that you have well documented the existing wiring. If for some reason the installation does not go as planned, you’ll need to be able to reinstall your existing thermostat to keep from being stuck without control of your HVAC system.

Be safe through installation

While you do not have to be a professional to install a smart thermostat, it is not as simple as just plugging the new unit in. The most important thing is to turn power to the thermostat and HVAC unit off at the breaker before beginning installation. Make sure you follow the instructions provided with your new thermostat carefully, and that you have all the necessary tools before you start. If you are uncomfortable doing the installation yourself, have your HVAC technician do it for you.