Although selecting the right system for your needs comes first, choosing the thermostat that will be the primary interface between your heating and cooling systems is also important.
Having the ability to program when your system turns on and off (even if you’re doing it manually) gives you more control to get the temperature level you want, and allows you to save money on energy by turning off your system when you’re not there.
Before you select a thermostat, you need to know what type of HVAC system you have and what thermostat is compatible with your system. Although several different thermostats will work with multiple systems, some just aren’t compatible—and using the wrong one could damage your equipment and lead to an expensive repair job.
Step 1: What Type of Heating and Cooling System Do You Have?
There’s a wide range of HVAC systems on the market—the type of HVAC system you have determines what type of thermostat you can use. Although there are several different types of systems available, there are only three different thermostats to choose from:
- Low voltage systems are the most common systems today and only require a 24v power supply. Most thermostats will work with this system. If you currently have a low voltage system, you can use most systems that were reviewed at this link.
- Direct line or high voltage systems use a 110v to 240v power source. These are used with baseboards and other electric heating systems, and not all thermostats will work. In some older homes, direct line voltage is also used to power the thermostat.
- 24 millivolt systems are usually gas- or oil-powered furnaces that don’t use electricity, and are a wall or floor type.
Once you have figured out what type of system you have, you can use that information to help you select a thermostat that’s compatible with your system and has the functionality that you need.
Step 2: How Many Stages Does Your System Have?
We talk a little more about one or two stage HVAC systems here, but here’s a quick overview:
- Stage one heat and cool means you have units that work either at full capacity or not at all, like an on/off switch.
- Stage two (or multi-stage) means your system is capable of heating and cooling on both low and high speeds.
To check how many stages your system has, you usually need to take a look inside your current thermostat—but we recommend having a technician help you determine the number of stages you have. If you do happen to have a multi-stage system or a zoned system, you will probably need a more advanced model thermostat.
Types of Thermostats
Here’s a short list of different types of thermostats you can use for your HVAC system—for more detailed information, check out this comprehensive table from thermostat center, which includes reviews from some of the more popular thermostats available.
A non-programmable thermostat has an LED display to select the temperature you’ve chosen, a button to increase or decrease the temperature, and a button to switch from heating to cooling (or off).
Use this model if you’re not into fancy heating or cooling management, and are OK with pressing a button and waiting for your home to heat up or cool down.
Programmable thermostats can make life a lot easier. Some models are pretty basic, allowing you to choose a temperature for the morning and one for the afternoon or evening. Some more advanced models will let you select different times for different days, or even allow you to set four separate temperatures during a 24 hour period.
Touchscreen units eliminate the need for buttons on the main panel—also reducing the chance of pressing something you didn’t mean to. Everything can be accessed just by touching the screen, making things much quicker when you want to program the thermostat. Be careful what system you select—some are designed for large fingers, where others use complicated interfaces.
Wireless thermostats are a little more expensive, but allow you to access your HVAC system remotely (and control it). These thermostats give you the ability to shut down your system when something unexpected happens, or if you decide to come home a little early.
If you have portable heating or cooling devices in your home like a space heater or portable air conditioner, an outlet thermostat allows you to set programs for these units just like you can with a regular programmable thermostat. They’re perfect for smaller homes that don’t have a complete HVAC system installed, and you can also use some models in an RV.
As you can see, there are a lot of thermostats to choose from depending on what you need and how sophisticated you want to get. If you have more questions, our experts can help!
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