Programmable Thermostats Arlington WA
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There are several different makes and models with varying features. It shouldn't be hard to find one to suit your needs.
There are two types of programmable thermostats on the market today - digital, which use electronic controls to handle the programming and measure temperature, and the older electromechanical units, which require manual setting of pins, tabs on a rotary timer, or levers that slide up and down to change the temperature settings automatically in accordance with a 24-hour clock. Digital programmable thermostats sense temperature electronically and use data-entry pads or buttons to program in multiple automatic setbacks. They feature accurate LCD digital readouts that leave no doubt as to the exact temperature at a glance and offer precise temperature control, and support custom scheduling that maximizes energy savings without compromising comfort. All Energy Star-approved programmable thermostats feature an accuracy of +/-2° F and include a default program set to the agency's recommended settings, which will also save the homeowner money, should he or she forego setting a custom program, Fanara explains. Electronic programmable units also permit increased control and monitoring of the heating/cooling equipment. Additional functions could include regulating humidity as well as temperature, controlling multiple thermostats from one unit, taking outdoor-air readings, and posting alerts for filter changes and other service work. Some models allow various levels of remote control and integration with whole-house automation systems. Electronic programmable thermostats store multiple (two, four or six) daily settings. Models are available that hold settings for repeat use every day; or hold one set of readings for weekdays and either allow one additional set of readings for weekends (referred to as 5/2 models), or allow two additional settings for Saturday and Sunday (5/1/1 models). Most customizable are the seven-day models, which permit different settings for every day of the week, for the greatest flexibility. Many models now include a daylight-saving key for fast adjustments twice yearly. To accommodate daily fluctuations in temperature, particularly during changes of season, some programmable thermostats use adaptive recovery, also referred to as progressive or intelligent recovery. Adaptive recovery automatically calculates when to turn on heating or cooling to bring the home to the desired temperature by the next set time. For example, to meet a temperature goal for 7 a.m. wake-up, rather than the thermostat bringing the system on at that time, the thermostat determines how far in advance of 7 a.m. it needs to fire up the system so it is at that comfort setting by then. In Honeywell's CT8602 Chronotherm electronic seven-day programmable digital thermostat, for example, this capability is called Smart Response. Users program a target time and temperature, and the thermostat adapts its start time and then continuously measures its success against its target. Depending on how well it meets the target - too early or too late - the thermostat adjusts the start time for the next day. "The unit adapts to the overall success and conditions of meeting its target, based on the average of several days," explains Brent Vick, product manager for Thermostat Market at Honeywell. All programmable units include manual override, which affects only the current setting, resuming scheduled programming at the next time change.
Some units also have a permanent hold button, which keeps the temporary setting regardless of the programming. Hunter Fan Co.'s seven-day programmable thermostat (model 44360) comes with a daylight-saving key, temperature and vacation overrides, a programmable hold that can be set for any number of days, and a Home Today button for overriding the programmed setbacks for days when family members are normally away. By hitting the Home Today button, the system will automatically select the lowest programmed temperature if the unit is in cool mode (or the highest programmed temperature if it is in heat mode). The thermostat also includes an energy monitor that tells how long the unit has run today, yesterday, this week and last week - information that could be useful for evaluating different program settings to see how much energy each is saving. The EPA will be encouraging manufacturers to include convenience features in the next generation of Energy Star-qualified products, including battery backup capability, to ensure against program loss when a power outage occurs; a copy key, which aids in easy repeat scheduling over multiple days in five- and seven-day units); backlighting (for low lighting conditions); a large, easy-to-read screen; and good consumer support (e.g., a toll-free number, an informational website and graphically supported instructions). "The most important feature on a programmable thermostat is the programmability," notes Steve Millheiser, vice president of marketing and product development at Lux Corp. "Often, homeowners press the digital hold button and, in effect, turn their units into a digital nonprogrammable thermostat." Manufacturers are addressing programphobia in different ways. For example, all Lux thermostats feature a speed-dial interface with a large digital display. Users set the date and time the same way they would on a conventional clock radio. And Lux thermostats all offer the option of armchair programming, where the thermostat detaches from the baseplate for convenience during programming. "And because all Energy Star-programmable thermostats are defaultable to the Energy Star-proscribed setup and setback levels, users can always start programming again if any confusion does occur," Millheiser points out. Some manufacturers, including Lux (www.luxproducts.com/thermostat) and Invensys (www.about-i-series.com/insightdemosplash.asp), offer online opportunities to try before you buy. "Our research has found that though one out of four homeowners has at least one programmable thermostat, only 20 percent actually use the programming features," notes Debra Reaves, industry manager of heating for Invensys Climate Controls Americas. Part of the reason, the company surmises, is the complexity of programming in older-style units. By simplifying the process of programming and by providing online tutorials, manufacturers hope to make the units more attractive to buyers and users. The Invensys model 9701i, for example, features a menu-driven programming method, where users, in a manner similar to using an ATM, scroll through text screens to set up the program. (Text is displayed in English, Spanish or French.) The unit, which is available only through HVAC contractor installation, includes a differential that permits the furnace to run within a few degrees of the set point, minimizing frequent furnace cycling. Upgrading Thermostats Programmable thermostats are usually an easy upgrade. Many models are available retail and are homeowner-installable. Other units are sold through contractors, who typically do the installation.
All thermostats are designed to work on specific voltages. Some units work with forced-air, baseboard hot-water systems or heat pumps. Others are more specific. Be careful to purchase a new unit that matches the operating voltage of the thermostat being replaced. Retail packaging typically indicates system and voltage compatibilities. Most home thermostats run on 24 volts, with the power coming from a transformer located generally near the heating/air-conditioning source. Very old heating systems use thermostats that run on 0.75 volts and draw current from the pilot generator of the HVAC unit. Other units, specifically for some baseboard hot-water systems, work on 120- or 240-volt lines. Replacing a thermostat is generally straightforward: remove the front cover from the existing unit; disconnect the wires; unscrew the base from the wall; and reverse the process with the new unit. The instructions will likely walk you through the whole process. (When working with line voltage, turn off the power to avoid risk of shock.) Thermostats respond to the temperature of the air flowing through them. To help ensure an accurate reading, locate the unit on an interior wall, out of sunlight and not next to a register, five feet off the floor, and with decent ventilation. For large, open rooms, where a programmable thermostat might not be able to gauge the average temperature of the entire space accurately, at least one manufacturer offers remote sensors that are hard-wired to the thermostat, strategically placed around the perimeter and can deliver a truer temperature reading for the room. The Aprilaire 8500 series of full-featured programmable thermostats can receive readings from small, remote disk sensors, only 1.5 inches in diameter and just 1/32 of an inch thick, for minimal protrusion off the wall. The disks, which can be painted or wallpapered over, provide data to the thermostat, which can then respond to an average room temperature, notes Joe Hlavacek, product manager. And because the readings rely on the disk, the thermostat can be placed in a less conspicuous place than might otherwise be optimal, he adds. Various models of digital programmable thermostats offer diverse capabilities. The Carrier programmable seven-day Thermidistat, for example, can control humidity year round when coupled with the company's HVAC IdealHumidity system equipment, notes Chad Johnson, residential marketing senior product manager. The large-display unit incorporates adaptive logic and provides notification of when to change filters or clean the electronic air filter. Communicating Thermostats Going a few steps farther, programmable communicating thermostats offer an even greater range of service. They include the ability to communicate among themselves in a stand-alone system, remote telephone control and feedback of system status, Web control of thermostats, and integration of the thermostats (via third-party software) with whole-house automation systems. The communicating thermostats work in conjunction with third-party software, or software and additional hardware, to control settings and monitor heating and air-conditioning systems. Some software manufacturers offer a graphical interface that allows easy programming of the thermostats, such that, even if at home, occupants might choose to program from their computer rather than at the unit. Some systems also work via displays on digital TVs. Installation of communication thermostats is typically handled by professionals. Honeywell's Enviracom T8635L programmable communicating thermostat synchronizes adjustments so that a change to one thermostat can be shared among all the others in the home. The unit can be configured to work with or without third-party software. For someone who doesn't want the expense of home automation, adding just the optional telephone access module (W8735B) allows the use of a conventional telephone line to call a thermostat and change the settings, points out Pat Tessier, product marketing manager with the North American Homes business at Honeywell.
The Enviracom communication system enables a homeowner to change up to nine different thermostat settings with one phone call. And the system makes outgoing calls as well. If there is a power outage or if the room temperature falls below a setting, the system will call up to three designated phone numbers to alert someone of that occurrence, so preventive action can be taken to avoid the trouble of frozen pipes in the winter. The companies that provide third-party software for Honeywell's Enviracom thermostat, as well as for selected other manufacturers, include Crestron, Premise Systems, CorAccess and Vicar Networks. To try an online demo of a communicating thermostat, go to www.vicarworks.com and click Online Demo. Carrier's Comfort Choice utility thermostat, available through utilities, has the ability to help end-users conserve energy. When the Comfort Choice thermostat is tied into a wireless paging network with the local utility provider, the utility has the ability to change the temperature in the house to smooth out peaks as energy demand increases. This direct utility control has, notes Carrier, met with success on the East Coast and in Southern California. Home occupants can, however, override that intervention and can also use the wireless network to change the settings themselves. Honeywell/Cannon Technologies Alliance sells the ExpressStat communicating thermostat (www.honeywellcannon.com) to utilities to help them manage peak loads. The ExpressStat responds to load control signals from the energy utility in order to curtail electricity load using a one-way pager. Consumers are able to control and program the thermostat over the Internet. The Aprilaire 8870 communicating thermostat is an example of a communicating thermostat that, rather than being programmable on its own, relies on a home automation system to provide the front-end programming. (Home automation systems allow onsite or remote computer control of various systems within the house, ranging from security to lighting and can include programmable communicating thermostats.) In a Zone of Your Own Many homes in the United States have only one thermostat. But there can be a big difference between the temperature at the thermostat and elsewhere in the home. Because heat rises, all things being equal, rooms on higher floors will always be warmer than those on the first floor - perhaps by as much as 10°. In single-zone homes, someone is almost invariably bound to be unhappy with the indoor climate. The best way to meet comfort preferences all around the house - while economizing on energy expenditure, to boot - is to divide the heating and air-conditioning requirements throughout a home into multiple zones, with each zone controlled by its own thermostat. A zone can be a room or a set of rooms that share similar climate-control requirements during the same hours. With careful zoning, it is possible to achieve comfortable air temperature in every area of a home with the temperature consistent from zone to zone, if desired. "When you combine zone control with programmable thermostats, you get the same type of savings and benefits as you would with just programmable thermostats, only now you are more comfortable in all rooms," says Reaves of Invensys. "Zone control allows you to direct conditioned air only to the places that actually need it and leave unoccupied zones unconditioned."
The most important considerations when zoning a home are determining how many zones to establish and where to put them - upstairs and downstairs (thereby eliminating floor-to-floor differentials), front and back of the house, different zones for the master bedroom and bedrooms for the very young or very old, or separating a sunroom or a room with huge windows, a high ceiling, or lots of skylights. How It Works Zoning systems differ depending on the type of heating or HVAC system in the home - hot water or forced air. With some hot-water systems, thermostats control electrical zone valves that regulate the flow to each hot-water loop. A more common system uses a separate circulator pump for each zone, where a thermostat (through a control panel with solenoid switches) turns the circulators on and off. There are two popular methods for zoning residential forced-air systems: zone with equipment and zone by system controls. Zone with equipment uses multiple HVAC units and thermostats. Each unit provides comfort to a designated area of a house. This type of solution is very popular in the southern part of the United States, notes Chad Johnson, a senior product manager at Carrier. Zone by system controls uses a single HVAC unit and a zone controller (zone panel) to coordinate the operation of all the equipment for distributing conditioned air throughout the house: ductwork; motorized dampers (doors) within the ducts (usually one for each zone, though multiple dampers may be used); one thermostat for each zone; and if the system is so designed, a bypass damper for pressure relief. Thermostats in each zone are wired to the zone controller and the controller, in turn, is wired to the HVAC equipment and to zone dampers in the ductwork. The controller turns the furnace on and off and directs low-voltage motorized actuators to open or close dampers, regulating the flow of conditioned air. Zone controllers vary in the number of zones they can control, with standard units often controlling three zones and expandable up to seven or even nine zones, a feature that allows easy accommodation of most any future home addition or change of zone design. Zone controllers may include data ports to control additional equipment, such as a dehumidifier, a humidifier or a fan. They may also accommodate remote telephone access and two-way communication. Some units come with an outdoor temperature sensor that provides temperature readings at each seven-day setback thermostat to help anticipate and meet zoning requirements for smooth control over the entire home, every season. Pressure Relief Air-conditioning systems are designed to cool an entire home. Closing a zone or zones increases the pressure in the ducts in the remaining zone or zones. Some accommodation in a zone system is desirable to avoid possible problems from closed-off ducts, such as freezing of the coil or air noise. "Well-designed zone systems account for the added system pressure caused when the full capacity of the heating-cooling equipment is directed to less than all zones by building in some method of pressure relief," says Hlavacek at Aprilaire. This may include oversizing the ductwork (with all zones capable of carrying 70 percent of the system's airflow), using a bypass damper or another method. For example, Aprilaire's controlled pressure relief method in its zone controllers involves an engineered amount of bypass to be allowed into a closed zone, but not enough to affect the temperature by more than 1° F, without requiring a bypass damper or supply air-temperature controls. Regardless of the type of programmable thermostat and system, if you use the equipment properly, setbacks can be a big step forward toward improved comfort and energy savings every day. William and Patti Feldman are a husband-and-wife freelance team based in New York.