What is the best themostat

We need to replace one, maybe two, thermostats. The ones we now have are 20 yrs. old. Is this something I can do myself? I'm fairly handy.
  12 answers
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jan 13, 2012
    A long number of years ago I replaced my basic "dial" thermostat with a fancy programmable unit ...the ex insisted I program it to preheat the house for the morning...blah..blah..blah. The furnace would kick in before dawn run for a long long time...she would get up do her morning routine then leave...it would take a long time for the house recover to what I though was a reasonable temp...When the EX moved out I replaced that battery driven contraption with a basic dial unit again...simple is sometimes better. Now we keep it at 60 and build a fire in the morning if we want it warmer... with a basic lower setting our propane bill is much smaller and the woodstove just feels better. The units I have used for my self and clients are normally honeywell one. There was a post here a while back on a "cool one" that learns as you use it. It is called the nest http://www.hometalk.com/activity/91993
  • Yes it is a very easy DIY job. Depending on whether you have heat or heat and ac combined the wiring is quite easy to do. One of the biggest advancements of the thermostats used today is that most are electronic. The older mercury types required that the thermostat be perfectly level in order to be calibrated properly. Although they still should be level, its more for appearance then function. Almost all T stats have two parts. The main thermostat and the sub-base in which the wires are connected. You remove the existing thermostat by removal of all the screws you see when you open it up. These are tiny screws so a small screw driver will do the job. Once the thermostat is removed you will see the exposed sub base unit. This has several wires coming out of it. With heating alone, typically just two. With heat and ac you will see four or perhaps five, depending on the unit and system you have in the home. The wires will be all sorts of colors. red, white, green, blue, yellow are the standards. Some come with more some less. At this point we do not care about colors yet. These wires regardless of how many you see, are fastened under screws. Next to these screws are letters. R, W, G, Y, B, and so on. It does not matter if the red wire is under the R screw or under the B screw. Although the letters normally correspond to the wire colors. All you need to write down is what color wire is under what letter on the sub base. This is the most important thing you need to remember. If you put the wires under the wrong screw, you can burn out the power transformer, turn on the heat and not be able to shut if off, turn on a fan. All sorts of lovely things. So its important to get the wire/letter thing exactly the same. While I am at this, be sure to turn off the power to the furnace or what ever heating/cooling system it is that you have. This in effect will turn off the power to the control. its not that its unsafe to work on these wires HOT, its just that you chance shorting out the transformer which can get a bit expensive if you need to replace it. So be sure the power is off before messing with this. OK, you now have written down the wires and what letter screws they are fastened to. You may remove the wires from the older unit and remove if from the wall. Open up the new t stat box and you will find another sub-base and thermostat in it. Push the wires through the hole in the back of the sub base and fasten it to the wall. In the instructions will be a bunch of settings that must be adjusted in order for your new t stat to work. Depending on the make and model of the new control and the type of heating and cooling system that it controls these settings can be as simple as a little switch or a screw that needs to be turned. This programs the thermostat to know what type of system its controlling. Oil, gas, hot water, hot air etc. in any case once you set these switches or turn the screws. (not all have this so do not worry if what brand you purchase does not tell you to do this) you need to re-attach the wires back to the same screw letters as the old stat had. Do not worry if you have more screws with letters then the original one, Many of the new ones do have this because of all the products that can be monitored with the new thermostats. Just put the wire color under the screw letter that it was when you removed them from the older control. Install any batteries and then install the new control onto the sub base. Restore the power to the furnace. And check it out. Be sure it turns the furnace on, and off. Hope this helps. One trick is to take a photo with your phone of the wires and the screw letters so you have a photo to refer to when the dog runs away with your scratch pad and eats it. No excuse that the dog ate your homework.
  • Terry S Terry S on Jan 13, 2012
    gene,i just did this last weekend and like you kevin i believe simple is better. it is pretty simple and i also used a honeywell.no programs just up and down arrows with the big read out so i can see it .woodbridge you described it very well, simple instructions. sounds scarier than it is.god luck!
  • The Money Pit The Money Pit on Jan 13, 2012
    Just saw this product at the consumer Electronics Show. It'd a Wi-Fi enabled thermostat called Nest that is beautiful, functional and easy to install: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/01/technology/personaltech/nest-learning-thermostat-sets-a-standard-david-pogue.html?pagewanted=all
  • Gene Gene on Jan 13, 2012
    Thanks to all who gave advice. I purchased two Honeywell thermostats today. It sounds like I shouldn't have too much trouble swapping them out. Thanks again.
  • Designs by BSB Designs by BSB on Jan 14, 2012
    We too have Honeywells, my husband switched them out pretty quickly.. love the (easy to use) programing feature!
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jan 14, 2012
    I replaced a couple for a client a week or so ago...these were older units that had the mercury in them...I have them set aside so I can take them to the "hazardous" house hold waste site....dumping mercury in the regular trash is a big NO NO.
  • Terry S Terry S on Jan 14, 2012
    havent disposed of mine yet ,but will have to figre out where to take it.thanks for the reminder.
  • Jeff C Jeff C on Jan 15, 2012
    As an aside, how important is it that the new digital thermometer be compatible with the heatins/cooling unit? Or does it not have to be compatible? I'm under the impression that only certain thermometers will work with certain brands/models of heating/cooling units.
  • Most of the thermostats sold today work with most of the equipment in homes. The only time you would have a real issue is if your existing equipment used either. A millivolt system. This is where the heating system, typically a steam boiler generates its own power. (old systems) or if you have a heating and cooling system that has separate transformers for power. You will know this perhaps by wiring on sub base as the power feed to each side of the system is under a separate screw. IN any case. If you do not have a steam boiler and you match the wires to the screw letters exactly as they were on the old thermostat to the new. You will be fine. Once its all wired up there will be a little chart telling you how to set the thermostat up to work with the heating and cooling system that you own. It is not brand specific but type. Meaning is it hot water or hot air.
  • Ricardo B Ricardo B on Jan 15, 2012
    It's more expensive but buy the programmable thermostats! I also used a HONEYWELL brand specifically because of the Technical Hotline that I called when I couldn't get the wiring done correctly. Those old thermostats are sometimes wired or rewired by electricians in kooky ways to accommodate other wiring issues. My daughter had asked me to replace hers at their home. I was NOT looking forward to doing it but when I called the hotline after a few false starts, they walked me through my mess of a wiring scheme. With a couple of easy wiring clips that come with their kit and a dip-switch change which they easily guided me through over the phone, I came out looking like a professional hero. NO, I'M NO ELECTRICIAN! That new thermostat saved my daughter time money and saved me headaches...
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