Take Good Care of Your Thermostat
Proper Care and Maintenance Means More Efficient Heating and Cooling!
The thermostat is perhaps the simplest piece of equipment involved in your home’s heating and cooling system, yet it’s so sensitive that it responds to even slight temperature changes. Though there are fewer mechanical parts in a thermostat to malfunction, it can still cause major problems if not maintained properly.
If a thermostat cover is installed improperly or bumped accidentally it can cause your furnace or air conditioner to fail to start. The thermostat base can sometimes slip out of balance, which causes faulty operation. Corrosion and loose wires can also affect your thermostat’s operation. Dirt and dust are perhaps the most common cause of improper thermostat function. Debris can work its way into the thermostat mechanism and interfere with its calibration. For example, if you set your thermostat for 70 degrees but it’s actually maintaining a temperature of 73 degrees, you’re wasting energy and increasing your monthly utility costs.
If you suspect that the calibration of your thermostat is off, follow these simple steps to check it and repair any minor problems.
First, you’ll need a few basic tools to check the calibration of your thermostat: tape, paper towels, a glass tube thermometer, a new dollar bill or a soft brush, a level, and a screwdriver. Gather these from around the house or hit your local hardware store.
Next, tape the glass thermometer to the wall a short distance away from the thermostat. Use the paper towels to pad the thermometer and keep it from touching the wall. Make sure doors and windows are sealed to prevent outside drafts from affecting the temperature reading.
Give the thermometer at least 15 minutes to stabilize, and compare the reading to the thermostat needle. If there’s a difference between the two of a degree or more, check the thermostat for dirt.
To clean your thermostat, take off the faceplate carefully. Blow off any loose dust inside. Never use a vacuum cleaner, as the powerful suction can damage fragile parts in the thermostat. If your thermostat has accessible contact points, use the new dollar bill to rub in between them. This will help brush away dirt. If your thermostat has a coiled element, use the soft brush to clear away debris.
If the thermostat has a mercury vial, use the level to ensure the unit is straight. If it’s crooked, try loosening the mounting screws and move the thermostat until its level. Don’t forget to retighten the screws.
Once you’ve cleaned the thermostat, repeat steps one and two using the glass tube thermometer. If there’s still a difference between the thermometer reading and the thermostat temperature, you’ll probably need to replace the unit.
Replacing a thermostat is a fairly simple procedure that you can do yourself quickly and inexpensively.
Be sure the new thermostat has the exact same voltage as the unit you’re replacing. Mismatched voltages can cause dangerous power shortages and continued system malfunction. The thermostat must also be compatible with your home’s heating system. If you can’t match your old unit with a new one brand for brand, consult a sales representative at your local hardware or home improvement store for recommendations on comparable models.
Also, be sure to keep electric lamps, TVs, stereos and and appliances away from the thermostat. Heat from these items can cause your air conditioner to run unnecessarily and cause the thermostat to malfunction.