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How Do Thermostats Work?

If you live anywhere in which the seasons, or just the temperature outside changes, odds are you have a thermostat in your home. The thermostat allows you to change the temperature of your home with a simple click of a button or a turn of a nozzle. It’s a small box on your wall that has tried to blend in or be aesthetically pleasing but has not quite accomplished that, however, you accept it anyway because it holds so much power over your comfortability in your home.

The Different Types of Thermostats Explained:

There are mainly two different types of thermostats that could be in your home—or maybe your home has both, one upstairs and one downstairs (something more common than you would think). Within these two different types are other types—we know, confusing, but stay with me—which advance the technology even further with either wifi or more ability to be self-sufficient. However, we are going to stay simple and explain the basic, main two types. There are electronic thermostats which are more modern, and then there are electromechanical thermostats which are usually in older homes and buildings.

These two different types of thermostats obviously work differently from each other, so in order to understand how your thermostat works we’re going to have to figure out which type of thermostat you have. It is pretty simple to determine what type you have as electronic will be just that, electronic, whereas electromechanical thermostats do not have any type of screen or anything somewhat technologically advanced-looking.

How Thermostats Work:

Electronic thermostats are easy to understand because they usually have a little screen that is easy to read. These types of thermostats use sensors to determine the temperature in the house. Electronic thermostats also usually have some more advanced technology, like the ability to set certain temperatures for certain times during the day or night—this ability dives into those other types of thermostats mentioned above.

Electromechanical thermostats are more simple technologically speaking, but may be more difficult to understand. Electromechanical thermostats usually contain a bi-metal coil or metal strip which will move when the temperature changes. When the coil or strip moves, it causes a vial of mercury to tip to a certain side which indicates whether the temperature is too high or too low. Although electromechanical thermostats are the cheaper option, they do take a little longer to gauge the temperature in your home.

How to Keep Your Thermostat and You Happy:

Keeping your thermostat and yourself happy is important. The happier the thermostat is, the better it works, and the happier you become in your home. Your thermostat will work harder to control the temperature inside the home when the temperature outside the house or building is drastically higher or lower than what the thermostat is set at. You may not have thought about this, but now may be the time: the argument of turning the thermostat up versus down means. When you are turning the thermostat up, you are technically turning the temperature down—confusing, right? Make sure there is some clear communication between the people in your household before telling someone to turn the thermostat up or down.

It will be better to set your thermostat to a number that is not too far off from the outside temperature (within reason). For example, if the temperature is 32℉ outside, set the thermostat to the lowest number you can handle, such as 68℉, that way you are comfortably warm inside but you are still as close to the outside temperature as possible. These temperatures may seem far off from each other, but in terms of actual warmth, it makes sense—the same goes for when it is hot outside. Don’t get carried away with the thermostat temperature, think about what you can handle, cold and heat-wise. If you are mindful of this, you will save energy and ensure your thermostat is working well and continues to do so. It is also important to remember that constantly setting the thermostat lower or higher is not going to heat or cool your house any faster. Try to keep the thermostat set at a comfortable temperature and give it some time to put in the work and get that temperature just right.

In order to save more energy, keep in mind that there are other ways to get warm or stay cool in your home without cranking up the AC or heat. Invest in a heated blanket, or light a fire in the fireplace when you’re getting chilly. Don’t walk around the house in sweatpants or a sweatshirt during the warmer part of the year. This will save you money in the long-run and, like we said before, will save some energy. One of the most important things you can do is take proper care of your HVAC system—heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. If your HVAC is not working correctly, or taken good care of, you could potentially be wasting a lot of energy and money without even knowing it. If you’re lucky enough to have an electronic thermostat that has all the latest and up-to-date technology, then it probably has the ability to tell you whether your air filters need to be changed.

If your thermostat is a bit more outdated, make sure you’re paying attention to your system, especially around those times of the year when you start to switch from low temperatures to high temperatures. Don’t shy away from doing annual HVAC system maintenance checks. If your air filters are dirty or clogged, or the area around your compressors isn’t clean—the part of the system that compresses the refrigerant to get the pressure and temperature right when cooling—then your system could be working overtime, wasting you energy and money. It may be worth it to schedule a professional to do a maintenance check when seasons start to change to ensure your system is ready to start cooling or heating accordingly.

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