Fingertip Control from Your Smartphone Anytime, Anywhere
Once a feature for those living away from their primary homes for part of the year, Wi-Fi thermostats are now becoming a standard feature in new homes. They work the same way as many home security systems, allowing you to remotely check and change the thermostat in your home from an app on your smartphone or tablet. Upgrading to a Wi-Fi thermostat is relatively inexpensive and easy. There are dozens on the market ranging in cost from $100 to $300. They’re readily available at most major home improvement centers and from online retailers. Many people also find it’s a near effortless DIY installation, as well.
Five Benefits of Wi-Fi Thermostats:
- A must-have for snowbirds and travelers: If you like to escape to warmer climates when the weather turns cold, or you travel often, a Wi-Fi thermostat will give you peace of mind while you’re away. A furnace breakdown can have severe consequences for pets and plants, plus leave pipes susceptible to freezing. You don’t want to come home to devastating water damage!
- Programming is easy: In a smartphone driven world, these thermostats are as easy to program and monitor as just about any other app you may have on your phone or tablet. Simply download the app, enter the temperatures and times you desire, and save the settings. All set!
- Smart enough to adjust to your schedule: A typical setback thermostat can’t adjust automatically if your schedule changes, but a learning Wi-Fi thermostat will. It detects when you’re home and away, learns your schedule and calculates a setback scheme to match your routine. Some learning thermostats also offer a ‘geofence’ feature that tracks the location of your smartphone and operates your setback settings based on when you enter or leave a geographic radius around your home. For example, it can crank up the heat when you’re returning from a trip and close to home.
- Alerts you to HVAC problems: Wi-Fi thermostats can, in some cases, monitor the health of your heating/cooling system and alert you if the efficiency drops because of a dirty air filter, clogged evaporator or condenser coils, low refrigerant charge, or other problem.
- Form AND function to match your style: Wi-Fi apps are all about features and personalization, and thermostats are no different. Depending on the model you buy, you can display your favorite digital photos, play your music, and even change color to match your wall paint! Some also display the outside temperature or work with multiple sensors.
Ready to go wireless? The next decision is professional installation or DIY.
Professional installation usually runs between $75 and $100 and can sometimes be combined with a scheduled seasonal inspection. It’s a pretty affordable option for most people who aren’t comfortable messing with wiring and electricity.
DIYers, who love to save every penny, go for it! If the thought of doing a little wiring doesn’t scare you away, just make sure your power is off before you begin work and double-check your wiring to ensure they don’t touch at the terminals. You don’t want to accidentally burn up a transformer or blow the circuit board’s main fuse. That would lead to a service call and repair that costs a lot more than the money you’re saving on a DIY installation.
A short, handy checklist:
- Wi-Fi signal strength: To test the signal strength at the proposed Wi-Fi thermostat location, stand next to it and attempt to stream a video on your smartphone or tablet. If you can quickly stream and watch the video, you have good signal strength for the Wi-Fi thermostat.
- Know your wiring situation: Safety first! Shut off power to your furnace and A/C before removing the existing thermostat from its baseplate. Two THICK wires means you probably have 220-volt electric heat, and a Wi-Fi thermostat won’t work. Two THIN 18-gauge wires means you have a low-voltage system and a Wi-Fi thermostat most likely will work.
- To “C” or not to “C”, that is the question: Next, look for a wire attached to the ‘C’ terminal. A common ‘C’ wire provides a return electrical path (like a neutral in a 110-volt electrical system) so the thermostat can get power 24/7. If you don’t have a ‘C’ wire at the thermostat, you have two options: Buy a Wi-Fi thermostat that doesn’t require one (it’ll say ‘No C wire required’ in the specs) or install a four-to-five wiring adapter.
- The adapter provides a ‘C’ connection using whichever wire isn’t in use at the time. Install the control box inside the furnace and connect it. Then install the diode device up at the new thermostat. Once all the wires are connected to the base plate, push the excess wires and diode inside the wall cavity. (You can use the diagram below, but it would need to be modified as we don’t have original source permission to repurpose.)
NOTE – If your existing thermostat displays the outside temperature or allows you to adjust the settings on your humidifier, it’s probably a digital unit, and an analog Wi-Fi unit won’t work without professional rewiring.
If you have questions about Wi-Fi thermostats, we can help!
Let us provide you a FREE consultation on a Wi-Fi thermostat that’s right for you.