A Guide to deciding on a Replacement Thermostat

Are you looking for a new thermostat?

Regarding these 3 steps to finding a thermostat replacement:

  1. Choose the type of thermostat you want
  2. Be certain it works within your home and HVAC equipment
  3. Contact a professional to install it

Step #1: Choose the type of thermostat you want

There are 3 main types of thermostats

Manual thermostats

These are the most common type of thermostat and they are considered mechanical or non-programmable thermostats. You have manually to turn your HVAC on and off and control the temperature.

There are 2 types of manual thermostats for you to buy:

  • Digital, which use arrow buttons to control temperature
  • Analog, which have a dial to change temperature

Unfortunately, some models of manual thermostats cannot give you the exact temperature control. Some manual thermostats have about a +/- 3° differential, while other types of thermostats only have a +/- 1° differential.

Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats are programmed to save you money on your energy bills. According to Energy.gov, programmable thermostats can save you up to $180 per year in lower energy bills.

For example, if your week consists of 5 work days for 8 hours, this means 40 hours every week you have the opportunity to dial back your AC or heating system to save you money. Yes you can turn your HVAC system off with a manual thermostat, but this means you’ll ultimately come home to bad temperatures.

A programmable thermostat can fix this problem by telling your HVAC system when to turn on/off and to what temperature. This way you don’t have to do it manually.

Here’s how it’s done:

If you leave your house at 8 am you can program your thermostat to automatically raise or lower your home’s temperature by 10° right at 8 am. This will allow you to set it to automatically return to better temperatures at 5:30 pm, so that the house is good when you return home.

Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats are programmable thermostats that you can control from your computer, tablet or phone. This can allow you to adjust your home’s temperature automatically. They are the most expensive, but they have the best comfort features and save you money every month on your utility bills.

Comfort features you can find on some programmable thermostats are:

  • Touch screen displays
  • Voice instructions and notifications
  • Dirty air filter alerts
  • Multiple programmable schedules (weekday, weekend, vacation, etc.)
  • Schedule “learning” capabilities (where the thermostat learns your daily schedule automatically instead of you having to program it)

Step #2: Be certain it works with your home and HVAC system

After you decide which thermostat you need you’ll need to pick a particular model that works with your HVAC system.

To be certain a thermostat works with your system note it can work with:

  1. Your system’s specific voltage
  2. The location on the wall
  3. The # of heating/cooling stages your system has

#1: Check your system’s voltage

By your HVAC system being a low voltage, a millivolt, or a high voltage system you’ll need a thermostat that works with your system’s voltage requirements.

Most thermostats work with low voltage systems. An easy way to tell is if you have wall or floor heaters or an electric baseboard heating system. If you do then you have a low voltage system. They are after all the most common.

How do you confirm your thermostat works with a low voltage system?

Look at the specs on the thermostat box or manufacturer label, but if you’re online, look for the words “low voltage”.

#2: Make sure the thermostat fits on your wall

Remember that your new thermostat will fit in the exact same spot as your previous one. This way you won’t have to worry about rewiring it. This also makes your home zoned, each zone has its own thermostat, therefore you will need to purchase multiple thermostats.

#3: Have a professional decide the number of heating and cooling stages your system has…

The “Stages” are how many speeds your AC or heating system can run.

Your HVAC system will fall into 1 of the following categories:

  • 1-stage = the system works like an ON/OFF switch
  • 2-stage = the system works at a LOW/HIGH speed
  • Variable speed = the system can ramp up or down its cooling/heating levels depending on what is needed at any given time.

In the all run you will need to know if your thermostats wiring works with the number of stages your HVAC system has.

It is best to have a professional handle this for you since this has you read your current thermostat wiring.

Step #3: You should have a HVAC expert to help you install it

An improperly installed thermostat (due to a DIY attempt) can result in:

  • HVAC system malfunctions
  • Lowered comfort (improper wiring can even leave you without cold/warm air)
  • Expensive repairs
  • Unnecessarily high monthly energy bills

By hiring a professional this ensures that your thermostat will work with your system, and that you won’t run into any problems.

Do you need thermostat advice or an installment?

Give us a call. We’d be able to answer any questions you have or help you schedule an appointment with one of our techs to install a new thermostat for your home.

Is a Variable-Speed Air Conditioner Worth the Cost?

Is a Variable-Speed Air Conditioner Worth the Cost?

If you can swing the high upfront cost, then yes, most FL homeowners will find that
variable-speed technology is “worth it” when compared to single-stage/single-
speed ACs.

Note: The term “variable-speed” can refer to two different components in your AC: the
compressor and/or the blower motor. If you’re looking at an AC that’s labeled “variable-
speed”, be sure to ask a licensed technician or manufacturer which component(s) has
“variable-speed technology”.

Variable-speed vs. single-stage/single-speed units: How do they work?

Note: To be more specific, the terms “single-stage” and “two-stage” refer to AC
compressors, while “single-speed” and “multi-speed” refer to blower motors.

Think of single-stage/single-speed units as operating like a basic light switch: they work
at one level—HIGH, which means when they’re on, they’re going full blast at 100%
capacity.

Variable-speed technology works more like a dimmer switch: they can adjust to any
operating capacity needed.
In fact, variable-speed units can operate anywhere
between 10% and 150% capacity, making them much more efficient at keeping homes
cool in the summer.

Let’s look at how a single-speed/single-stage unit would handle the extreme
temperature versus a variable-speed unit:

  • Single-speed/single-stage AC: It turns on at full-blast, cools down your home
    quickly, and then shuts off. These short ON/OFF cycles repeat continuously,
    resulting in hot/cold spots in your home and inconsistent indoor temperatures.
  • Variable-speed AC: It initially blasts at 150% to cool the home quickly, but then
    automatically ramps down to 30-40% capacity once the indoor temperature is
    close to the desired temperature. At 30-40% capacity, the AC provides a slow
    and steady stream of cool air.
    This results in even cooling throughout the entire
    home and indoor temperatures that precisely match the set temperature.

Benefits of a variable-speed AC:

  • More comfort. A variable-speed AC’s longer run times and lower speeds means
    cool air is steadily pushed throughout the whole house to provide even
    temperatures. Longer run times also allow for better dehumidification.
  • Lower electric bills. The ability to ramp down in speed means that your AC
    uses only the lowest amount of electricity needed, meaning lower energy bills
    throughout the year.
  • Quieter operation. Since variable-speed blowers can operate at any capacity
    (not 100% all the time), they have lower decibel levels than other AC units.

The downfall: Variable-speed costs more upfront

The cost to install a variable-speed AC unit is about $4,000–$8,000 more than other
units. The total cost of a variable-speed AC installation is usually around $12,000 to
$16,000.

Fortunately, variable-speed technology isn’t the only factor that can raise the upfront
cost. In fact, the overall cost of an AC installation varies depending on many factors,
including:

  • The size of your unit
  • The efficiency you choose (SEER rating)
  • Features you add (like noise reduction or air quality features)
  • The contractor your choose

Are you on a budget? Try a middle-of-the-road option

If you can’t swing the high upfront cost of a variable-speed AC, but you want more
comfort than a single-stage/single-speed unit. Try considering one of the mid-range unit
options below:

  • Two-stage: If an AC is a “two-stage” unit, it means that the compressor—the
    part in the outdoor unit that pumps refrigerant through your system—has two
    operating capacities
    (high and low).
  • Multi-speed: If an AC is a “multi-speed” unit, it means that the blower—the part
    in your indoor unit that blows cool air throughout your home—has up to five
    preset speeds
    (like a ceiling fan).

Two-stage/multi-speed units keep your home closer to the set temperature than single-
stage/single-speed ones, but still don’t offer as precise temperatures as variable-speed
units

Variable-speed vs. single-stage/single-speed units: How do they work?

Note: To be clear, the terms “single-stage” and “two-stage” refer to AC compressors, while
“single-speed” and “multi-speed” refer to blower motors.

Think of single-stage/single-speed units as operating like a basic light switch: they work at one
level—HIGH, which means when they’re on, they’re going full blast at 100% capacity.
Variable-speed technology works more like a dimmer switch: they can adjust to any operating
capacity needed.
In fact, variable-speed units can operate anywhere between 10% and 150%
capacity
, making them much more efficient at keeping homes cool in the summer.

Benefits of a variable-speed AC:

  • More comfort. A variable-speed AC’s longer run times and lower speeds means cool air
    is steadily pushed throughout the whole house to provide even temperatures. Longer run
    times also allow for better dehumidification.
  • Lower electric bills. The ability to ramp down in speed means that your AC uses only
    the lowest amount of electricity needed, meaning lower energy bills throughout the year.
  • Quieter operation. Since variable-speed blowers can operate at any capacity (not
    100% all the time), they have lower decibel levels than other AC units.

How to Unfreeze Your AC Unit Fast

If you see ice on your indoor or outdoor unit, it is a clear sign that there is something wrong with your AC unit.

The worst part is if you keep running the AC, you risk damaging the compressor— $1,495+ AC repair (more on that later).

With that being said, follow these steps to unfreeze your AC unit quickly:

1- Turn the thermostat from COOL to OFF

2- Turn the fan setting to ON

3 -Check your filter and replace it if needed. If the filter isn’t dirty, call a professional before turning the AC back on.

Note: These instructions will simply help your AC to unthaw but won’t guarantee the prevention of further damage due to falling ice chunks, water on controls, water damage, etc.

In this article, we will explain the rationale behind each of the steps above. We will also provide help tips that will prevent expensive water damage, or a busted AC unit.

Your AC is freezing up for a reason, and simply thawing out the unit won’t fix the root problem. If you want to solve the problem at the core, we can help. Just contact us.

Step 1: Turn the thermostat from COOL to OFF

With ice being on the AC unit this means the refrigerant, the liquid that cools your home’s air, is much colder than it should be. If that cold refrigerant is sent to the outdoor unit, it could kill your compressor. The compressor should only receive refrigerant in the form of a superheated gas – NOT a cold liquid!

Here’s the bottom line: Turning the thermostat from COOL to OFF stops your AC from continuously sending cold refrigerant to your outside unit (where your compressor is located).

During a healthy operation, your compressor should only receive refrigerant in the form of a superheated gas—NOT a cold liquid.

Do you want more in-depth information about why your AC is freezing up in the first place? Come check out our blog, “Why Is My Air Conditioner Refrigerant Line Covered in Ice?”.

Step 2: Turn the fan setting to ON

By turning the fan on it forces your AC’s indoor fan to blow warm air non-stop over your AC’s frozen coils. This will help the ice thaw faster.

Tip: Do not turn your fan setting to AUTO. This setting only runs the blower motor during a cooling cycle. Furthermore, you just turned the thermostat from COOLING to OFF, so your AC won’t be going through any cooling cycles.

Your AC blower motor pulls in warm air from inside your home, and blows it over the refrigerant coils that make up the evaporator.

How long will it take for your AC unit to thaw?

It can take up to an 1 hour or 24 hours to unfreeze your air conditioner. It all depends on the extent of the ice buildup.

As you’re waiting for the unit to thaw, you should keep an eye out for:

An overflowing drain pan. If you can access your indoor AC unit, you may want to put some towels on the floor surrounding the unit. This will help prevent water damage if the melting ice overflows the drain pan and leaks onto the floor.

A clogged condensate drain. As the ice on your evaporator coil thaws, the water will drip into a condensate drain pan, and then flow outside via a condensate drain line (a white PVC pipe). Sometimes dirt picked up along the way can form a clog in that drain line and cause water to backup and overflow. If you think you have a clog, please follow these steps in this blog to clear the condensate drain line.

Step 3: Check your air filter and replace it if needed

The most common culprit behind a frozen AC is a dirty or clogged air filter, so check your air filter as you wait for the unit to thaw out.

Pro tip: Check your filter as soon as you turn the thermostat to OFF. The longer you wait, the more likely the ice will melt onto your air filter and create a dirty puddle.

If your air filter looks identical to the filter below, then change it out for a new filter immediately.

Believe it or not a thin layer of dust or dirt on your air filter can cause major AC problems, so change it out even if the filter isn’t quite as clogged as the one above.

A dirty air filter suffocates your air conditioner. Also when your air conditioner doesn’t get enough warm air flowing over your evaporator coil, the refrigerant inside will colder and colder. Remember: very cold refrigerant coils + moisture in the air = ice.

Do you need help finding your air filter? If so check out our blog, “Where Is My Air Conditioner Filter?”.

You replaced your dirty filter, so now what?

Since you just replaced a dirty filter you will continue to wait until your AC has completely thawed out. Once your AC is unfrozen go ahead and turn the AC back on and run the air normally, but keep a close eye on the unit for the next couple of days.

More than likely, the dirty filter was the problem, but to be sure that there isn’t another issue watch for any ice returning on the AC lines. If you notice any ice forming or notice other AC problems, call a professional to inspect and diagnose your unit.

Step 4: Don’t have a dirty filter? Call a professional right away.

A dirty air filter isn’t the only problem that can cause a frozen AC, but it’s the only problem that you can solve on your own!

If you checked your air filter and it is completely clean, you have a more serious AC problem regarding:

-A refrigerant leak

-Dirt on the evaporator coil

-A weak or bad blower motor

-Stuck or closed expansion valve

-Collapsed duct

Any other number of AC problems you see ice on your indoor or outdoor unit, it’s a clear sign that something’s wrong with your AC unit.

Please do not ignore this problem, or you’ll continuously deal with a frozen AC and you will end up paying over $3,000 for a damaged compressor.