Some Facts when comparing Thermostats, Wi-Fi versus Digital Programmable
The t-stat or stat (thermostat) is the interface or control unit you use to operate your home heating and cooling systems. In its control function, the Wi-Fi thermostat does the same job as the Digital Programmable Thermostat.
Both stats sense and will display the current temperature for the room it is located in, (except for the Nest stat which only displays the temperature setting, not the actual current room temperature) both turn the furnace, boiler or air conditioning system on or off according the thermostat temperature setting, both can be programmed with pre-set temperatures at various times throughout the day or night according to your personal schedule and comfort level and both have an easy to read digital display.
When properly set up and used according to the manufacturer’s and governmental recommendations, both stats may have the potential help save a little bit on your utility bill – however some of those recommended temperature settings to achieve any savings may be above or below your personal comfort zone.
A feature of the Wi-Fi stat is the ability to control your thermostat remotely from a smart phone or device – provided your home is already equipped with a Wi-Fi router that the stat can communicate with.
Some Wi-Fi stats come with one or more motion sensors that track and store your coming and going times and refer to that as a “learning” feature. This learning feature is up to each individual as to whether or not it’s actually beneficial for them.
Something to keep in mind is that the stat only senses occupant movement (activity) in the room that it is located in. Therefore if your stat is located in a formal dining room – a room that isn’t used very often – the occupant sensing function is practically useless. Pet movement may also contribute to false occupant sensing activity.
Studies have shown that programmable thermostats themselves do not actually save any money on utility bills. It is only when they are properly programmed and change the run time of your heating and cooling systems that they have any potential for savings. Manufacturer claims and marketing will of course be all over the board.
Wi-Fi stat makers are all claiming various energy savings and produce lab reports as backup. In truth, your savings (if any) may vary greatly from the studies conducted in manufacturer controlled lab settings. It may be better to select other reasons or criteria – perhaps such as convenience – for purchasing a Wi-Fi stat.
The bottom line is this – in order to reduce heating and cooling system fuel consumption, it’s necessary to set the thermostat to a warmer setting for summer so the AC doesn’t run as much and a cooler setting for winter so the furnace/boiler doesn’t run as much – and of course both settings to achieve any savings may be well above or below your own personal comfort level.
Though properly programmed thermostats are said to be able to reduce fuel consumption, very few people actually achieve any savings on their utility bills, directly related to their thermostat, in part because very few people actually program their thermostats and instead choose to simply adjust it when they get up in the morning and adjust it again right before bedtime as part of their daily routine.
Wi-Fi thermostat manufacturers claim their products (can) save on utility bills due to the self-programming feature in their thermostat but in real life application, there are many variables in play that (can) reduce or eliminate any actual savings such as the location of the stat as mentioned above. One benefit of a Wi-Fi stat is that they may be easier to program than a standard digital programmable stat.
Remote Room Temperature Sensors
Remote room temperature sensors do one thing, they simply read the temperature in the room they are located in and send that information back to the thermostat.
A common misconception about remote temperature sensors is that they can adjust the temperature of the individual room they are located in and thereby solve the hot and cold room issues you have in your home. Any advertising suggesting that is false.
Here is an example of what really happens. Say you set your new Wi-Fi thermostat to 70 degrees on a winter day when the outside temperature is 30 degrees. You have a remote temperature sensor set up in that problem room – the one that always seem colder than the rest of the house. The furnace starts up and warms up the house to the thermostat set point of 70 degrees. When the temperature set point of 70 degrees is reached, the furnace is supposed to shut down.
But now, the new remote temperature sensor (located in that problem room) senses that room temperature is only 66 degrees and relays the information back to the thermostat. Based upon the information the thermostat receives from the remote sensor it will keep the furnace running until the remote sensor in the problem room reaches 70 degrees and tells the thermostat that it’s now up to 70 degrees in that room – and then the furnace will shut down.
However, while the furnace is running longer in order to bring the temperature in that individual problem room up to 70 degrees, it is also continually heating up the rest of the house to a temperature well above 70 degrees while it is running longer to bring the remote sensor reading of 66 degrees up to 70 degrees.
The remote sensor is (in essence) overriding the thermostat and telling the furnace to continue running in order to bring that individual problem room up to 70 degrees even though the 70 degree set point on the thermostat has already been reached.
So now the rest of the house is likely up to 74 degrees or more while the problem room has finally reached 70 degrees. Running longer like that does not save money on utility bills – nor does it make you more comfortable
A remote temperature sensor by itself will not achieve the comfort you are looking for in the problem room. Future, soon to be published, blogs will provide information on other options to address the problem room.
As far as the best Wi-Fi thermostat is concerned, it is the one you feel that you have all the RIGHT information in order to make the RIGHT decision for you and your family. We think the Ecobee brand has many desirable and useful features that many people like and suggest that you include this brand in your Wi-Fi stat pre-purchase research. If we can be of any help or answer any questions you may have, please call us at the number below.
The above information is courtesy of Air-Smart, Inc heating and cooling located in Wheaton, IL 630-871-1855. www.air-smart.com
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