Today is the very first daily article for the A Solution A Day blog. The goal of this article and in fact the website in general is to help people by solving small problems on a daily basis. Let me begin with some back history on myself. I am in my 30’s married with three children (8, 5 and 1, respectively). I finished my undergraduate degree in 2009 in Biological Sciences and hope to finish a M.S. degree in Environmental Science later this year. For a decade now I have been looking at ways to improve the health and budget for my family by improving the environment we live in both at home and in our local community.
I am a firm believer that we as a society should develop and maintain good encironmental practices. I also think that we shouldn’t have to live like cavemen or reduce our quality of life to accomplish this. About six months ago I was frustrated with my electric bill and as a result I took action.I personally examined my house to determine the possible problems and prioritize them in a way that can be addressed. I discovered several problems and decided to address three of them:
- The floor vents entering my house from the crawl space had gaps where conditioned air was escaping.
- The air conditioning unit was blowing with reduced vigor.
- Finally, it was springtime and often we were changing the thermostat between hot/cold and I thought that we were inneffeciently heating and cooling the place.
Today I will talk about purchasing and replacing the thermostat. In the next few days I will examine the other two problems and their solutions. On the final day I will include a cost analysis and a tracked savings report.
Solution – A New Thermostat:
The thermostat was something that I had wanted to replace for a longtime. I have read over and over that a programmable thermostat can save lots of money. So I decided to look into the thermostat. The first thing I realized is that there are lots of options and a highly variable price range ($10 for a very basic one and $300+ for one with bells and whistles such as voice control and ai that learns and optimizes based on your individual comfort needs). Very quickly I realized that I needed to make a list of the important features that I wanted.
The bare essential features for my wife and I were that it had to be programmable, and it had to automatically switch between heating and cooling. The switching between heating and cooling is awesome by the way. In the spring and fall I no longer come home to a house that is too hot/cold because the thermostat was set one way and the outside temperature went the opposite way.
After an extensive search I determined that a decent thermostat from an industry recognized manufacturer with these features would cost $50-$80. I found one,Honeywell RET97E5D1005/U Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat, that has remote connectivity and eventually purchased the thermostat.
Now I am not sure about the rest of the world but I absolutely despise paying extra money for something that I can do myself. This particular day I decided that I was capable of installing the thermostat myself and could save the $50 cost of hiring a professional. At home I read the manual thoroughly. Then detached the old thermostat from the wall to examine the wiring. This part was a bit more confusing than I expected (I like to think its because my wires were extra confusing, it is more likely because I am not a professional).
On the old thermostat each wire is marked with a code and each wire is a different color and there are seven wires. The new thermostat has places for more than seven wires and different manufacturers apparently use slightly differing codes (see how it gets confusing). Fortunately, Honeywell has a customer service department (online chat or toll free phone line). I contacted them and explained my problem and they asked a few questions. Then they asked me to read the codes and tell them the wire colors from my old thermostat. From this information they determined that my HVAC unit was a heat pump with electrical emergency backup heat (I am impressed, I didn’t even know I had a heat pump). They told me which color wires to install in their device at which coded locations. The whole process took 5 minutes and at the end I had a sheet telling me the exact way to correctly wire the device.
Now, I carefully tagged (with tape and a sharpie) each wire and marked it’s old code that was known to work on the old thermostat. This is very important because if the new one doesn’t work you can easily rewire the old thermostat and call in a professional. I then killed the power to the whole house and went to work switching the two thermostats. Twenty minutes later I turned the power back on and proceeded to test the system and the newly wired thermostat worked flawlessly.
Next, I downloaded the app onto my Android (my wife did the same on her IPhone) and followed the directions included with the thermostat to connect everything. This also proceeded flawlessly and I have to say the app is very cool. I can adjust anything and everything from my phone. This feature has come in very handy when the house was too cold and I was in bed. I simply adjusted the temperature from the safety of my sheets and went back to sleep. It also worked great when we went to stay at some relatives house for a weekend. We arrived and I turned down the temperature at home (i forgot to before we left) to save a few bucks on heating and cooling.
Come back tomorrow for the next improvement.