Thermostats – What You Need to Know



Each year millions of people throw away money trying to heat or cool their homes.  There are a lot of great ideas and articles about making a home more energy efficient.   One idea that is rarely talked about is the Thermostat. This should be the first step in energy efficiency, since this is the tool that tells the A/C or heating unit to kick on and off.

We met Tim from Greenspoint temp controls at a job site.  He saw us testing some power tools and we started talking.  Tim works mainly on commercial properties, but he says the same information he told us applies to homeowners as well.  We bought Tim a cup of coffee from the job site canteen truck and picked his brain a little.  Below are a couple good ideas he told us.

Occasionally, test your thermostat by using a thermometer to test the accuracy of the thermostat.  Put the thermometer next to the thermostat for about 10 minutes and compare the two readings.  If they are within 5 degrees, you thermostat is working fine.  If they are over 5 degrees apart, either the thermostat needs to be changed if electronic. If It is Mercury based, it needs to be re calibrated.

Most people make the mistake of lowering their thermostat too much at night.  If the temp is more than a 10 degree swing, this can actually cost more money than you think you are saving.  In the morning the furnace now has to work hard in order to get the heat back up past the 10 degree mark.  Also, if the temperature outside will be close to zero or below, don’t lower the thermostat that night as this will really cause inefficiency.

Check you thermostat’s position in the room.  Even it it has been there for a while.  Maybe the installer made a mistake and didn’t install it in the correct location, or maybe something was added later that might give a false reading.  Check by your thermostat to make sure there is not a draft from somewhere.  Also, make sure there is nothing hot around the thermostat, like a TV or radio. These items can give false readings.

If you do find out that the thermostat needs to be replaced or you need to change locations, this can be done very easily.  If you need to relocate the thermostat, make sure you check the owner’s specifications on each unit.  All you will have to do is run some new wiring to the location of your choice.  This will take some time and work, but it can be done.  If you are replacing your old thermostat, this to is easy.  Most thermostats have two pieces, the head (Body) and the base.  The head is the actual unit you see on the wall with controls.  The base is the part that is screwed onto the wall.  Remember to turn off the power to that thermostat first.

  • First remove the thermostat head which is usually just snapped onto a base.
  • Second, remove the screws from the base that are attaching the base to the wall.  Now you should see four wires, Red, White, Green and Yellow, but this can vary.  Mark each wire if they are not color coded.
  • Before you remove the wires, place a piece of tape over the core of the wires to hold them against the wall, so they do not fall back behind the wall.
  • After this is secure, you can remove the wires from the base.
  • Next, place the new base in place where you want it.  Make sure it is level.  Now with a pencil, mark the spots where the screws will go.  You can drill holes for the new screws.  If you are going through drywall, just remember to use anchors when you screw the new base in place.
  • Once the base is in place and the wires are attached, you can now snap the head back into place
  • You can now program the new unit for your home.


If you are going to have people over, lower the thermostat temp by 5 degrees.  Bodies give off heat, so a lot of bodies around will create  good heat build up.


  1. Great article. I am a HVAC specialist and couldn’t agree with you more. While there are other areas people can fix in order to create a more efficient house, they should start with the thermostat. Older home esp because as one person moves out and new person moves in and might have electronic or other items placed in different spots.
    I went to one home owners place and discovered they were having a problem because their entertainment center was place by a vent. Every time the heat kicked on, it would blow some of the hotter air towards the thermostat and would give a false reading, then kick off shorthly. The home owner couldn’t figure this out, it took me some time also. This was an easy fix and the home owner was glad it wasn’t something bigger.

  2. If you don’t feel comfortable moving a thermostat to a different location in your house, do you make referals or have local guides to who is reputable in a particular area?

    • We don’t have a referral source. The best way to find someone would be to talk with friends and neighbors who have worked with someone. If you still can not find someone, check your local area chamber of commerce for someone local who has a great reputation.


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