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Your Thermostat: Small Device, Large Role

thermostatMost of us are familiar with our home’s thermostat, the device that turns the AC system on and off according to the temperature points that we set.

At the same time, not everyone may be familiar with the thermostat’s inner workings while it serves as the AC’s command center. As with the air filter, the therm accounts for a notable percentage of service calls we receive here at Air Dynamics as well.

Today we’ll run through a brief overview of thermostats for extra insight into how they function as well as when they can become involved in AC that isn’t properly working.

Knowing your thermostat even better will also further contribute to greater cooling efficiency and savings as you enjoy indoor comfort in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora or Plainfield (IL) this summer.

Thermostats: Unit Components

A standard thermostat includes several core parts for operating your AC:

temperature sensor to detect current room temperature and measure it against the temperature setting

control buttons (or dial for older units) to adjust the thermostat

display screen to communicate set and current temperatures as well as other settings

fan switch to control the speed of the fan, which circulates the cooled air in the house

mode selector for choosing cooling, heating or fan-only operation

Standard thermostats also typically have a bimetallic strip for providing electrical power.

Thermostats: Role in the Cooling Process

Once you set the therm, it will become vigilant for your desired temperature. If it detects the current temperature is exceeding the one that you set, it will activate the AC with the following sequence.

  1. The thermostat sends a signal telling the AC system’s compressor to turn on.
  2. The compressor pumps refrigerant through the system coils, including the condenser coil and the evaporator coil.
  3. As the refrigerant moves through the evaporator coil, it absorbs heat from the indoor air, a process known as heat transfer. This will cool the air you occupy.
  4. The refrigerant heated for the energy transfer travels to the condenser coil, where the refrigerant releases the heat to the outdoor air and condenses to a liquid.
  5. The liquid refrigerant passes through an expansion valve, which reduces the refrigerant’s pressure and temperature.
  6. Once again cool, the refrigerant returns to the evaporator coil and the process starts anew.

Thermostats: Summer Settings

Home-temperature needs and preferences can vary in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield, but you can consider some general guidelines for setting your thermostat this summer.

Some homeowners in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield may desire settings between 68°F and 73°F. Ideally, for greater cost savings and energy efficiency, you can set daily temperatures based on your household’s schedule – e.g. lower them when sleeping or away from home and raise them when awake or returning home.

For optimal cost and energy savings, as well as better sleep and a healthier environment, the Department of Energy recommends setting the therm at 78°F when you’re at home.

When you’re at work or away from home, you can raise the setting a few degrees or simply turn the system off. If you have a smart or programmable thermostat, you can adjust the temperature back to a comfortable setting before you get back to the house.

Also note that:

setting the thermostat to a low temperature (e.g. 62°F) will not cool the home faster and can strain the system unnecessarily.

gradual temperature changes are better for indoor comfort and system performance than drastic ones.

Thermostats: Possible Problems

Because the thermostat is the HVAC command center, it’s important to know ways it can malfunction, as well as things we might sometimes overlook. The more you understand about your thermostat, the better prepared you’ll be to potentially solve a problem yourself or recognize when to check in with Air Dynamics to discuss a solution.

Thermostat Problem: It’s Dirty

Many of us can envision build-up in ducts, but we might not always think of the therm among components that can get dirty. A dirty thermostat will still often operate, but it might provide inaccurate readings. Make a point of cleaning it periodically. If you would like to know more about cleaning your thermostat, just call Air Dynamics!

Thermostat Problem: Not Reaching Set Temperature

If you notice your AC can’t reach and keep your set temperature, a common cause is the thermostat’s location. If it’s exposed to direct sunlight or hot lamps for too long, the unit’s panel can warm, confusing the internal thermometer. If you notice that location near warming light is a factor, move the thermostat to another location with less exposure.

The thermostat also should be placed in a central point in the home. This will allow it to achieve balanced readings and prevent cold or hot spots.

Thermostat Problem: Age

An aging thermostat will often decline in performance. If the unit is older than 15 years, for example, its internal sensor may start to make false or inaccurate readings, making the cooling system work harder. Older thermostats also can get dirty more easily.

Thermostat Problem: Batteries

You might be surprised by how often we are called out for a service visit only to discover the main problem with the AC was weak or dead batteries in the thermostat. Failing batteries can produce all kinds of symptoms, such as an improperly working display or the AC system shutting off when it’s not supposed to. Periodically check the display to see if the low-battery icon appears.

If the batteries still have life but the system still is shutting off, there might be a loose connection that is compromising power to the thermostat. Air Dynamics can help you with thermostat wiring if you’re unsure of how to correct it.

Thermostat Problem: AC Not Turning On

In addition to maintaining fresh batteries, make sure the device is set to “cool” mode and the temperature setting is below the current temperature.

Thermostat Problem: Installation

Improper installation of a thermostat will interfere with its intended operation. If you think that you or someone else may have installed your device incorrectly, just let us know – we can help!

Thermostats & Seasonal Maintenance

The thermostat clearly is vital to using and conserving energy, reducing stress on the AC system and controlling cooling costs for your home.

If you haven’t yet arranged your seasonal AC maintenance, now is a great time to get it on the schedule. Your Air Dynamics technician will ensure your AC system and thermostat are in their best shape for what you’ll need from them this summer.

If you’re interested in greater system efficiency and versatility, we also can discuss thermostat upgrades such as programmable units and smart thermostats with Wi-Fi and phone-app connectivity.

Current thermostats now allow for pre-set schedules that organize and regulate settings according to your household schedule. Other features might include:

geofencing – automatic temperature adjustments based on your location at home

motion detection – turning off the AC when no one is present

energy monitoring – tracking of energy use and providing of insights for savings

AC Thermostat & Maintenance: Contact Us Today

When we’re serving Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield (IL) in the summer, indoor-air comfort and quality are always our guiding objectives. To learn more about thermostats or schedule an AC inspection and tune-up, just give us a call at (630) 731-1550!

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