DIY smart thermostat installation


Here’s what the job entails for the homeowner

Smart thermostats are all the rage among those who want to improve their energy efficiency and have greater control—even remote control—over their household environmental systems. When integrated with smart home technology, the new generation of HVAC thermostats allows not only sophisticated programming and monitoring capabilities, but the opportunity to reduce electric bills without sacrificing comfort.

Middle Tennessee Electric, your Trusted Energy Advisor, recommends smart thermostats as one of the answers to reining in electricity demand, especially during peak summer and winter use periods.

Whether you’re shopping for a Nest Learning Thermostat, Ecobee SmartThermostat, Honeywell Lyric, or any of dozens of similar products, the question of installation will be a concern. Most manufacturers assure potential customers that their smart thermostats are do-it-yourself (DIY) ready.

If you’re not familiar with tools or wiring, drywall repair or painting, DIY might not be your best bet. These skills can be learned through advice from your local hardware or building supply stores or via online tutorials and videos. Even better, a “crafty” friend might agree to help. Just be aware that tackling installation without at least a basic understanding of what the job entails might result in confusion and frustration.

Materials Needed

  • Screwdriver
  • Wire-cutter
  • Possibly a putty knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Paintbrush

Installing the Thermostat

First, determine the type of heating system in your house. Most central HVAC units are smart-thermostat compatible, but high-voltage systems (baseboard heat, radiant, fan-forced, convection) need a control system specifically designed for them.

When an existing conventional thermostat is being replaced, be aware that the new smart version probably won’t cover the wall space occupied by the old one. This means possible patching, spackling and painting. These repairs will need to be completed before the new thermostat is mounted and wired in.

Thermostat power requirements are low-voltage. Many manufacturers recommend using a “C” wire when installing their smart wi-fi thermostats. C-wire stands for common wire, but not all older thermostats were fitted for this, nor were some older houses equipped. There are several ways to become compatible, but for an electrical wiring novice, it might be best to contact a professional. Most manufacturers or retailers have help desks, either online or via phone, that can point you in the right direction.

Finally, when you’re ready to install your new smart thermostat, ensure that power to your HVAC system is turned off at the breaker box. Turning off the thermostat doesn’t affect the high voltage that powers the heating-and-cooling equipment. Wait at least five minutes to make sure the system has cycled off before touching any wires.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for installation, especially the specified wiring diagram. When your new smart thermostat is mounted and operational, enjoy the expanded capabilities at your fingertips—via smartphone, tablet or laptop keyboards—for increased comfort, convenience, and energy savings.

See the links below for more information about smart thermostats and DIY installation:

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