Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Home Improvement - New Thermostat and saving energy...

Today I tried something new. I installed my first building thermostat. I went over to Banana's house this afternoon after work, and put in a thermostat I purchased this past weekend. I had the best intentions of installing it Sunday, but life happened.

Having never done this before, I made sure I read the directions. Twice. I am not particularly experienced nor fond of working on electrical things. I was shocked a number of years ago, and that has made me a bit gun-shy in working on all things electric. Nonetheless, I forged ahead. I shut off the system at the furnace, and began to remove the old thermostat. The thermostat was a Honeywell just like the one in the picture to the right. It is a pretty simple process, though this is the original thermostat, so the screws were really tight. What I discovered, somewhat to my surprise, when I got the top two layers off, was that this was a 5 wire system. Not a big deal, but each wire increases my chances of screwing this up. And since it currently 11 degress fahrenheit here in Minnesota, screwing this up could have serious (and expensive) ramifications.

I loosened all 5 wires, and removed the unit with no sparks or funny tingling sensations. I installed the back plate for the new unit, and figured out where each of the wires attached to the new thermostat. I then proceeded to program the new unit, stuck it onto the back plate, and said a quick prayer. Banana has been at work the whole time I am doing this, though she knows I am working on this project. I pray that it works, and if it doesn't work that I can get it working before she gets home in 15 minutes. It was beginning to get cold in her house. I turned the system back on, and went back to the thermostat hoping to not see any smoke/sparks. Thankfully it appeared to be working. I fiddled with the temperature setting, and within seconds I heard the furnace turn on, and the blower spool up. Hot air began to fill the house (no..not that which emanates from me!), and I did a small dance of joy. The new unit is a Lux Thermostat, which is a programable system. It has different settings for week days and week ends. It is Energy Star rated, and it will hopefully pay for itself in short time. This new unit will allow us to keep the house cooler during the day (or warmer during the Summer) when nobody is home, saving energy. It turns the heat up shortly before Banana gets up in the morning, turns it down when she leaves for work, comes back up in the evening before she gets home, and cools down again after she goes to bed. With the increasing cost of natural gas, this is a no brainer. We hope to save 30-40% with this system, which in theory should keep the gas bill about the same price as last winter (assuming same weather conditions).

If you own a home, or are responsible for paying the heating bills somewhere (your church, business etc.) and you have an old style thermostat, I encourage you to think about doing a conversion to a new programmable system. The total time involved in my swap was 20ish minutes, though the instruction manual suggests that it takes 30 minutes. The control unit I purchased is a fairly simple model, and it cost me $35 at Menards. There are ones with more bells and whistles and more settings, and you can spend up to $90 for these units depending on your need. Just make sure the electricity is off before you dig into this project. The only tools I needed were a flat head and phillps head screw driver, and a pocket knife to open the package containing the new thermostat.

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