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Programmable Thermostat
Old 07-24-2008, 10:55 PM   #1
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Programmable Thermostat

In my quest to save money on my oil furnace it occurred to me that maybe I should replace my 18 year old thermostats with new digital ones.

If it were not for the cat being home, I would like to let it get cold during the day while I am at work and at night when I am sleeping. And even with the cat I may turn down three of the four zones or make him a warm sleeping cave.

I looked on Amazon and saw three possible brands:

Honeywell - nice but at $150 x 4 it seemed to have a hight ROI.

Hunter 44550 - seems a good choice at $48.99 x 4

Lux Products TX9000 - ~ $50 also seemed ok but some said it was flimsy.

Are any of you familiar with Hunter thermostats?

Do you think it will help save money to turn the zones down while I am away? I imagine there is a range of sensible turn down since heating it back up might cost more than leaving it constant in a given range.

I suppose I could just turn my old thermostats up and down by hand, but the automatic ones seem easier.

Any thoughts on if the new ones are more accurate and help to save money that way?

They seem to work with a lot of different setups. Any thoughts on how I can figure out if they will work with my oil furnace?

A local electrician lives near me and I have talked him into doing small jobs after his normal work day. I probably will have him replace a screwy light switch and a flourescent light in my basement and do these at the same time. I suppose I could show him the proposed models before hand or let him supply me with what he likes as long as it is near $50 each.

As usual, thanks in advance for the advice.

BTW - I had been watching some Al Gore talks on www.ted.com and he mentioned www.wecansolveit.org, which is trying to get legislators and candidates to discuss and do something about climate change. I took a look today and it looks like a way to make some progress if you are so inclined.
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Old 07-25-2008, 05:47 AM   #2
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We use a Honeywell but that is just because the builder put it in. I have installed/replaced them in other homes. Pretty simple to hook up (just read the instructions that come with them). Personally, I would go to HD or Lowes and just look at what they have as I think most any one will work for you. Easy to hook up (and although they are low voltage - turn the power off - one crossed wire while installing can fry the things (learned this one by experience)). We are retired but still set ours in both summer and winter - they do save money if you have reasonable expectations (I would estimate some place closer to 5-15% versus the higher rates printed on the boxes and in the ads). We set ours Summer 12 hours @ 82 and 12 @ 85; Winter 12 hours @ 65 and 12 @ 55 degrees. Location Central Ohio. No experience with Oil (only Electric and Gas Heat) but I would think the savings would be more than the Natural Gas we now have. Ours is dead accurate in both time and temperature (according to the built in thermometer). I am a bit confused on why you multiply the cost by 4, in most cased, I assume you have 4 zones you want to control. If this is the case I personally would look to a professional that can give you a single unit that would control all 4 zones from a single control - that may get expensive and could require additional wiring. Additionally, if this is an older home you may want to invest more effort in sealing any air leaks and/or weather stripping first. The energy savings could be greater with that effort.
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Old 07-25-2008, 07:53 AM   #3
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We pulled out the el-cheapo ones that the builder put in, and put in Honeywells. I think they retailed for about $150 apiece... they are very nice, very easy to use/program for the different timezones of the day ("wake", "away", "return", "sleep").

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Old 07-25-2008, 07:59 AM   #4
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I have a Honeywell digital setback thermostat that's about 6 years old and it works very well. Being retired though we hardly ever use the setback feature anymore.

My only objection to the one I have is that it takes a battery to keep things stored in memory and when the battery dies the thermostat won't work at all.

Several years ago our battery died in the winter and DW called me at work saying the house was getting cold.
I came home and it took a while to figure out what the problem was because I didn't remember the battery. One of those DUH moments.

Some of the newer digitals may be powered off the furnace power supply and not require a battery, not sure though.
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Old 07-25-2008, 08:13 AM   #5
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The 2005 Era Honeywell's do not use a battery and are powered off the furnace. They do use an EPROM that holds the settings for some limited time (in the event of a power failure and then reverts to a default setting of about W55/S85. FYI ours is called a Honeywell "Chronotherm IV Plus" model and is "EnergyStar" compliant.
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Old 07-25-2008, 09:08 AM   #6
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I liked my old totaline wireless thermostat. Has a base unit that attaches where your old thermo did and a small remote unit that has the buttons and readout on it. You can put that wherever you want in the house and it'll transmit the temperature and settings to the base unit once a minute.

It solved a bunch of problems for us. Specifically that it was too warm in the upstairs bedroom both in winter and in summer, but by placing the thermo there when we were sleeping, it would fire the heat or ac to suit that room. That meant less heat in the winter and more a/c in the summer.

Similarly, the downstairs was usually too cool winter and summer. Bringing the thermo downstairs with us in the morning solved that problem.

Its also able to control multiple stage heating and cooling, which if your unit has that capability can improve comfort.

Do also note that not all thermostats will control an oil fired furnace. Some are electric only, some electric/gas and some include operating an oil furnace.

If you're looking for a real solid thermo thats well regarded in the industry and has a lot of cool features, check out the honeywell vision pro.
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Old 07-25-2008, 09:25 AM   #7
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I have a Lux 500 thermostat which is available at Lowe's for $47, and was already installed in my house when I bought it.

It has a battery, and it will tell you if the battery is low so that isn't really an issue (I think that happened once since I moved in). It is really simple to use.

It does everything I want it to do. But then, my home is only 1558 square feet, and not one of those big houses with zoned climate control. Basically, all I want it to do is to change the setting automatically at specific times of day which vary depending on whether it's a weekday or the weekend.
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Old 07-25-2008, 09:35 AM   #8
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The three main differences you're going to get from a $100-something thermo and a $50 one are:

- flexibility of configuration, oil/gas/elec/heat pump, 2 or 3 stage heating cooling, etc.
- Predictive recovery. If you set the temperature for 70 degrees at 7am, it'll start the furnace early so as to reach 70 by 7am and it'll watch the ambient temperature daily to adjust the recovery for warmer/colder weather.
- Best possible humidity adjustment/maintenance. Will run the unit longer or shorter to attempt to remove excess humidity or retain minimum humidity level. My experience is that its better at removing excess with the air conditioner.
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Old 07-25-2008, 09:37 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joesxm View Post
.........
If it were not for the cat being home, I would like to let it get cold during the day while I am at work and at night when I am sleeping. And even with the cat I may turn down three of the four zones or make him a warm sleeping cave..........
You might consider a heated sleeping pad for the cat - gotta be lots cheaper than heating a whole house. The cat will adjust - believe me - they are masters of finding the perfect temperature.

Cat beds: Heated cat bed: Deluxe Heated Cat Pad at Drs. Foster & Smith
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Old 07-25-2008, 10:20 AM   #10
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http://www.honeywell-thermostat.com/...hermostat.html

$69.95, free shipping.
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Old 07-25-2008, 11:36 AM   #11
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The one shown first is a Line Voltage unit. Only good for electric baseboard. For oil furnace need one with "anticipator". That feature limits the current through the furnace control.

I had bought a Lux 8 years ago. It had a tendency to keep furnace on. Inside is a glass tube with miniature contact activated by a magnet. I tried a few after exchanging. None were reliable. By now the may be better.

In current house we walk by the thermostat on the way to the bedroom, easy to set back. We have over 36" insulation in the attic. High thermal mass house, pretty well sealed. Come fall i'll be checking for more hidden cracks (outside air infiltration). Not a thermostatically zoned, ducted oil heat/AC ductwork. We have no ducting in unconditioned space, huge advantage.

Though there are adjustments at each trunk takeoff, for balancing airflows. I tend to reset them in the spring and fall, for optimal airflows to upstairs/downstairs. Takes about an hour now that I figured out the optimal settings.

It is well worth the time to check airflow balancing. Makes a huge difference in comfort and furnace run time requirements. Previous owners had no clue. The also had 1.75 Gph burner nozzles. Insane.

Had it replaced with a 0.75 nozzle. It is still to big. Can't go any lower, furnace design limit. Optimal size would be 0.5 Gph. At -10 degrees F outside, we only need about 39000 BTU/hr too keep house at 70 degrees F. -10 here is a on or two day event, at most 5 days, historically. Typical lows run in mid to high 20 F.

So While setback thermostats are nice, I would recommend analyzing heat load needs, matching furnace/burn capacity. Then proceed with airsealing cracks etc.
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Old 07-25-2008, 01:01 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by UncleHoney View Post
I have a Honeywell digital setback thermostat that's about 6 years old and it works very well. Being retired though we hardly ever use the setback feature anymore.

My only objection to the one I have is that it takes a battery to keep things stored in memory and when the battery dies the thermostat won't work at all.

Several years ago our battery died in the winter and DW called me at work saying the house was getting cold.
I came home and it took a while to figure out what the problem was because I didn't remember the battery. One of those DUH moments.

Some of the newer digitals may be powered off the furnace power supply and not require a battery, not sure though.

I had a Honeywell like that for many years.... it finally got fried somehow and I don't remember what I have now, but think it is still a Honeywell... the current one has a capacitor or something to 'store' the backup power it needs in case of a power outage.... I like it better...

But, now that I have a family at home... just leave it at 77....
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