HVAC is an abbreviation for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. Sometimes you might see the abbreviation HVACR, where the R stands for Refrigeration. Your HVAC system refers to the equipment used to regulate the indoor air quality and your house’s temperature. Imagine your home is the human body, and your HVAC equipment serves as its vital organs. Your thermostat would be the brain, monitoring how the individual components are performing and giving instructions to ensure optimal performance. Read on to ensure thermostat compatibility.
Of course, thermostats are created to work with different HVAC systems, but not all of them. Using a wrong type of thermostat may cause damage to your equipment and lead to an expensive repair job.
So, there are various steps you need to take before you even start to think about the sorts of features you need for your desired thermostat.
Define the type of HVAC system you have
Can you tell me right now whether it’s a heat pump or just an air conditioner? This is a really important question to be able to answer when you need help related to your HVAC system. This is what makes finding the right thermostat a bit of a headache, especially if you don’t have any technical experience. For instance, you may have a gas furnace, electric baseboard, oil fired with a boiler or a heat pump based system. If you don’t, here’s your opportunity to do a little snooping and find out. Here are three ways:
- Using the branch name and model number to get your answer by Internet search: Go outside and find the model number of the metal-noisemaker (aka the condensing unit). Type that number into the search box in your browser and see what the all-wise Internets tell you about it. That’s easy, right?
- Go outside and peer down through the grill on top of the condensing unit: If a horizontal brass pipe similar to the one shown in the photo at right is what you see, a heat pump is your type. That piece is called the reversing valve which allows a heat pump to pump heat in both directions. Note: If you don’t see one in there, that doesn’t mean it’s not a heat pump. Sometimes they’re hidden behind the access panel outside the coil.
- Check out the sound when your HVAC is operating: Adjust the temperature setting to heat your house for a while. Now go outside and see if the condensing unit is making noise and blowing air. If it is, you have a heat pump. (Note: This doesn’t always work, but something else about the thermostat tells you the answer, too.)
Know how many stages you have
In the manual guide of any thermostat will mention about the terms “one stage” and “two stage” often, but just to help you out a little, I’ve added the information below:
- Stage one heat and cool means you have units that work either at full capacity or not at all, it’s like an on/off switch.
- Stage two (or multi-stage) means your system is capable of heating and cooling on both low and high speeds.
Looking inside your current thermostat is a way to help you check what both the type of system you have and how many stages it can perform for thermostat compatibility. For systems that have more than one stage for cooling look out for wires that are attached to an “Y1” and “Y2” terminals. The same applies to a two stage furnace. If you have this, there will be wires attached to the “W1” and “W2” terminals. To understand more about the meaning of the letters and numbers on each wire, you can read here.
But remember to cut off power sources to your system if you decide to touch it. If you’re not sure, the best thing to do is ask a technician to help.
Hopefully this article helped you to understand thermostat compatibility and now you can make your purchase with confidence.