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Smart vs Programmable vs Manual Thermostats

by vscontent on February 16, 2018

Comparing Three Types of Thermostats: Manual, Programmable, and Smart
Known to nearly everybody, thermostats are the temperature sensing control mechanisms for your heating and air conditioning system. It’s the main control center that determines how much heating or air conditioning will be delivered.

But we’ve come a long way since your grandma’s brown analog thermostat. New thermostats have new benefits and features. Some come with smart phone accessibility, LED touchscreens, WiFi capability, and much more.

There are three main thermostats to choose from:

  • Manual, Electromechanical Thermostats
  • Programmable Thermostats
  • Smart Thermostats (such as Nest and Ecobee)

We’ll take a look at each one to help you understand the differences and determine which one is best for you.

Manual Thermostats

Manual thermostats, aka analog thermostats, are the “dumb” control boxes you grew up with. In order to adjust the temperature, you have to walk over to the thermostat and manually adjust the temperature dial/lever.

Normally, manual thermostats are electromechanical models that use bimetal strips (the sensor) to trip the switch “on” and “off” as it contracts and expands. The switch may have open contacts, however, most manual thermostats use a mercury-type contact enclosed in a glass tube.

While electromechanical thermostats require very little maintenance (just an occasional light cleaning), they have to be operated manually and offer no programming options.

Sometimes manual thermostats have a digital screen. The only difference is that you set the desired temperature with up and down arrows instead of a dial or toggle.

If you are experiencing issues with your thermostat, try these thermostat troubleshooting tips first.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save around 10% a year on heating and cooling costs by turning your thermostat back 7-10 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.

Programmable Thermostats

A programmable thermostat provides extra savings and comfort by enabling the user to program settings for different parts of the day, such as when you are asleep, at work, or away from home.

Nobody likes waking up to cold floors and frigid temperatures. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the thermostat to turn on before your alarm clock, giving the heating system ample time to warm up the bedrooms.

The key to experiencing savings and comfort with programmable thermostats is to actually program it. Too many homeowners don’t take advantage of the features and benefits of programmable thermostat, which basically makes it the same as a manual thermostat.

While most programmable thermostats come with pre-programmed settings, we recommend creating your own unique schedule that best fits your home patterns.

There are four main types of programmable thermostats available:

  • 1-week – uses one setting for every day of the week
  • 5-2 – uses one setting for M-F and a different setting for the weekend
  • 5-1-1 – uses one setting for M-F, one for Saturday, and one for Sunday
  • 7-day – allows different programs for each day of the week, giving you the most flexibility

In addition to different programming settings, there are many other additional features to be aware of:

  • Digital Displays
  • Touch Pad
  • Hold/Vacation Features
  • Smart System Compatibility
  • Voice and Phone Programming
  • Dirty Air Filter Alert
  • Malfunctioning HVAC System Alert
  • Adaptive/Smart Recovery

Don’t let programmable thermostats intimidate you. Learn how to program your thermostat for maximum savings. If you have any questions about programmable thermostats, don’t hesitate to contact Pacific Heating & Cooling.

Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats are “smart” because they are self-learning machines. What does that mean?

Instead of setting a pre-programmed schedule, simply set the temperature manually for the first week and then the thermostat will program itself. Some models take things a step further by detecting when you are home or arriving home (via your smart phone).

All smart thermostats can be controlled remotely from a phone, tablet, or computer. Now, you can turn your HVAC system on or off from wherever you are in the world.

And since the actual programming part of programmable thermostats was such a barrier to energy savings, smart thermostats are designed with easy-to-ease interfaces and simple controls.

In addition to the benefits of self-learning and remote control, many smart thermostats also send you Energy History and Home Reports, letting you know how much energy you are using on a daily basis.

Pacific Heating & Cooling is a Nest Pro Installer

While it may be possible to install a manual or programmable thermostat yourself, due to the complicated nature of smart thermostats, you will need to contact a Nest Pro Installer such as Pacific Heating & Cooling.

You may be surprised to find out that your manufacturer’s warranty will be voided if you try to install the thermostat yourself.

Puget Sound Energy – If you are a Puget Sound Energy (PSE) residential customer, you are eligible to receive a $75 rebate on the Nest Thermostat.

Keep in mind that you need to provide their coupon code at the point of sale. Coupon codes will expire within 72 hours of being issued.

Find rebates near you (and find out if you’re eligible for them) at 

Learn more about the Benefits of Nest Learning Thermostats.

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For more tips on using your programmable thermostat correctly, contact the HVAC professionals at Pacific Air Systems.

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