Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thermostat Broken - watch for Finger

So, after I spent all that time cleaning out my AC unit, we didn't even use it until 3 days ago, When it was 32 Degrees and super humid!

So yesterday, I was watching TV in the basement (where its always cold) and I noticed that the furnace fan had been on for a long time.  I went upstairs - and it was freezing as well.

20 Degrees.

The thermostat was set to 24!

The thermostat shows that the system was off... but clearly the A/C didn't get the memo.
I did the most scientific testing to try to see if I could fix it...
Took a step back... cracked my knuckles... and pointed my finger at the unit with great authority. Like Crocidile dundee staring down a wild beast.

I moved forward, warning it not to test me... and then I tapped the unit with my finger a few times.

With the first tap, I heard an audible "click" and the the fan and A/C turned off promptly.

Success! All-powerful Finger: 1, Thermostat: 0

There is a relay in your thermostat which is basically just like an electronic switch. I'm thinking mine was stuck.

Hoping it was a one-off thing I adjusted the A/C to 23.5 (again, scientific testing) and walked away.

Apparently, The fear my index finger inspired was not long lasting.

Cunning little devil... - It waited until I was asleep to misbehave again.

This morning, it was a nice and balmy 27 degrees in my house. I woke up feeling super gross. Go downstairs - Thermostat shows 27 Degrees, with cooling "ON".

Thermostat: 1, Finger: 1. Tie game!

Again, with great authority I tap the unit with my "omnipotent" finger - "Click!"

A/C is now on. Confidant - I walked away.

Thermostat: 1, Finger: 2!

It was only 23 degrees outside and a nice breeze, so I let the A/C run for a few minutes, turned it off and opened the windows.

Later in the day, its getting hot and humid - I turn on the A/C again.


... I TRY and turn on the A/C.

This time, I've got it down. I warm up the ol' finger and give it a good tap. Nothing.

Tie Game. 2 all.

...But a punch worked!

I take the lead again! 3-2 Good Guy

However, I can't have the A/C clicking on when I'm out and refrigerating my entire house for a weekend.

Time to look for a replacement, as I believe the internal relay is sticking.

I COULD probably take the thing apart and solder on a new one, but finding the perfect size relay which is soldered on to the main board would be pretty involved. I'd probably have to wait for shipping, and My favorite electronic component supplier (digikey) usually has a minimum order size. (these are all excuses...)

The thermostat I have isn't OLD... it is programmable 7 day, but If I'm going to replace it, I'm probably going to pick something geeky and snazzy, with an added benefit of being "green"

Right now - that's looking like the "Nest" Thermostat. 

I'll cover the Nest in a later post - as I don't have the funds to grab one right now. For the next month or two, We'll basically treat our existing thermostat as an "on/off" switch, as I don't trust it not to refrigerate our house if we go away for a weekend. This would quickly add up.

What I like about the nest is that You it does everything a "normal" programmable thermostat does... but its better at it.

I "must" have it because:

  • WAY cooler and a total luxury I don't "need"
  • Only about TWICE the price than one I would "need" to buy (these first two were dripping with mixture of both sarcasm/truth)
  • Lets me control the house temperature from anywhere in the world
  • Allows me to monitor my heat/cooling usage
  • Has a motion sensor to detect when you're home/not home
  • Understands how LONG it takes your house to heat/cool, also taking into account outside weather.
  • Alerts you when you're being "green" and "not green" 
  • Fully programmable fan control - My basement is cool all the time. Why not run 10 minutes with just the fan to see if recirculating the air around can cool the house before turning on the A/C?
  • The problem with "programmable" thermostats is that Megan works every other week.
  • There are none out there that accommodate this, so we find our self constantly "cranking" our A/C or heat. 
  • This do-dad knows exactly when we're in or out, 
  • We can send it a message with our Android phones to let know when we'll be home, so it can get the house ready for us. 
  • It knows Sleeping patterns, Work schedules, when we go away for weekends,
  • If only it could turn on the coffee maker. *sigh*

Cost Savings:

Most people find it lowers their heat/cooling bills by about 20%. Since the A/C is about 60 bucks a month in the summer, and the heat is about the same in the winter, I'm thinking it'll pay itself off completely in about 2 years, while keeping us more comfortable. (basement warmer, whole house cooler - Finally!)

Right now Megan and I are in savings mode to save up every penny we can for our wedding in just under 10 months - Normally my policy toward spending money to "save" money means I need a return on my investment before our wedding - This one won't pay itself off that quickly, However it will cover the extra expense of itself over a direct replacement of what we have (100 dollar thermostat) So, next pay day, I'll be picking one of these bad-boys up. With red flag deals, you can get 4% cash back at Home depot, so at least it'll be 10 dollars off. (they don't ever appear to go on sale, after many Google searches)

Research time! I need to find out more about my furnance, and what features/wires/voltage it runs on. More on that in an upcoming post!

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