Why Thermostat Location Matters

In recent months we’ve had a few service calls about uneven heating and cooling throughout a home. After exploring the issues, in each case, it came down to issues with thermostat location. So what’s going on with thermostats?

Can thermostat location really be an issue?

Gas furnaces and air conditioning units have a lot of working parts, and when something goes wrong, you’ll be aware of the problem immediately. Maybe the furnace doesn’t ignite or the fan makes a whirring noise, the culprit is easy to recognize and remedy.

One of the reasons our customers decide to take the step and replace a furnace or air conditioner is to add comfort to their home. When a customer replaces a furnace they expect to it to perform and provide energy efficient savings with improved comfort for their home. So when we get the call for hot and cold spots, the customer can be quite concerned and we want to diagnose the problem.

We’ve had some concerns brought to our attention in the past few months and wanted to address some of the problems and how we resolved them. Fortunately, thermostats on the market today afford us the flexibility to install a thermostat just about anywhere. Let’s look at the issues we’ve encountered.

Problem #1: Your Thermostat is in Direct Sunlight
Does your air conditioner seem to run too often in the summer? Does your heater refuse to turn on in the winter? It may be a result of your thermostat being placed in direct sunlight. The sunlight heats the thermostat itself as well as the air around it, producing a temperature reading that is much warmer than the rest of your home.

If your system has this problem, your air conditioner is working harder than necessary in the summer (costing you money on energy bills) and your home remains cold in the winter (decreasing your comfort).

Solution: You may be able to remedy this situation by closing the blinds or drapes on the window during the day. But if you want to maintain the full function of your window, you will probably need to move your thermostat to a less sensitive or exposed location.

Problem #2: Your Thermostat is Too Close to Air Vents
This problem usually manifests itself through an air conditioner, heat pump or furnace that constantly cycles on and off. The thermostat turns your air conditioner on, but the cool air blows directly on the thermostat, yielding a false reading that turns the air conditioner off. The thermostat then quickly recalculates the temperature, realizes it is still too warm and turns on your air conditioner again, restarting the cycle.

Solution: You can attempt to redirect the vent’s airflow so it doesn’t blow directly on your thermostat. However, the best solution is to move your thermostat to another location.

Problem #3: Your Thermostat is Not Centralized
If you have only one thermostat in your home, it should be placed toward the center of your living space so that it can read the average temperature of your home. This helps ensure the maximum comfort level of your entire home. If placed on one end of your home, that end may be comfortable while the other side of the house remains too hot or too cold.

Solution: Move your thermostat to the hallway just outside the main bedroom (assuming it is also out of direct sunlight and an adequate distance from vents).  Or you could possibly adding a zoned system.

Rare Problem #4: The Thermostat Wall itself is causing you problems.
Once in a while we notice that the wall that the thermostat is mounted to is the problem for faulty temperature readings.  On older homes with balloon frame construction, the walls could possible be open to the basement and the attic, causing a constant cold draft behind the thermostat.  This cool air will tell the thermostat that the room is actually colder than what it really is.

Solution: Install insulation behind the thermostat where the wires come through the wall.  Close off the open wall cavity in the basement or attic with insulation. Move the thermostat to a different wall.

If you are still having problems with your thermostat or heating and cooling system, contact us and we’ll give you our best advice on remedying the situation.



Clint Pharo is a local HVAC Contractor in Madison, WI. He and his team of HVAC professionals at Pharo Heating & Cooling cover a broad range of services in commercial buildings, new home construction, and residential homes and locally represent Bryant Heating and Cooling Products. He regularly posts on his company’s blog at www.PharoHeating.com


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