ACHRNEWS

Electronic Thermostats Give Consumers Options

March 20, 2001
Electronic thermostats are available with a wide range of options and capabilities.


It used to be that customers didn’t have much of a choice when it came to thermostats. An electromechanical thermostat was always installed, and that was the end of the discussion. Then came electronic thermostats, and all of a sudden consumers were able to program what temperature they would like their homes to be at what times.

Carrier Corp. says it is taking that basic concept of the electronic thermostat — precise on-demand temperature control — and moving it one step further. The result is a line of electronic thermostats that offers customers and contractors a wide range of options and capabilities.



What’s New

The company’s new electronic thermostat models include nonprogrammable and programmable thermostats in single-stage, multistage, and dual-fuel configurations, as well as specialty products (wireless, two-wire, and flush-mounted thermostats).

The company also offers Thermidistat™ control that combines programmable humidification, dehumidification, and temperature control in one unit.

If customers are looking for all of the features of that thermostat, plus individual control of up to eight heating and air conditioning zones, they might be interested in the ComfortZone II™ system. In addition, the manufacturer offers utilities its two-way-communicating, Internet-enabled Comfort-ChoiceSM “solution.” The Internet-based demand-side management system features a seven-day programmable thermostat.

“Because Carrier designs and manufactures the controls for all its hvac components, the company is uniquely positioned to provide thermostats that become the ‘soul’ of system solutions that provide significant benefits to our customers,” says Chris Peel, senior marketing manager for the company’s Residential Systems Group, Indianapolis, IN.

One example, he notes, is the ComfortHeat™ solution, which combines Thermidistat or ComfortZone II control with the manufacturer’s variable-speed furnaces and high-efficiency condensing units. Specifically, the system provides even heating, tighter control of temperatures, and integrated humidification control, the company says. Customers can expect up to 30 times better humidity control in certain situations while saving energy, it said.

The company also has a line of backlit, two-wire thermostats that do not use batteries for heat- or cool-only applications, and a wireless programmable thermostat.



Customer Concerns

Energy consumption is a big concern today, what with the many uncertainties around the country (particularly the energy shortage in California and the prolonged winter weather in the Northeast, both of which are straining the nation’s energy supply). With setback thermostats used correctly, customers can conserve energy and save a little on their utility bills.

To further control their energy usage and costs, customers may be interested in ComfortChoice, a Web-enabled demand-side management system from Carrier. If their utility offers the system, consumers can log onto the Internet and, through a secure and user-friendly website, program their thermostat, view current temperatures, and change temperature setpoints, fan status, and operating modes. In addition, customers with ComfortZone II can connect to their zoning system with their home PC, or remotely through a phone line or broadband connection.

Of course, customers are also concerned about the ease of use and readability of electronic thermostats, programmable thermostats in particular. Many customers would also like the thermostats to be mounted in closets or to blend better into the home’s décor. “It is obviously very difficult to achieve accurate temperature control when the thermostat is not mounted in a relatively conspicuous location, so the industry as a whole is continually challenged to solve these problems,” says Peel.

And there will always be those consumers who won’t want to pay extra for programmable thermostats. These consumers might prefer an inexpensive electromechanical thermostat, even at the expense of improved comfort. However, many more consumers are realizing the benefits of electronic thermostats, as well as wireless or home automation products.



Used correctly, setback thermostats can conserve energy and help consumers save on utility bills.

Contractor Still Has Control

Because there are so many consumers who would prefer to have an electronic rather than electromechanical thermostat, contractors should be aware of the opportunity and take advantage of it. That’s because in the add-on and replacement markets, most consumers, when given the option and a reasonable explanation of electronic thermostat benefits, will elect to upgrade from an electromechanical to an electronic thermostat.

On the residential new construction side, there may not be as many opportunities for contractors to upgrade the thermostat, due to builder specifications. However, it’s worth a conversation with the builder to discuss the benefits of upgraded thermostats.

There are a number of reasons why contractors should specify, and homeowners should request, electronic thermostats: environ-mental concerns with mercury thermostats, improved reliability, and improved comfort associated with tighter control of the hvac system. In addition, there are the energy savings that can result from using a setback thermostat during unoccupied periods.

Peel says that some contractors also assume that electromechanical thermostats are “just as good” as the electronic versions. “We find that in many cases the reluctance to change is due to many years of experience installing and servicing systems with electromechanical thermostats. The reality is that the electronic thermostats are no more complicated to install.”

The bottom line to contractors is not to underestimate the importance of including an electronic thermostat with every installation, and preferably a programmable model.



Sidebar: Single-Family Homeowners Want Connected Homes

SAN RAMON, CA — Internet Home Alliance, a nonprofit association of leading high-tech and consumer companies formed to enhance consumers’ understanding, appreciation, and adoption of “the Internet lifestyle,” announced the following results from a recent survey: 42% of U.S. single-family homeowners, or 26.1 million households, are inclined to adopt technology that results in a connected home.

Seventeen percent identified themselves as likely adopters of connected home solutions, and 25% indicated that they would consider the concept of a connected home. The study unveils the following key characteristics of primary adopters:

  • College-educated families with children between the ages of 14 and 18 years old;
  • Families with an annual household income between $75,000 and $100,000;
  • Homeowners between the ages of 35 and 54 years old; and
  • Majority tend to be outgoing and involved in a variety of social or civic activities.
  • A connected home is a home where computers, peripheral devices, TVs, lighting and heating controls, the security system, and other appliances are linked into one centrally controlled system. This system can enable simultaneous access to the Internet from multiple computers in the home. It can download and deliver a variety of entertainment services to multiple-connected devices in the home, sharing a single printer and computer files by multiple family members, and central and/or remote control and management of appliances and security systems. The survey indicated that the most appealing aspect of the connected home is the convenience associated with the ability to control a variety of home devices from a central system. The least appealing aspect is the presumption that the technology will be too “technical” or “complicated.” For more information, visit www.internet homealliance.com (website).

    Publication date: 03/26/2001