How to Address Problems with Your Thermostat

thermostat troubleshooting

How to Address Problems with Your Thermostat

If you’re experiencing problems with heating or cooling your home, you might immediately think that there’s a problem with your HVAC system. However, some heating and cooling issues aren’t a problem with your home’s furnace or air conditioning at all, but with your thermostat. So, if your home has been feeling a bit too warm or cold, the first step is determining the culprit: your HVAC system or the thermostat (or, in some cases, it could be a case of the office thermostat wars).

There are several ways a thermostat can malfunction, but the news is often good; fixing or even replacing a thermostat is often far less expensive than repairing or replacing a furnace or HVAC unit. Here are a few potential issues you may be encountering and how to troubleshoot the problem.

Your HVAC System Won’t Run

If your HVAC system won’t run at all, you may fear the worst. However, this issue could be something as simple as a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker. To diagnose this issue, try flipping the circuit switch all the way to the off position, then switch it back on. If your HVAC system powers back up, you’ve likely diagnosed and solved the problem at the same time.

For thermostats powered by batteries, try replacing the batteries. Sometimes, it’s a simple power issue that’s impacting your home’s comfort level. You can also try to remove your thermostat’s cover or casing to inspect the condition of the interior components. If accumulated dust is present, carefully clean it out using a soft, small brush.

While you have the casing off, you can also check for loose or disconnected wires. Be sure to cut the power supply or disconnect the thermostat before working with or near the wires, and don’t attempt to reconnect wires yourself if you’re not experienced in working with electronics.

What if You Have a Connected Thermostat? 

If you have a connected thermostat, like the Nest, your thermostat issue may be software-related. For instance, there was a widespread glitch among Nest thermostats in early 2016. The cause was determined to be a faulty software update, which the company was able to rectify with an over-the-air update to its network of devices. If you have a connected thermostat, it’s a good idea to check with the manufacturer to find out if there are known issues and if any updates are available to solve the problem.

The Room Temperature Doesn’t Match the Thermostat

If you have your thermostat set to a comfortable 68 degrees Fahrenheit, but it feels more like the Arctic Circle, there are a few possibilities:

  • Your thermostat may not be level
  • Dirt may have accumulated inside your thermostat
  • It may have been installed incorrectly
  • It’s placed in a drafty spot or a location receiving direct sunlight

Most of these issues have obvious solutions. It’s a good idea to verify that the thermostat is level to start with, and then make sure there’s no dirt and dust inside the unit. If there is, use a small, soft brush to clean it out gently. If neither of these issues do the trick, it’s possible that your thermostat is improperly installed or is in a bad location, allowing for drafts or direct sunlight to impact the thermostat’s operation.

If you installed your thermostat yourself, walk through the steps again to identify any potential problems. If you’re not sure what the problem may be, or your thermostat is in a bad location and you’re unsure how to properly relocate it, it’s time to call a professional for help.

Your Thermostat Powers Down Unexpectedly or Won’t Turn Off

A thermostat that suddenly turns off on its own, or one that doesn’t seem to want to turn off when you want it to, you might also be dealing with a dirty thermostat. Remove the casing, cautiously, and carefully clean out any dirt and dust trapped inside.

If you have a mechanical thermostat, the issue may be caused by a malfunctioning part, such as the anticipator. If you’re not experienced in working with the inner components of a thermostat, it’s a good time to call in a trusted HVAC professional for help. A professional may be able to replace the individual component, or it may be more economical to simply replace the entire thermostat.

If you’ve investigated these potential thermostat problems, but your heat or A/C is still not functioning, you might be facing a problem with your HVAC system. If you’ve ruled out office mates or family members adjusting the thermostat in protest about the ambient temperature, call an HVAC professional who can inspect both your thermostat and your HVAC system overall to pinpoint the issue and recommend a solution.

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