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How to Use Your Thermostat in Raleigh This Winter

Imagine it’s move-in day at your son or daughter’s college. You help them set up their dorm room, share one last bittersweet hug, then head back home so they can begin their journey to adulthood. You haven’t been on the road for five minutes before your phone rings. It’s your college student, and they’ve got a problem: “Hey, um, so how does the thermostat work?”

You may think to yourself, “How did my child get into college yet never learn to use a thermostat? Where along the way did I fail as a parent?” Believe it or not, this sort of scenario is more common than you might think. Although operating a thermostat may seem like second nature to many of us, we had to learn somehow, and often it was our parents teaching us. Just like changing a tire or writing a check, you’ll need to teach your young ones how to use a thermostat before they can live on their own. So before they sign up for college courses, take them through Carolina Heating & Air Conditioning Co.’s Thermostat 101 course for HVAC beginners.

How does my thermostat work?

Learning about the thermostat is a little bit like taking a college Anatomy class. The furnace, air conditioner or heat pump acts like the heart, generating the heat that then flows through the ductwork, or blood vessels. And just as your body wouldn’t be able to function without the brain, your HVAC system is useless without a thermostat. The thermostat controls the HVAC system, turning it on and off and determining the temperature, airflow and humidity levels it produces. Traditional thermostats typically have two functions, HEAT and COOL. These are pretty intuitive: set it to HEAT when it’s colder outside, then COOL when it’s warmer. Older thermostats often have a slide that you can move to your desired temperature.

Thermostats and heat pumps

If your HVAC system uses a heat pump, rather that an air conditioner/furnace combination, there are a few additional things to keep in mind. Heat pumps work like air conditioners during the summer, and reverse the AC process in the winter, taking heat from outside and moving it indoors. When temperatures go below freezing, the heat pump must automatically switch to auxiliary heat mode to provide supplemental heat. On a modern digital display, this will show up as AUX. If the heat pump malfunctions or needs to be turned off for any reason, that’s when you should manually switch to emergency heat mode, or EM HEAT.

Programmable and smart thermostats

Today’s thermostats use advanced technology to increase the efficiency of the HVAC system. Programmable thermostats are not only easier to use, they use less energy and provide more comfort. Digital displays and simple up and down buttons or touchscreen options make changing to the desired temperature, airflow or humidity level a breeze (setting the humidity higher in the winter allows you to turn down the heat a few degrees without losing comfort). Zoning capabilities allow you to create conditions in different areas of your home. For instance, the master bedroom can be set to a comfortable 70 degrees without having to heat the basement left empty by your dorm-dwelling college student, saving on energy costs. For the young person that feels most comfortable toggling between smartphone apps, there’s a thermostat for you, too. Smart thermostats can be controlled from your smartphone, allowing mobile capabilities that increase convenience and efficiency.

No matter where we decide to live, there will be some sort of HVAC system and a corresponding thermostat. Knowing how to use it will make home life easier and more enjoyable. If you have a thermostat issue that you need help with, call the professional team at Carolina Air Conditioning Co., Inc. We can fix any HVAC issue and give you a refresher course on thermostat basics while we’re at it.