Static Electricity: Not Good For Your Old Thermostat…


Two nights ago, I went to turn up the thermostat because I was freezing. I forgot to put on my slippers, so I was walking on our carpet with wool socks… and I even expected to lose a finger when I touched the thermostat… because I had done it so many times before. But this time it was different.

Not only was my finger numb for the next 15 minutes, but it soon became warm in the house. We usually keep the thermostat under 70 degrees during the day, but in the evening, when I get a chill, I turn it up to 70. When I went to bed, I was about to turn the thermostat back down to 66 degrees for the night, when I noticed the temperature inside was 73, even though the thermostat was set at 70. This didn’t look right.

Upon further evaluation, it was revealed that the furnace had not shut down in the hour since I had shocked myself… it was stuck in a permanent “on” cycle. Well, that would not do, I need it cool at night to sleep, so I shut the furnace off completely. Then I went to my trusty computer and ordered a Nest E thermostat like I had installed in our Florida home (don’t ask me why we are living in Illinois in February while owning a perfectly nice home in Florida).

Nest Thermostat

I went to install the thermostat the next day (I ordered it rush delivery) and when I opened up the old thermostat, I mistakenly thought I had both an Rh and Rc wire installed (it turned out the previous owner of the house had wired the Rc and Rh wires with a jumper, but had run it under all the other wires and it looked like two separate wires), which is not compatible with the Nest E… so I returned the Nest E and ordered a Nest 3rd Generation Thermostat instead.

The Nest 3rd Generation thermostat is a little more advanced design with the ability to work with almost every furnace and air conditioning unit that operates with 24V thermostats. The Nest E had the limitation where you could not have 2 transformers in your system (when your furnace and your air conditioner are actually using two separate blower systems). Personally, I was irritated at myself for not digging a little deeper into the wiring, because I could have saved about $80 and the time it took me to return one thermostat and get the replacement. If I had only unscrewed the old thermostat’s base from the wall, I would have seen that only 4 wires went into the back of the thermostat, instead of the 5 I had initially believed to be there. But enough about spilled milk… clean it up and go on, right?

The Nest is great! I love setting up a schedule for the furnace and air conditioner for my sleep patterns. I have the furnace set very low from midnight to 5:30AM, for best sleep temperatures, then I have the furnace come on to bring the temperature up to 67 degrees, and then at 7:30AM it goes to 70 degrees for the rest of the day. Well, that is the plan, anyway. During the course of the day, my wife and I will adjust according to how we are feeling, and the cool part is that the thermostat will remember that when the outside temperatures are above freezing, that we don’t need it as warm during the day and when the temperatures are colder, that we might need it to be set a little higher.

Another cool feature of the Nest series of Thermostat is that when you are away, the system knows it and goes into ECO mode – where it keeps the house temperature between the limits that you set for it (although it will not allow you to let it get colder than 45 degrees in the house to protect your pipes) until you get home. This works as long as you have the Nest app on your phone and have registered the thermostat with your app. I have both the Florida home and the Illinois home on my Nest app, so when we make the trip to Florida, the Nest will lower your heating and cooling bills by not running if you are not there. My Florida electric bill has been under $50 each month that we are away, and I really like not having to constantly adjust the thermostat when I get up and go to bed.

Another great feature is the monthly report you get to your email, letting you know your energy usage. This has been a nice reminder that we aren’t heating or cooling an empty house and that there may be other ways to save energy if we notice a significant increase in usage (sometimes a grandchild will open a window, and unless you check the whole house every time they visit, you don’t know about it).

Of course, it would not be truly automated unless you could also control it with Alexa (here we call her ‘she who must not be named’ because when we say her name she answers us with cryptic messages… “hmmm, I don’t know that one!”). The integration is simple enough, although you may have to get creative in naming the device when you have more than one home. Luckily for us, the Florida home has the thermostat in the hallway and the Illinois home has it in the dining room, so it was easier than naming them Fred and Barney. So we ask Alexa to turn up the temperature in the hallway or dining room, depending on where we are. In homes that have multiple thermostats, this gives you an even greater control over you home energy use, as you can set different temperature schedules for each one.

The Good and the Bad

Of course, there is a serious flaw in the logic of having the Nest know where you are. If you are not home, but other family members are home, you need to turn the ECO mode off. Otherwise, you run the risk of freezing out your family members when you leave the house. When ECO mode is on, telling Alexa to fire up the heater will not work if the person with the phone the Nest is following is away. Bummer, honey, can I get you another blanket while I am at the store?

This is probably the only negative that I have found so far. The Nest thermostat, in my opinion, has changed the way we keep our home climate the way we like it. Now I only have to worry about getting shocked when I turn the lights on or off… wonder if they make something for that?

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