Thermostats are a great technology in principal. They automate a simple issue: if cold, turn on the heater. Before thermostats, someone would have to either stoke a fire or open a valve for hot water to flow. By comparison, any automation should seam brilliant, but there is a slight flaw.
Single Point of Reference
In most homes and even small businesses, there’s a single thermostat, and it measures the temperature in a single place. Even in a smaller home, this can lead to drastically different temperatures across the building. Typically a thermostat’s in the center of the building to get the best ‘average’ temperature. This average however, is almost never correct.
In the case of my own home, we can actually measure the temperature difference between rooms. My room is the second on the heating loop, and consequently has some of the hottest water delivered to it, the most available energy. By the time this water has reached the kitchen and living room at the end of the loop, the water’s significantly cooled, resulting in a potentially 10 degree temperature difference.
These differences can be exacerbated by design flaws. The bedrooms in this house, for example, have base boards that are about half the circumference of the rooms. This allows for a ton of heat to be left in these rooms. The living areas of this house however, have a much, much lower ratio. Those baseboards are only able to cover about a quarter of the circumference.
The thermostat is at the center of the house, but it cannot actually achieve an average measurement. The bedroom doors are generally closed, preventing air from mixing between them and the rest of the building. The rest of the square footage is left to be cooler, causing the thermostat to struggle to maintain comfort. One part of the house is cooler and the rest is hotter.
With the development of smart thermostats and their wireless communications, we have a solution. In the past, managing the temperatures in individual rooms involved the expense of running additional wires throughout the entire building to other thermostats. Multiple thermostats meant having some master-control system that would actually manage the HVAC system. The costs added up fast.
Smart Thermostats however, don’t require additional thermostats. You can add additional sensors, read the temperature across multiple rooms, and the thermostat can perform more accurately, better balancing the temperature of the building. It’s an intermediate step between improving your overall HVAC performance and moving on to a fully zoned HVAC System.
The actual setup of additional sensors varies by manufacturer. In many cases, they can be battery operated and attached to any wall or even left on a shelf. Reading out a temperature is a simple, low-power operation.
Is It Worth It?
Moving to a smart thermostat and having multiple sensors won’t fix all the temperature issues in your building. If you have a non-zoned system, it can only improve the temperatures marginally. In the case of my house, shy of redesigning the entire heating loop, there will always be an inherent temperature difference. We can however, mitigate it, prevent the bedrooms from getting too hot or working to prevent the common areas from being too cold.
For a multi-zone set up however, or those considering it, this is the ultimate upgrade. Smart thermostats are already amazing. A smart thermostat that can control rooms individually will provide you with the perfect comfort.