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Clean and Test Your Thermostat for Winter

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ October 26, 2010

Most people have a "set and forget" policy for their home thermostat. But what if it's calibrated incorrectly in the first place? You can check the calibration with a simple test. You can do this one yourself. But if you really want to ensure that you won't spend more than you need to on heat this winter, you may want to call in a heating and cooling contractor.

Checking the calibration on the thermostat takes less than a half hour. The first step is to turn off your heater and clean the thermostat. Remove the faceplate and blow out the dust with your own breath. If you have a coil model, clean the coil with a new toothbrush.

To test it, you need a traditional, glass tube thermometer--not the newer digital kind that is sold at most pharmacies. Shake down the thermometer so it's most of the way down to the lowest reading. Wrap the thermometer in a single sheet of paper towel to protect it from the wall temperature.

Turn off your heater. Use ordinary roll tape to affix the thermometer to the wall--no more than six inches from the location of your thermostat. Be sure the thermometer is not in an airway or direct flow from a window or duct. Close all the windows to the room. And wait 15-20 minutes for your thermometer to register the ambient temperature of the room.

Peel off the side of the paper towel that faces you and compare the temperature on the thermometer with the temperature registered on your thermostat. If the difference in readings is greater than a few degrees, the problem may lie with the calibration. Again, you might want to call in an expert.

Why You Need Routine Thermostat Maintenance

The Minnesota Building Industry Foundation has a routine checklist you can print from your computer. If your thermostat cover is ajar or improperly mounted, it can fail to start when temperatures shift, waiting for a larger drop or rise to activate, costing you money. Again, dirt can have a huge impact on getting the right reading. A difference of a few degrees can really increase your energy bills.

Recently I wrote about the advantages of installing a Set-Back Thermostat that allows you to maintain temperatures in your home based on which rooms get the most occupancy when you're home.

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