How do I Choose the Best Wall Thermostat?

Rebecca Mecomber
Rebecca Mecomber
A digital wall thermostat.
A digital wall thermostat.

A dizzying plethora of wall-mounted thermostats fill the home improvement store shelves, presenting the ability to manage your heater with basic simplicity or computerized technology. To find the thermostat best suited for your heating system's needs and your budget, consider these factors when making your selection: single-pole or double-pole; bi-metal or electronic temperature gauge; and a manual thermostat with a dial or programmable adjustable thermostat with digital screen. Also consider the cost of installing a thermostat and the possible cost of repairing a thermostat. The best thermostat provides you with safe convenience and smooth, efficient operation at a price you can afford.

Wall-mounted thermostats are single-pole or double-pole. Single-pole thermostats are inexpensive and easier to install, because they contain two wires, one of which opens the circuit to cut off electricity to only one side of the power supply. Single-pole thermostats are more hazardous, because they have no "off" position and will continue to supply power and heat even at the lowest setting. Double-pole thermostats are safer and will turn the heat completely off when adjusted. They have four wires that must be configured correctly according to the manufacturer's instructions for proper operation.

Some wall-mounted thermostats use bi-metal components to manage temperature settings, and others use electronic sensors. The bi-metal device is constructed of two metals, usually copper and aluminum, that physically bend at different temperatures. The movement of the metals cause the thermostat to tilt slightly, turning on the heat within 3-6 degrees of your temperature setting. Electronic sensors are much more accurate but are also much more expensive. They usually are incorporated into the digital programmable thermostats, and the bi-metal devices are for manual dial-adjusted thermostats.

The programmable wall thermostat is one of the most expensive types of thermostats. It uses electronic technology to manage your heating system based on preset adjustments. Sophisticated models might offer you the ability to set various temperatures by the hour or by the day of the week, tell the time of day and display the current temperature. The programmable wall thermostat is the most expensive of all the thermostats, but it provides flexibility and the opportunity to specifically manage and monitor your heating system.

Finally, consider the installation cost for your new wall thermostat. An entirely new thermostat in a new location will require new wiring, some wall demolition and wall repair. Of course, if you are simply replacing a thermostat with a new one, the costs will be much lower. Additionally, your local government might regulate the type and location of the wall thermostat. Contact your local building control agency to determine the requirements for your area.

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    • A digital wall thermostat.
      A digital wall thermostat.