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Wireless Thermostats

The flexibility to control the temperature in one or more locations of your choosing.

Wireless thermostat

Hard-wired (Line voltage) connections between heating/cooling equipment and thermostats have many limitations that can now be overcome with wireless technology. Wireless thermostats add the flexibility to control the temperature in one or more locations of your choosing. They are ideal for equipment retrofits, additions, and for overall improvement in HVAC performance in new home construction. Wireless systems typically consist of the wireless thermostat (sensor) itself and a receiver. Most come with one or more remote controllers.

Wireless technology is replacing hard-wired components in almost every area of our lives. The wireless thermostat is no exception as attested to by the offerings of several manufacturers. The typical set-up includes the wireless thermostat itself plus one or more receivers and/or remotes. The receiver can be a wall mounted device connected to the equipment or it may be integrated into an AC plug controller. The systems on the market also offer variety in their configurations. For example, the basic system comes with the thermostat and a receiver. The wireless thermostat can be located anywhere in the home. More options can then be added to increase the level of control and convenience. Multiple thermostats or receivers can be added to allow control of a single HVAC system from multiple locations, or multiple pieces of equipment could be controlled from the same system (e.g., multiple window units or baseboard heating units).


Affordability

The less complicated systems will operate similar to a conventional thermostat system. In either case, there will likely be initial installation cost savings, especially for retrofits.

Energy Efficiency

The manufacturers claim significant savings in energy use due to better control over the system. Depending on the system you are comparing, the complexity of the system and corresponding level of control, claims of energy savings can exceed 20%.


Easy

Wireless thermostat products are widely available through local HVAC suppliers and direct from manufacturers over the internet. The contacts below will be helpful in obtaining specific information about individual products. A search on the key words "wireless thermostat" at Google.com or another internet search engine will yield numerous additional contacts.

The main limitations with wireless thermostats appear to be on the user side. Homeowners will need to become accustomed to periodic replacement of batteries. Likewise, some of the set-up programming may be intimidating to users.


The cost of wireless thermostat systems varies by system and the desired level of control and convenience. Several of the basic systems with one remote and one receiver, used in much the same way as a conventional thermostat (controlling the entire home or one zone from one location), retail from just over $200. As more control (number of zone, remotes, or pieces of equipment) is added, the systems quickly become much more expensive.


Unlike line voltage thermostats, periodic replacement of batteries is an added cost of wireless thermostats. Types of batteries vary by manufacturer. Two "AA" lithium batteries used to power several of the thermostats have a life of six to 12 months and cost about $7 a pair retail. At least one system has an optional plug adapter to eliminate the battery requirements, although this feature reduces the flexibility of the system by limiting the locations for installation.


Any wiring of low-voltage receivers should meet the National Electric Code or other appropriate code requirements. Likewise, plug-in devices should be listed by a code-approved organization. These requirements are similar to those for standard-line-voltage thermostats. However, the wireless feature introduces some Federal requirements. Wireless thermostats on the market are required to list that they comply with FCC Rules under Part 15.


Not Applicable


The installation of a wireless thermostat depends on the complexity of the equipment and the desired level of convenience. In a very basic retrofit installation of a central heating/cooling system, a receiver can be wired directly to existing wiring from a line-voltage thermostat. The wireless thermostat can then be placed anywhere in the building and is easily wall mounted with screws. With some systems, the wireless thermostat does not need to be mounted at all. It can be placed near your bed, on a table, or in any location of your choosing. Control of window units or baseboard units can be accomplished through plug controls offered by various manufacturers. For new homes with a central furnace or AC unit, a receiver is typically located in the utility room and wired to the equipment.

Control of multiple pieces of equipment or temperature control from multiple locations usually only requires wall mounting of additional wireless thermostats or insertion of plug controls. In these cases, the most complicated part of the installation is the programming to set up the system for operation, not the physical installation of the receivers and sensor units (thermostats).


Warranties are anywhere from 1 to 5 years depending on manufacturer.


The convenience of installing a system with wiring behind the walls is one the largest benefits of this technology. Another is the flexibility to place the thermostat in any number of locations. A third benefit is the ability to add higher levels of control without much effort. The manufacturers also claim significant savings in energy use due to better control over the system. Depending on the system you are comparing, the complexity of the system and corresponding level of control, claims of energy savings can exceed 20%. The less complicated systems will operate similar to a conventional thermostat system. In either case, there will likely be initial installation cost savings, especially for retrofits.

Disclaimer: The information on the system, product or material presented herein is provided for informational purposes only. The technical descriptions, details, requirements, and limitations expressed do not constitute an endorsement, approval, or acceptance of the subject matter by the NAHB Research Center. There are no warranties, either expressed or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of this information. Full reproduction, without modification, is permissible.