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AC and Heating Tip from AC Express

Thermostat Problems

Thermostat Problems

It’s the beginning of fall and as expected in Austin, air conditioning is still a necessity for daily use. We’ve some cool days and some hot and it will probably stay that way until we get deeper into the fall. So, with the air conditioning still playing an important role in our daily lives, it’s important that we look out for it as much as it looks out for us. Being attentive and attune to any sort of problems that might arise is the best way to prevent costly repairs from being needed. That’s because most major issues that can inflict your air conditioner start out as smaller issues that can be spotted and treated early on, much the same way human health problems work. The sooner problems get attention, the better the prognosis will be.

One component of the air conditioning system that isn’t talked as much about in terms of malfunctions and repairs is the thermostat. This is somewhat surprising because the thermostat is the most visible and attention grabbing part of the air conditioning system. It’s the part that everyone in the household knows very well, where it’s located, what it looks like, how to use it. That’s because it’s the component that connects the household inhabitants to the rest of the air conditioning system. It’s the interface. And yet many people don’t know about some of the problems that can afflict the thermostat. It’s important to know what things can go wrong with the thermostat and what you can do about them so that you don’t unknowingly go months with a faulty thermostat. This tip will teach some of the signs of issues to look out for with your thermostat, what things can be fixed by yourself, and what things require a professional touch.

Common Thermostat Problems

First, I’ll give a rundown of some of the most common and obvious thermostat problems. Then a detailed look at what those symptoms might indicate. Some things that you might notice have gone wrong with your thermostat include, firstly, that it just won’t turn on. A thermostat that is non-responsive and blank might be out of order, or it may just not have any power. So if your thermostat won’t turn on, first thing’s first, check the batteries. If your thermostat runs on batteries then you’ll want to change those regularly. Lithium batteries are a good choice because they last longer than other types. You’ll also want to check your breakers and make sure your HVAC system is receiving power at all.

If you have an older, electromechanical thermostat and it’s acting up, you may want to try dusting it. It sounds ridiculous, but sometimes a build up with dust on these non-digital models can cause problems. Remove the plastic casing around the thermostat first. Dust and dirt are often the cause for inaccurate temperature readings and other problems. Lightly dust the inside of your thermostat, including the metal coils and contact plates. If you brush can’t fit in between the contact plates, try sliding a soft paper back and forth to clean them.

Another problem you might notice is that the thermostat temperature setting and the temperature it’s reading the house at are different even though the fans have stopped running. In other words, there’s been a complete air conditioning cycle but the temperature hasn’t reached the one you’ve set. This means the thermometer will have to be adjusted. On older models this can be done with a screwdriver.

If you find your house doesn’t seem to be getting as cool as it should be or it’s getting colder than it should be based on the temperature you set the thermostat at, there might be a problem with the location that the thermostat is located in. The thermostat houses the thermometer that it bases the ambient temperature of the house on. If that thermometer is in a place that’s colder or hotter than the rest of the house then it won’t give you an accurate reading and therefore won’t turn on and off the air conditioner at the appropriate times. Your thermostat needs to be away from heat sources and direct sunlight. If your thermostat is near a lamp, computer, or any other source of heat, the thermostat’s temperature reading will be off and will send the wrong commands to your furnace or air conditioner.

General Thermostat Troubleshooting

Sometimes you’ll have a problem with your air conditioner that at first leaves you stumped as to the cause. Maybe you have a handful of symptoms or maybe you have just one and you’re left with a dozen different things that could be the culprit and no idea where to start. You may want to start ruling things out and thermostat is one of those things that you’d want to rule out first. The reason why it’s good to rule out the thermostat first in such an instance is because it’s relatively easy to get to and manipulate.

So to do a general troubleshooting of the thermostat, start by changing the temperature setting by knocking it a few degrees lower than the current temperature reading. Make sure it’s set to “cool” and “auto” and see if the air conditioner kicks on as it should.

Then check that the main circuit breaker for the furnace or air conditioner is in the “On” position. Turn off the power for the furnace and air conditioning systems by switching the appropriate circuit breaker to the “Off” position. Take off the plastic cover to the thermostat. They typically come off with gentle prying by hand. Or they may need to be unscrewed via a screwdriver. Check the wires, making sure each is attached firmly to its respective mounting screw. Reattach any loose wires and tighten loose mounting screws. Flip the breakers back on and determine whether the device runs by repeating the first step of turning the temperature setting a few degrees below what the temperature reading is at.

If it does not, turn the furnace and air conditioner power back off again at the breaker panel. Study the wires inside the thermostat. Choose the red and white wires if you are having problems with the furnace kicking on, or the red and green wires if you are having issues with the air conditioning system coming on. Unscrew the two appropriate wires from their terminals. As you loosen the screws, grip the wires with your other hand so they don’t slip behind the wall. Wrap the two wires together, and turn the breaker back on. If the blower comes on for furnaces or air conditioning systems then you can conclude that the problem is with the thermostat and it may need replacing.

DIY Thermostat Repair

There are some repairs that require calling a professional. There are some repairs that could be done by yourself but many who aren’t super handy with rewiring and electrical handy work might want to fetch a professional for. And then there are some things that most could do by themselves. Some of these DIY fixes are worth trying in the case of some problem afflicting your thermostat before you call a professional technician.

If your thermostat isn’t properly controlling the air blower, the first thing you might want to try is cleaning it. Remove the plastic covering on the thermostat. Then get a small brush of some sort and dust of the internal components of the thermostat. If the thermostat has two parallel metal strips, wipe them off with a soft cloth. If you see corrosion, you can try to remove it with an electronic contact cleaner. If it’s an outdated thermostat, consider replacing it with a newer model.

If you have a mechanical and not a digital thermostat stat, make sure it’s mounted level. Use a torpedo level to measure the thermostat and see if it’s mounted properly. If you’re experiencing extreme temperature swings or the air conditioner cycles on and off too frequently, that could be something that is easily fixable. Like with the last step, first, remove the plastic cover on the thermostat. On many thermostats, you’ll see a small lever that moves along a calibrated scale inside the thermostat. It may be marked something like “longer” on one end. This is the heat-anticipator adjustment. Adjust the heat-anticipator lever one calibration mark closer to the “longer” setting if you’re experiencing an air conditioner that goes off and on too frequently. If the air conditioner allows room temperature to drop too low or rise too high before it cycles on or off, move the lever one mark away. You may need to wait several hours for the thermostat to adjust to this new setting and stabilize.

Repair or Replace

In the case of a more severe thermostat issue, one that you can’t diagnose yourself or one that requires more sophisticated repair techniques then a DIY process can accomplish, you’ll have to determine whether it’s worth it to pay for a repair or if replacing the thermostat is the right choice. Keep in mind that replacing a thermostat costs the average homeowner anywhere from $100 to $250.

If your thermostat is outdated and on the older side, then it’s going to be more likely worth it to replace. And if you are considering replacing, that would make this an excellent time to consider upgrading to a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats, programmable thermostats, and Wi-Fi thermostats are all a little more expensive than your run of the mill digital thermostat, but they often make up for the difference in cost over a year or two in the savings you can accrue due to their temperature adjusting features.

Depending on the nature of the problem, it may be more economical to replace the thermostat rather than spend money on repairing it. For example, if the thermostat consistently breaks, despite resetting the circuit breaker or replacing the batteries, then it might be time to replace the thermostat with a new one because the old one is faulty. Spending $200 on a repair doesn’t make a lot of since when you could get a new one installed for half that price. Consult your professional before buying a new one to make sure you get a thermostat that works well with your system.

Thermostat Repair and Air Conditioning Repair in Austin

Thermostats are the devices that directly connect us to our air handlers, to the entire HVAC system in our house. We touch and manipulate them daily in order to control the air in our home, which is why it can be quite disconcerting when something goes wrong with this little wall mounted device. If you notice a problem with your thermostat and you want it checked out by a trained professional, call a reputable Austin AC repair company like AC Express. We service air conditioning in Austin and the surrounding areas, from Leander and Liberty Hill to Buda and Taylor.

AC Express excels at all things air conditioning and heating. Our trained professional technicians will be able to quickly an efficient diagnose and solve any issue concerning your thermostat or the rest of your HVAC system for that matter. AC repair in Austin is our business expertise. It doesn’t matter if you ultimately decide on repair or replacing, one call to AC Express and you’re thermostat situation will be swiftly remedied. Call today!


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