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Thermostat Issues - Common Solutions to Common Problems

Updated on March 13, 2011

The thermostat may be the most important part of the heating and cooling system. Without it, you would simply be flipping a switch to turn it on and off randomly. The thermostat works by using a delicate balance of copper contact points that, when touched, turn the furnace or AC on. When the temperature drops pulling the band tighter and the contacts together, the furnace or AC on. The process reverses itself to shut the furnace off. The only problem; thermostats are fragile.

Above are some general issues that arise in thermostats. You will notice that almost all of these are caused by human error or carelessness. I will go through the ways to fix the most common issues.

Not Level

Thia can cause the contacts of the thermostat to not touch properly causing the thermostat to malfunction. If you do not own a level, use a tape measure. Measure from the floor up to where the top of the thermostat is on one side and repeat on the other side. Then secure the back plate to the wall. To get at this, the whole front comes off and the screw holes are easily accessible.


When any switch or control is loose, every time it is used the wires are moved and stressed. This could cause the thermostat to fail. Simply tighten the screws on the back plate up. It may be necessary to use another one of the pilot holes if the original hole has been reamed out too much.


This is the easiest problem to solve. Go get a new one. Always buy a programmable thermostat for energy conservation. You can pick one up for around $30 at your local hardware store. The wiring is very simple and well labeled on the instructions. However, one good form of practice is to use the old thermostat as a template removing one wire at a time and attaching it to the corresponding terminal on the new thermostat. Mount the new back plate, put the thermostat in place, and test to make sure your appliances all function properly.

If you have an old dial style thermostat, it is time to upgrade to a programmable. The average energy savings just from this are 5-10%. Take advantage of this cheap but effective upgrade.

For more information on heating systems and reducing home energy costs, click here.


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