Why you need a smart thermostat, and common wiring issues

THi Everyone and welcome to today’s edition of your Edmonton electrician, today we get into the topic of thermostats and their respective wiring. As with anything involving wires and electricity there is always risk of shock. We recommend contacting a professional electrician, and at Hauer Power Electrical we’re always ready to help give you power.

We will start with the following wiring code, as this will help us break it down further into what is all means, and what is really required in your system.

  • Blue or Black – C – Common wire, may be unused by your existing thermostat. Enables continuous power flow from the Red wire.
  • Red – R – 24VAC “power” from the furnace’s transformer
  • Red – Rc – 24VAC (dedicated to heat call)
  • Red – Rc – 24VAC (dedicated to cooling call)
  • Green – G – Fan
  • White – W – Heat
  • Yellow – Y – Air conditioner A/C compressor

Keep that in mind previous electricians or handyman specials may have used any colour of wire for any use in the system. A great saying in the industry tends to be as the copper wire does not care what colour it is. As your Edmonton electrician, we like to keep with the canadian electric code and keep colour consistent with its intended use. Whatever your system may be, don’t hesitate to take photos of the thermostats wiring before you take it apart. This rule of thumb applies to the wiring done at the furnaces termination point as well.

The C wire, or “common wire” will allow the continuous flow of power to the thermostat, usually 24Vac.

Technically speaking, power flows from the R (red) wire, through your device and to make it continuous requires the common wire to complete the circuit.  When the circuit is complete, your voltage will be able to flow continuously.

If you’re considering purchasing a smart thermostat, you’re probably thinking of doing the installation yourself. While this can often be done with ease, many systems are often missing the common “C” wire. This can create a more difficult scenario based on the homes layout, and distance from the panel. Should you tackle the running of the wires yourself, be aware of the many hazards that can be contained in your walls. Some boxes may have openings that a metal fish tape could enter, and create an electrical shock, or worse.

On the lighter note, if your system has a C-wire, it might be in use or just tucked away behind your current thermostat. Sometimes thermostats have changed many hands and with unused wires they may have cut it at the wire jacketing. Or they could have folded the wire back into the drywall. Either way, it’s best to have a good thorough look for this wire. As your Edmonton electrician we pride ourselves in being a thorough and reliable electrical contractor. We have been able to save customers in the past time and money by first taking the thought to search for this wire as it may have simply been missed.

If your system doesn’t have a C-wire, you’ll need to run a new cable from your furnace to your thermostat to install most of the modern smart thermostat models. As a professional Edmonton electrical contractor we advise running at least a 5C18AWG cable to provide for future use. In Edmonton our climate can be extremely harsh, sometimes +40C in the summer to -40C in the winter. With such a broad temperature range here many homes wish to have the option of A/C. Air conditioning can be a beautiful thing, however it requires the use of more wires at your thermostat as it is one more device in your heating system! For this reason we like to advise that if you’re already going to the trouble of installing a smart thermostat then you’re best bet is to do it the right way. In the long run it will save you money when hiring a contractor to complete your installation.

Thermostat wire comes in various sizes.  If you have heat and AC, you’ll need 18/5C.  If you only want heating in your home then 18/3C is sufficient but you may want to run 18/5C anyway for a foresight friendly job.

Detach your thermostat from the wall and look at the wires connecting to it. If you’ve got a wire connected to the terminal labeled “C”, you’re likely good to go with a smart thermostat installation. Keeping this in mind your smart thermostat may likely have video options that clearly explain the installation process.

If you do not see a C-wire here at your thermostat, don’t assume you don’t have one just yet. It might be stuffed into the wall, as discussed earlier. Again be careful when digging around in your walls and don’t be afraid to shut off your main power when performing potentially hazardous work like this.

You can also look inside your furnace termination panel. We highly recommend that you de-energize this circuit prior to snooping around these wires. If you find a C-wire in your furnace, then the other end is probably stuffed into the wall behind your thermostat. This is usually a good indicator of what you might have to look for. As your Edmonton electrician this is often our first step when the customer explains that they do not have a C wire. The last thing we want to do is overbill our customers for a job that they don’t actually need.

When you’re in your furnaces termination box look for your thermostat wiring entrance and trace it to where it terminates. It may screws or connections labeled R, C, W, W2, G, Y/Y2. This is the neighborhood of where you may want to be looking.

Now you decided that for sure you want a smart thermostat. Where do you go from here? Your Edmonton electrician, Hauer Power Electrical is here to help! As a certified Nest pro installer, our company has access to nest products at a lower cost. This puts us ahead from our competition who simply purchases it at your local hardware store and adds their markup. That said, without bias we strongly recommend the nest line of smart products. This includes the nest learning thermostat first and foremost. They provide the dramatic cost savings that other programmable thermostats provide but with the learning capability, the sleek clean look, and an app that is sure not to disappoint. Heating or cooling an unoccupied home is the leading cost when is comes to wasting energy in your home. This way you don’t need to become frustrated with a programmable thermostat, you simply hook up the nest and it learns from your habits. Just turn it up and down accordingly for the first few days and it adapts to your heating/cooling schedule. Simple and Intuitive!

The following stat was pulled from the nest website and it is astounding how much energy you can save when installing a smart thermostat:

“Two independent and one internal study proved the Nest Thermostat saved an average of 10-12% on heating and 15% on cooling. These numbers are from real homes, from real families, from all across America.

That’s about $131 to $145 a year, which means that in most places, the Nest Thermostat paid for itself in under two years.”

As your Edmonton electrician we at Hauer Power Electrical are committed to providing as much energy savings to our customers as possible, and with a smart thermostat it’s a no brainer!

If this is something you would like a free in home quote on, contact us today! As your Edmonton electrician we are always happy to give another customer the power that they deserve.

Give us a call at: 1-780-935-0622

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