Climate Control Buying Guide

Climate Controls
A climate control system can be as simple as a programmable thermostat, but for added benefits you may want more. Before deciding what features are important to you for climate control (i.e. controlling room temperature) at home, we encourage you to first review our discussion on climate control in the home automation primer. This will provide you with base information helpful in defining your own key buying decisions.

With recent escalating utility costs, especially in home heating oil, most homeowners are most concerned with energy conservation. However, if you are installing automation in other areas of your home, you should also look at the ability to control your thermostat in concert with your other sub-systems.

    Start to define the key buying factors for your climate control system by answering these questions:

  1. Do I want to self-install my climate control system?
  2. Do I want to reduce the energy required to operate my home HVAC system?
  3. Do I want to expand my lighting scenes to include room temperature set point?
  4. Do I want to control my thermostat using the same remote or user interface controlling my entertainment system?
  5. Do I want to control room temperature remotely using either the telephone or the Internet?

In the following discussion consider Question 1 as being independent of the other questions. This means your answer to Question 1 does not change our advice below.

You Answered YES to Question 1

If you are handy enough to follow manufacturer's installation instructions you should be able to replace your existing thermostat without difficulty. Some climate control systems also include an additional controller that interfaces with your HVAC system. In this case we advise you to review the installation instructions for the additional controller to gauge your comfort level with a self-install.

If you are considering climate control as part of a security system or whole-house automation system then a dealer install will likely be your only option.

You Answered YES to Question 2 only

The picture at the top right of this article shows the 7-Day Programmable Thermostat from Aube Technologies (a Division of Honeywell), which a good example of the type of thermostat required to achieve your energy conservation goals for heating and air conditioning your home.

    Consider the following list of features found in programmable thermostats and identify those important to you:

  • the mode (heat, cool, auto, off) can be varied for pre-defined time periods during the day,
  • heating and cooling setpoints can be varied for pre-defined time periods during the day,
  • fan control can also be varied for pre-defined time periods during the day,
  • the daily time periods can be adjusted to fit your exact schedule,
  • the daily schedule can be different from day-to-day during the week,
  • and the thermostat may have a setback feature allowing the setpoint to be adjusted n degrees via an external signal from a controller,

Using your revised list from the above items plus any features you added, you can now evaluate the numerous programmable thermostats available today. Then make a selection based on cost, availability, and fit with your home decor.

You Answered YES to Questions 2 and 3 only

We recommended a wireless lighting solution in our Lighting Control Systems Buying Guide. If you already have an Insteon or ZWave lighting solution installed or are leaning in this direction see our wireless comparison table in the home automation primer for compatible thermostats.

If you have an X10 lighting solution installed consider the X10 Bi-Directional Thermostat from Residential Control Systems (see www.resconsys.com).

If your looking for a security system thats supports lighting and climate control consider the HAI Omni Family which includes optional thermostats and supports X10 and UPB lighting systems (see www.homeauto.com).

You Answered YES to Questions 2 and 4 only

You should consider a whole-house automation system that controls the entertainment center with an entry-level controller and supports an add-on thermostat as an option. Examples are the HC-300 Controller from Control4 and the MultiBrick System from HomeLogic (see www.homelogic.com).

You Answered YES to Question 5

If you just want to control a programmable thermostat from the Internet consider the IP Network Thermostat from Proliphix (see www.proliphix.com/NT-Basic.aspx). Either model NT10e or NT20e provides a programmable thermostat with a built-in web server that connects to your home data network.

Any thermostat supported by HomeSeer v2.0 software will also be controllable as the HomeSeer interface is a standard web browser. However, HomeSeer also offers an optional telephone control module, so either your cell phone or the web can be used to control supported thermostats.

If your just interested in telephone control of a programmable thermostat like the previously mentioned 7-Day Programmable Thermostat. Aube Technologies also makes a Standard Telephone Controller designed to add phone control to this 7-day thermostat. For more information click here.

Also many whole-house automation systems provide remote access via the Internet and/or the telephone.

For relevant Climate Control product reviews click here.