Even in San Antonio or Dallas, Old Man Winter has a way of showing up where he’s not wanted—and usually when he’s least welcome. With true winter right around the corner, now’s the time to take a look at the one of the most important, but often taken for granted, components in your HVAC system: your thermostat.

Compared to other potential trouble spots in your home’s heating and cooling system, the thermostat is generally both easy to care for and, should it happen to fail, relatively inexpensive to fix. Plus, replacing a busted or worn-out thermostat can give you the opportunity to try a newer model, with greater efficiency and more up-to-date technology (although, of course, in HVAC as in life, prevention is the best medicine).

Identifying Thermostat Issues

Let’s say your HVAC system isn’t running as efficiently as you’d like it to, or maybe it’s stopped responding altogether. That’s not good news on a frosty Texas night in mid-December! But before pinning the blame on the thermostat (or any other component), it’s important to run through a quick checklist to help identify the issue so you (or your trusty HVAC expert) have the right information to get your system back up and running as soon as possible.

If you’re having HVAC issues and suspect your thermostat is to blame, ask yourself:

  • Is the HVAC unit receiving power?
  • Are your system settings configured properly? (e.g., has the switch been accidentally bumped from “heat” to “cool”?)
  • Is there any physical damage to the unit that might have caused it to shut down or fail?

These might seem like fairly basic items to check, but they can help you rule out other issues quickly.

Tackling Thermostat Troubles

If your system seems to be otherwise fine, you can give your thermostat a quick test by raising (or lowering, depending on the time of year) it by five degrees to see if the system fires up. Depending on your home’s current temperature, airflow, and other factors, it’s entirely possible your thermostat hasn’t had time to detect the change in temperature.

If the system doesn’t respond to the change in settings, pop the cover off your thermostat control unit and have a look at the inside. Clear out any dust and check for other potential pollutants such as nicotine build-up (if you smoke) or pet hair/dander. Loose wires are a surefire sign of trouble; if you’re not comfortable attempting repairs, be sure to contact your HVAC pro right away.

Other potential issues include:

  • Older, analog thermostats may require recalibration to ensure the dial matches the actual thermostat setting.
  • Fuses and batteries may require changing, depending on the thermostat model. Thermostat fuses are clear cylinders containing a long filament and capped with metal. If the filament is broken or warped, it’s time for a new fuse.
  • Maladjusted anticipator assembles can cause wear and tear on thermostats by causing them to turn off and on repeatedly, shortening their useful life and reducing efficiency.

If you’ve eliminated these potential problems as the cause, you might need a new thermostat. If you do, it’s not necessarily a bad thing—your local HVAC pro can probably recommend a newer model that will not only look and work better, but save you money year ’round—a thought even Old Man Winter can warm up to.

Is It Time to Replace Your Thermostat?
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