Where You Should (and Shouldn’t) Install Your Thermostat

Thermostats are an important part of an HVAC system. Without them, your system wouldn’t know when to turn on, or off, or how long to run. But many homeowners don’t give the location of their thermostat a second thought, despite the fact that it can greatly affect energy usage in the home. An area of a room that’s very hot, or very cold, can fool your thermostat into thinking that the temperature of the room is higher, or lower, than it actually is.

For instance, if your thermostat is in the direct path of a window that lets in a lot of warm sunlight, it may read the temperature of the room as hotter than it actually is. If your thermostat is right above an air vent, it’ll get hit with blasts of hot or cold air, making its temperature reading inaccurate. In either scenario, the thermostat will send an unneeded signal to your HVAC system, initiating a new cooling or heating cycle and using energy in the process.

If your thermostat is in a problematic spot, relocating it can lower your energy bills. You should consider moving your thermostat if it’s in a location like one of the following:

Exterior walls

Exterior walls are a less than ideal place for a thermostat, considering a thermostat is designed to measure the temperature inside the home, not outside of it. The outside of your home is more prone to extreme temperature fluctuations than the inside is—just think of how much the conditions outside change from tolerably warm early mornings to triple-digit afternoons in the summer. Without a steady base temperature, your thermostat would not be able to work properly, and the comfort level inside your home would suffer.

In rarely used rooms or hallways

A thermostat functions best when it’s placed on a central interior wall. Putting it off in the guest bedroom you never use or a hallway you rarely walk through will result in inaccurate temperature readings. These rooms are likely cooler than the rest of the house, since they don’t get much foot traffic or body heat from occupants.

Near windows or doors

Doors that are constantly being opened and closed create temperature fluctuations. Drafty windows that allow outside air to flow into the home can make a certain room feel too hot, or too cold, depending on the season. Plus, putting your thermostat near a window can put it in the direct path of warm sunlight, which can fool your thermostat into thinking it’s time to turn on the AC.

Too low (or too high)

If your thermostat is too low on the wall, it may give a temperature reading that’s too low. If your thermostat is too high, the opposite is true. It all goes back to a simple fact of physics: heat rises. The best way to make sure your thermostat gets a truly accurate reading of the air temperature is to place it somewhere between 50–62 inches above the floor.

Near certain furniture and appliances

The U.S. Department of Energy cautions against placing lamps, TV sets, and entertainment centers near a thermostat. The heat from these items makes the thermostat think the room is warmer than it really is, causing your air conditioner to run longer than it needs to.

In or near the kitchen

Anyone who’s ever attempted to cook during an Arizona summer knows that the kitchen can go from comfortable to downright sweltering in a very short time. With appliances like the stove, dishwasher, and oven in a concentrated place, the temperature in your kitchen can vary wildly when compared to the rest of your home. That’s why it’s a very poor spot for your thermostat. The temperature fluctuations can cause the thermostat to never get a truly accurate reading, telling your air conditioner to turn on or off before the rest of the house is at the desired temperature.

Ideal thermostat location

We’ve covered a lot of places where your thermostat shouldn’t be. Now, it’s time to look at where it should be located. The ideal location for your thermostat should fit the following criteria:

  • Centrally located, on an interior wall of a room that your family uses often
  • Mounted at a height of 52–60 inches above the floor
  • Away from windows, doors, and skylights
  • Comfortably distanced from air vents

If you have a wi-fi enabled smart thermostat, you’ll also need to make sure that it’s unobstructed by doors, large furniture, and home décor so that its sensors can work as designed.

How to move a thermostat

If your thermostat location doesn’t fit the criteria above, the next step is to move it to a location that checks all the boxes. In some cases, this project could involve calling a professional. Depending on how far you’re moving the thermostat, you may need to cut open the wall and re-route wires. However, if you’re simply moving the thermostat a short distance, such as up or down the same wall, or to a nearby adjacent wall, you may be able to move it on your own by following a simple tutorial. When in doubt, call in the pros before proceeding.

Zoned HVAC systems: More precise cooling with multiple thermostats

Even with a well-placed thermostat, issues like uneven heating and cooling can still rear their heads. The solution for many Arizona homeowners is a zoned HVAC system. A zoned system can counter uneven heating and cooling by raising/lowering the temperature in areas that are prone to being too hot or too cold. Each zone is controlled independently with its own thermostat, breaking up areas of the home into manageable pieces to ensure best overall comfort. Zones are regulated by dampers within the ductwork that open/close depending on when each zone needs air. A home could have as few as two or upwards of four zones on a standard zone system. For larger homes, as many as eight zones are possible.

Thermostat questions? Ask Chas Roberts

No matter if you’re looking for a new thermostat, concerned about a problem with your existing one, or have any other HVAC questions, Chas Roberts is here to help. Contact us to get started.