If you’re like “single me,” you probably haven’t paid very much attention to your home’s heating zones – you just layered on a sweater, and figured it reason enough to buy some awesome sherpa-lined booties. And then the tables turn. You marry someone who insists on being comfortable in a basic tee in his own home any month of the year, hates all sweaters, and you find yourself giving in to a home that feels like a summer day. In January. Bare feet.
Your thermostat might also be riddled with fingerprints, because, well, jam hands.
There are underlying issues with the way this home’s heating zones were set up, not just my husband’s distaste for wool. The intention of two heating zones, one would assume, would be to control the temperature in two very separate spaces of the home. But in our case, the two thermostats were positioned just 11 feet from one another, in our open concept-type living and dining room space. Curious, right?
We consulted with a few people on the matter, determining that one thermostat was installed to regulate the living room temperature, which could more easily fluctuate with the use of the fireplace (that we don’t currently use). The other, located in the dining room, was used to control the heat to the rest of the entire house. That zone that supposedly controls the entire house had been installed in a corner of in the room that–while not directly above a heat source–was not in a location influenced by air currents, in a nook without a lot of air movement where it seemed that warm air might concentrate. Basically speaking, the dining room heats itself up, and then kicks the furnace back off (pretty quickly too, it’s just ~10’x12′ and influenced by heat coming from the kitchen and from the moderate living room thermostat temperature). It never stayed “heating” for long enough for the three bedrooms and hallway also under its reign to benefit. And thus, the bedrooms always seemed cold, usually 6-10-degrees cooler than our main living spaces, and even cooler if we were measuring nearby the windows which are old, and though not completely inefficient, not entirely draft-free.
The solution here wasn’t to keep the temperature higher (having an 78-degree living room just to get the bedrooms up to a comfortable 70 degrees is… stupid), but relocating one of the thermostats (the one from the dining room that controls the whole house) to a new location where the air from the bedrooms will be a primary influence of the on-status of the furnace. You guys. High-five.
We moved it from the dining room, down to the very end of the hall outside both of our girls’ bedroom doors, and the difference is incredible. The bedrooms are warm, and thanks to the living room thermostat still providing a read of the temperature in the dining and living room open space, we haven’t felt any difference in the rest of the house. I like to think it’ll be efficient too, not having to spike the thermostat to get the bedrooms warm before bedtime, but to let the house simmer at a consistent temperature.
It’s easy to relocate your thermostat if you’re in a similar situation (ranch house, two zones, no need to be digging through first floor ceilings to reach a second story zone). You’ll probably need to buy a length of thermostat wire assuming that you’re going to be moving the unit more than a few feet, and also assuming that you don’t have a lot of slack, but the rest of the tools–the cordless drill, drill bits, string–you probably already have around the house. We spliced the new wire right to the short old wire, because it’s low-voltage and a simple solution in this case.
Be wise and move your thermostat temporarily for a few days at first by removing it from the wall and unwiring it from its current location. From below (take a trip to the basement) you’ll want to run the new thermostat wire from the zone control valve to the floor boards beneath the new location – just make sure that the new location isn’t directly above a heat source, which will skew your read.
Remove the piece of floor trim below where your new thermostat is going to be installed. Use a 5/8″ drill bit and–at the point where the base of the drywall and the floorboards intersect so it will be hidden when you replace the trim–bore a hole downwards into the basement. Have a friend standing below to help pinpoint where you drilled, or else tie something small, like a bead, to a string, and lower it through the hole so you can find it when you go looking. Upwards through this hole, thread the new thermostat wire. Leave the floor trim uninstalled for now, but connect the thermostat and hang it on the wall at your preferred height (mine is at ~4’10”). Kick on the heat, see if the rooms are improved with the thermostat in the new location, and see if any previously comfortable rooms became noticeably too warm or cool. Find balance both day and night.
Relocating ours made a difference immediately; instead of the thermostat heating only our dining room and shutting off before the room produced enough heat to circulate into the bedroom hallway, it measures the temperature of the air at the end of the hallway, which is more influenced by the bedroom temperatures. Being able to control the temperature around our kids bedrooms is the best part about it; comfort is key.
To make the relocation permanent, remove the thermostat from its temporary placement, and unwire it. Drill through your drywall using the 5/8″ bit. Directly below that hole, at baseboard level right where you already have the wire emerging from the basement, do the same. The wire will need to come up from the basement, enter the wall between the studs, and then travel straight upwards behind the drywall to the new thermostat location.
The trick to navigating the wire running up from the basement up through that hole, is to source a piece of strong string, and tie something small to the end – a tiny hex nut worked for us, glinting metal is easier to see if you’re shining light at it. Put the end of the string with the object down through the top hole in the wall, holding onto the end. As the thread makes its way downward through the wall, kneel and look through the hole for the metal object. Be ready to snag it with anything you can find–pinkie finger, needle nose pliers, an unfurled paperclip–and pull it out from behind the drywall.
The string should still be visible going in at the top of the wall, so that when you tie the thermostat wire to the string, you can wrap the wire and string together, and pull the string out again and draw the wire up the same path.
Couldn’t be easier, unless you choose a wimpy string and have to do it 2 or 3 times. Choose something heavier than embroidery thread, people.
Once the thermostat is hooked back up, reinstall it on the wall over the hole you made. Put the trim back along the floorboards, and consider the move a success.
Hope you guys had a great holiday season. Happy New Year!