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How to Tell if Your Thermostat Is Broken

Man checking if thermostat is broken

Your thermostat is a handy gadget designed to make regulating your home temperature very easy. Whether it’s freezing or boiling outside, you’ll stay comfortable inside your home.

Until one day, your heating and cooling stop working as it should. And you’re left wondering whether the problem is with your thermostat, your HVAC system … or who knows what?

Ok, take a deep breath. Then read this guide to find out if you have a broken thermostat and what you should do to solve the problem.

3 Signs That Your Thermostat May Be Broken

1. Nothing Happens When You Try to Turn on the Thermostat

This may be an issue if you have a digital thermostat. When you try to switch it on, nothing happens. All you see is a blank or black screen.

ACTION: Have an HVAC professional come to your home and inspect the thermostat. They will recommend whether to repair or replace it.

2. Your Room Temperature Doesn’t Change

In this case,  the thermostat turns on successfully and you can tell that your furnace or air conditioning is running. However, when you adjust the setting, there seems to be no change in your room temperature.

ACTION: Perform the “5-Degree 15-Minute Test.”

It works like this: You raise or lower your thermostat by 5 degrees Celsius and wait 15 minutes. If, by that point, the air coming from your vents doesn’t start to change temperature (or your HVAC system does not even switch on), it’s time for an expert diagnosis. Your thermostat could be broken, or your heating and cooling system may need repair.

3. Your Thermostat Setting Is Different From the Actual Room Temperature

Here’s a confusing situation: Your air conditioner or furnace is operating and your thermostat seems to be working. However, the actual room temperature doesn’t feel the same as the figure that the thermostat is set at.

ACTION: To find out whether this is true –or just your imagination working overtime– you’ll need the help of either a room thermometer or a room thermometer app (do not use an outdoor thermometer app). Take a temperature reading and compare it to the setting on your thermometer.

The two numbers should be the same. Otherwise, you may be right to think that you’ve got a broken thermostat. But first, consider one more issue:

The Thermostat May Be in the Wrong Place

There could be a very simple reason for your thermostat problem. If the device is mounted in the wrong spot, it might be sensing the temperature inaccurately.

For example, a thermostat will read the room as warmer than it actually is … if you’ve hung it too close to your stove or higher than the recommended 150 cm above floor level (hot air rises, remember?). When mounted too high, the thermostat won’t signal your furnace to switch on, even though conditions in the rest of the room are subarctic.

For any questions about the best location for your thermostat, talk to the team at Ottawa Home Services. We’ll explain where to set up the thermostat to get the most accurate reading.

What Is Causing The Problem With Your Thermostat?

After all this, you should have a good idea of whether or not your thermometer is broken. So what is the reason behind a malfunctioning thermostat?

1. There’s A Problem With The Power Supply

Whenever you experience a thermostat problem, make sure that there is an available supply of electricity. Your thermostat might not be getting power due to one of the following causes:

Failing batteries. Try replacing the batteries if your battery-operated thermostat starts causing trouble. A thermostat with failing batteries will often begin malfunctioning even before the “low battery” message appears on the screen.

Faulty wiring. Wires which are defective, loose, eroded, or otherwise damaged may be the culprit behind your thermostat problems. Have a qualified technician inspect and repair your wiring.

2. The Thermostat Interior Is Dirty

Dirt and particles can get into your mechanical thermostat and interfere with its performance. To clean it, turn off the thermostat’s power and uncover it. Spray with compressed air or wipe gently with a dry lint-free cloth or soft brush. Warning: Never use water to clean your thermostat. Liquid and electrical appliances don’t mix.

3. The Anticipator Is “Off”

An old-style analog thermostat contains an anticipator, which may require adjustment. Take off the thermostat cover and look for a metal tab. That’s the anticipator. You will be able to manually adjust the furnace cycle to run shorter or longer with this component.

This is a temporary DIY thermostat fix, however. Be sure to get a professional opinion of the problem next time you have an HVAC maintenance appointment.

4. Your Thermostat Has Reached End-of-Life

Thermostats have a limit to their useful life, just like any other electrical appliance. A normal lifespan is about ten years, so if yours has passed this point, it is probably worn out and not worth repairing. Time for a thermostat replacement … and time to consider modern, convenient features, such as thermostats which are programmable, zonable, or smart home compatible.

Repair or Replace Your Broken Thermostat with Help From Ottawa Home Services

Do you need thermostat repair or replacement? Turn to Ottawa Home Services. We’ll expertly troubleshoot to find the source of the problem, then help you choose your best option for a comfortable home.


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