Wednesday, November 2, 2016

WiFi Thermostat without a C Wire

Like everything in Ugly House when we moved in, our thermostat was straight out of 1979. It's the classic Honeywell round thermostat in a stylish gold hue.  It certainly did the trick, but as we all know, there's more energy efficient options.


I was a bit intimidated to tackle this project. I wasn't sure what it really entailed. However, like other home improvement projects, it was a good to wait to tackle it until we lived in the house and got a feel for what we really needed.

I knew I wanted a programmable thermostat. That makes sense from an energy saving perspective. The second issue was more tricky. We have a duel heat system. In addition to a gas furnace and A/C unit on the thermostat, we also have electric baseboard heating in each room. We use both since there's a crazy set up to our HVAC and some rooms don't get the furnace heat. Adding to the complication is the thermostat is located where there's no furnace heat. So, if you set a temp, you will freeze or burn up all the other rooms before the thermostat even gets close to the set temp.

This strange situation meant that a regular programmable thermostat wasn't going to cut it. I thought immediately of the new WiFi options available.

I didn't go towards the very popular Nest option just because of the price. I might go down that road in a few years when we completely redo the HVAC and when whole home smart hubs have the kinks worked out.

I found this affordable Honeywell one at Lowes.


I realized about 10 minutes into the installation that the normal smart thermostats weren't going to work. Newer systems have what is called a "C wire" but my antique system had the older 4 wire set up.


I had to go back to the drawing board and do a bit of research. I could have forgone the WiFi option and just gone with a regular programmable thermostat which normally run on batteries.

I did find two options that don't require the C wire. The first option actually sounded pretty awesome. The ecobee3 thermostat has an option to add in satellite sensors throughout the house. With our strange set up, I was thinking that would work really well. It did require you to get into the furnace and add in this converter thing. I thought that was do able until I saw the disaster in our furnace area. (The air was added many years after the furnace, and it's quite the set up now) So that option was out.

The second option was a simpler. It's a simple programmable WiFi enabled battery powered thermostat. I decided to give the Sensi a try.


First of all, the instructions aren't included in the box. The instructions are done via the Sensi app. I actually found it extremely helpful. You just had to put in some information and you had customized installation instructions. Additionally, if you got lost on any step, you could watch a how to video right from the app.

I won't bore you with the process to install the thermostat, but I will say from start to a 100% completion only took me 30 minutes. That's including pairing the device with my WiFi.




So far so good. I have already found the WiFi very useful for when I'm laying in bed and it's just too hot or cold. Rather than going downstairs to attempt to fix the setting, I can do it from my bed. I also appreciate being able to set up all the programs on my phone rather than clicking through 50 screens on the device itself. Finally, I look forward to being able to warm the house up before we get home from longer trips and monitoring the heat while we are gone. This model is nothing fancy. It's not going to automatically adjust when you leave the house or "learn" your habits to adjust accordingly like the Nest, but it does solve our issues right now. I count that as a win.




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