Who would have thought five years ago that homeowners would have developed a such a love affair with thermostats?
Planted prominently on walls in homes across the world, they’ve been helping keep homes comfortable for decades, but went largely unrecognized for their contribution to comfort and energy efficiency; nor did consumers worry much about what was involved in having a stat installed and configured.
It was just, well, boring.
Wi-Fi thermostats with their new sexy footprints and their ease of setup have changed all that. Consumers who once strolled past the thermostat without giving it a second look are now clamoring for models that can be controlled via an app, learn and self-adjust to their behaviors and routines, sport styles that make even the oldest most traditional homes look suddenly modern and sophisticated, and that can be installed and programmed by avid do-it-yourselfers.
But does the popularity of these game-changing stats make them a must-have in a home systems integrator’s tool bag?
Do integrators risk losing jobs if they don’t offer DIY-friendly thermostats?
DIY vs. Professionally Installed Thermostats
While a DIY stat may help you get your foot in the door and a conversation flowing with clients, it may not be the best solution in the long run, according to Jon Fischer, HVAC Automation Sales Manager at Aprilaire.
Nor will your customers necessarily balk at your suggestion to invest in a stat intended for professional installation—if you take the time to clearly present the pros and cons of both options.
Here are the top 10 advantages a professionally installed thermostat can offer over a DIY-installable model.
1. Remote Sensors
Granted there are exceptions, as some DIY thermostats do come bundled with sensors that communicate back to a base unit, but generally speaking, this feature is largely exclusive to professionally installed thermostats, including those from Aprilaire.
Your customers will appreciate the ability to stow the main unit in a closet where it impacts none of the home’s design, and letting the small disc-shaped sensors, which can be rendered nearly invisible with a coat of paint, monitor the temperature of various areas of the house.
2. HVAC Compatibility
It doesn’t matter what type of heating and cooling system your client owns—it will work seamlessly with any of Aprilaire’s line of thermostats. While a DIY thermostat like NEST are able to communicate with radiant heat and dual fuel heat pumps, for example, the level of communication is limited.
“The NEST thermostat is smart enough to not run the heat pump and the secondary source at the same time, but it does not automatically switch over from one heat source to the other when the second source is more efficient,” Fischer offers as an example. “Aprilaire, on the other hand, lets an integrator program these “balance point settings” into the thermostat, thereby saving the consumer money on HVAC operation and protecting the HVAC compressor from damage.”
Control and automatic adjustments of humidifiers and ventilation systems are standard features found in Aprilaire thermostats, and are just as important to the overall comfort of a home as the temperature.
DIY thermostats usually lack this level of sophistication and intelligence.
The cloud is good for many things, but funneling commands from a smartphone or tablet to a thermostat may not be one of them. “If the Internet goes down, so does the ability to command your thermostat,” says Fischer.
Moreover, there may be a limit to how many commands you can send to a NEST thermostat through the cloud; reports from third party manufacturers indicate no more than 10 commands in an hour before the thermostat is disabled.
“This may not be an issue for homeowners, as they will rarely interact with a thermostat more than 10 times in an hour, but for integrators who are setting up the system, it’s a real possibility,” adds Fischer.
Professionally installed thermostats that receive commands via a LAN aren’t plagued by these issues.
Learning thermostats like the NEST are innovative in the way that they are able to adjust their settings according the routine of a household, but it’s not an exact science; consequently, it can take several weeks before the thermostat has identified a consistent pattern.
Thermostats from Aprilaire, rely on the tried-and-true scheduling technique whereby a thermostat adjust according to times that have been predetermined and programmed into it. With mobile apps, changing those settings is easy for a homeowner … or you can even do it for them remotely.
6. HVAC Expertise
Aprilaire has been in the HVAC business for more than 60 years, manufacturing everything from heating and cooling units, indoor air quality systems, ventilation systems, humidifiers and dehumidifiers.
Thermostats are a newcomer to the lineup, and were developed as a natural extension of Aprilaire’s core components, not merely a smart home accessory. The engineers and customer service representatives at Aprilaire are able to help integrators identify and resolve issues, not just those related to the thermostat but the entire HVAC system.
Furthermore, they are trained to guide integrators through the installation and configuration process to ensure smooth, seamless, reliable operation from the stat to the HVAC unit.
7. Brand Recognition
Many of today’s new DIY-friendly thermostats can boast backing by a reputable company, but so can Aprilaire, plus its roots are firmly planted in the HVAC business—nothing else.
Admittedly, Aprilaire was a tad slow to market with its Wi-Fi thermostat–it launched January 2016–compared to other manufacturers.
“But we wanted to make sure there was clear market demand and that our solution was rock solid,” Fischer explains.
And it appears as if Aprilaire was on the mark with its rollout of its Wi-Fi thermostat. Since its introduction in January 2016, the thermostat works just as well today as it did then.
“We have yet to put an update out there since the thermostat is stable,” adds Fischer. “Do we have firmware updates that we could send? Sure, but we want to make sure that an over the air update won’t affect the usability of the thermostat for its main purpose which is heating and cooling a home. When a device that controls something as important as a home’s heat and air conditioning will be affected, we want to be very cautious of adding features.”
Updates to DIY thermostats are common and therefore can potentially compromise the performance of a heating and cooling system.
9. Customer Service
Again, Aprilaire’s customer service department is trained to handle questions from home systems integrators and HVAC contractors.
Although they will field calls from homeowners, it’s the professional market that they are focused on serving, Fischer says.
10. Profit Margin
By no means is an Aprilaire thermostat difficult to install, but it does require more finesse than to set up than a DIY thermostat.
It’s this finesse that makes you invaluable to your clients who look to you for your expertise and are willing to pay you for it. Maintain your reputation as an expert by installing a thermostat designed for professional integration.