Relocating the Thermostat: pros and cons?

leafy02October 26, 2011

We live in a split foyer home, built in 1969. The thermostat is located right at the top of the stairs to the main living area. The furnace is in the downstairs.

I have two reasons for wanting to move the thermostat, but before I call someone to do it, I'd like to know if there are any reasons not to.

Reason 1) there is a huge temp difference between the upstairs and downstairs, so the heat turns off when the upstairs is warm but the downstairs is still darn chilly.The reverse is true in summer--the AC is blasting because it's still hot up by the thermostat, but downstairs, we are watching TV under down comforters.

I know moving the thermostat downstairs won't make the house heat/cool any more uniformly, but at least it wouldn't turn off the heat while the bedrooms downstairs grow frost...

Reason 2) looks. The location of the thermostat is in a very noticeable location, at eye level dead center on a "focal" wall. It's like saying "Welcome to my home. Here is my thermostat!"

Are there any reasons not to move the thermostat to the downstairs?

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where is the return intake vent?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 8:08PM
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Hmmm. I am sorry to say I don't know. What would it look like, or how would I identify it?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 8:18PM
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Return air has a grill without a control lever to open and close as opposed to a supply grill. You need to see where your return grill(s) are located.

Generally speaking thermostats should be located on an inside hallway near a return and away from any type heat source.

Split levels are notorius for even heating and cooling. Before moving the thermostat, I would look at your ductwork to see if you have damper controls that would allow you to place more airflow downstairs and reduce airflow upstairs. Of course just the opposite in AC cooling.

If you don't have damper controls, I would look into having them installed. I think this would be a better and more effective approach to your uneven temp situation.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 9:01AM
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Tigerdunes, thank you. I now know which is the return air grill. It is downstairs, in the wall between the laundry room (where the furnace is) and the family room.

Both the ceiling vents and baseboard vents for the heat and AC have levers you can use to adjust the flow, and we do use them.

In winter we close off nearly all flow of heat to the upstairs, so (theoretically) all the available heat will come out the downstairs vents and at least have a chance at warming the rooms before floating up the stairs.

This still leaves us with a very significant difference in temps between the two spaces.

Same with the reverse situation in summer.

So, would the downstairs hallway (about 18 feet from the return air) be a good location for the thermostat, or the same wall the return air vent is located on? It seems like the return air vent wall would be the easiest install.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 9:31AM
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moving the tstat is not going to change the uneven heat or cooling but it appears that by your first post the tsat is by the front door? if you use that door it is never a good location to begin with. somewhere near the return is always better...... I would have someone evaluate if you can have dampers put in your ducts though. it is not as simple as that but more than can be explained in a post

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 10:06AM
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If you don't have a return upstairs, you need one preferably centrally located.

And just to be clear, the damper controls I spoke about are on your ductwork system. Not to be confused with your grills in your home's living area whether supply or return.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 10:49AM
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I think we do have some returns upstairs. There are wall vents up near the ceiling that don't put out heat or AC and that don't have levers to adjust the flow. They are in both bedrooms and the living and dining rooms.

I got what you are saying about the damper controls. I can't see any signs of anything like that in the parts of the ductwork that are visible in the laundry room. When the heating and AC guy comes out to move the thermostat, I will ask him about how involved and $$ it would be to put them in. It would no doubt save us money in the long run if it isn't cost-prohibitive for us.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 5:00PM
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Before you spend money on moving the thermostat, you should try an experiment. Set the thermostat upstairs so the temperature is comfortable downstairs. See if you like the temperature difference. This is how it will feel when you move the thermostat downstairs.

The right way to solve this problem is to create a separate zone downstairs controlled by a second thermostat. You may have a branch for the downstairs which could be controlled by a zone damper, or you may have to add some new duct work. The upstairs thermostat could be moved away from the first door so it not so noticeable.

My suggestion is going to cost more money, but you should at least investigate the feasability.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 9:30AM
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A split foyer home is next to impossible to maintain the same comfort level upstairs and downstairs unless it is closed off and zoned. As the upper level heats, the cool air drops to the lower level. The thermostat upstairs will be arrive at the set temperature long before the downstairs reaches the set temperatures. If you move the thermostat downstairs, the upstairs will not experience the same comfort level as downstairs, usually too warm.

You could move the thermostat into the hall way. You could also add a door to close off the entrance into the lower level. Closing off leaks and insulation will also help.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 6:33PM
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Thank you, everyone. For whoever invented the split-foyer home, I have a thousand curses. (But hey, *I* am the one who decided to buy it!)

I called my heating and AC guy today. He's coming out on Wednesday to replace and relocate the thermostat, and to check out whether our current configuration will make dampers a possibility or a good idea. Closing off the downstairs is not a possibility for us right now--it would be too much like giving the teenagers their own apartment! Once they are grown and gone, I think installing a door there will be a good idea--and so would moving to a ranch!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 6:46PM
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Hi Leafy,

I, too, live in a split foyer home built in 1971. My tstat is in my hallway and away from the front door. I have had the same problems you are experiencing and I am not sure if there's any way you'll ever be able to totally accomplish what you want. I don't think moving the tstat will solve your issue though.

I have had my attic insulation increased and the other day bought a shutter cover fo the attic fan to keep any air up top at bay during the winter. The insulation has helped a lot. Our homes are so wide open, so to speak. I have not considered it but maybe a tstat for your downstairs area would be ideal. I am not downstairs in the winter much. In the summer, because it's underground, it's always cooler down there.

All in all, I love this house, warts and all. Good luck.


    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 7:02PM
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If possible, I would like to get in on this discussion. I have two zones, and both thermostats are located in the front foyer - one upstairs and one downstairs. Each unit is located directly by the associated return. However, I wanted to move the thermostats because I always thought putting them in line with the front door was not a good idea in that they are affected by outside temps when the front door is opened (or by any winter leaking). Also, the upstairs unit is in the hallway between three bedrooms and as the hallway cools at night, this pours too much heat into the bedrooms. Wouldn't the upstairs unit best be located in the Master bedroom - for (the Master's) best sleeping comfort? My wife and I are empty nesters and our bedroom temp seems most important. Your thoughts?

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 7:15PM
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