Thursday, January 10, 2013

Installing a Programmable Thermostat

This is a boring, unpretty, but money saving project. Tomorrow I’ll follow it up with a pretty project!

I know that we’re just about the last people to install a programmable thermostat, but in case you’re like us, and you live in an old house that doesn’t have one, here’s how we did it.

(PS – when you really get around to tackling this project, please read your instructions carefully! Brian was the one who actually did this swap out because he totally gets electricity. I tried to pay attention as best I could, but I know my report won’t be as good as a professional’s! Think of this post as a visual aid.) :)

First, we turned off power to the furnace (at the light switch next to the furnace, which most furnaces should have) and took the batteries out of the thermostat.

The old thermostat.

The thermostat was so wobbly in our wall, and it turns out it was installed without drywall anchors, so we were able to pull it straight out of the wall! Oops!

Who knew that it's just a little hole in the wall for the wiring?

Who knew it was just that little hole holding the wires?

Once we got the cover off, we could see the wiring inside.

Once the covers are all off, the wiring is revealed.

The previous installer wrapped the wires around the screws – and while that is what you do with many electrical projects – this, and many thermostats use something called a terminal block, where the wires click into place and the screws just tighten down on them. So in this case, the installer shouldn’t have wrapped the wires around the screws.

So Brian just cut them off.

Brandon just clipped the wires off of the old one.

Then he stripped the wires so that about 1/2” or less of copper was showing, and since the blue wire isn’t being used in our case, he just cut it off short, so that it wouldn’t be in the way. (The previous installer just left it hanging there.)

Brandon clipped the blue wire short because we're not using it, and therefore it's out of the way.

We put the back plate of the new thermostat up to the wall and were sure to use wall anchors this time. :)

wall anchors


(And actually, because we were sort of terrible at getting it level, we ended up having to dig out some wall anchors of our own after re-leveling it.)

Once the baseplate was up (still not level at this point, oops!), Brian began installing the wires.

installing wires into the terminal block

See how they click into the top, then you tighten the screw down on them. We had one wire who kept popping out, so Brian loosened the screw, really shoved it down in there, and retightened the screw on the block. Here’s a better picture:

wires go into the terminal block, kind of click in place, then the screws tighten down on them to hold them in place.

The wires go straight down into the top of the terminal block, then the screws hold them in place.

It was around this time that I noticed just how un-level the thing was. Luckily, they gave us an extra hole in the back plate, so we re-leveled it, took it off the wall, and added a new anchor.

several wall anchors :)

We put it back up and put the cover on and voila! We were done.

new thermostat! wall needs some touch up paint!

We actually did this project a while ago, but as you can see above, the new thermostat is a different shape than the old one, and it took me quite a while to get that hole filled and some touch up paint onto the wall, but I finally did, and here’s the finished product:


It’s so great that I can program it to automatically turn down the heat at bedtime or when we’re usually out of the house.  Talk about saving money! The power company is always telling me how much money I can save by just turning down my heat by 1 degree. Well, fine, I’ll keep that money for myself, thank you. :)

If this is a project you haven’t tackled yet, I hope this picture guide has helped a little bit (though like I said, please read your instructions!). After all that hard work, next I’m going to show you how I covered it up! :)

So, do you have a programmable thermostat in your house? (And do you actually program it?)


  1. We had a new furnance/ac go in about two years ago and with that came a new thermostat. I have never programmed it! However, we usually don't have the heat set any higher then 64 degrees, so my energy savings is about wearing a lot of layers!

    1. Ha! That is good energy saving! And I will say, since we've installed this new thermostat, I do usually refuse to turn up the heat and just add layers instead. Because at that point, I know it's just me who's cold, not the house! :)

  2. I need to do this! My dad was a little skittish about tackling it though. Maybe next time you guys are down ... ::wink wink::

    1. Yes, we 100% can help you with this one and it's so worth it! It's a really quick project (in theory at least!). (PS - I'm glad you're able to comment! Is it from your phone or is it finally working on your computer?)

  3. Setting the thermostat correctly is very important, because this will make sure that your home is maximizing the use of your HVAC system. With this guide, people will know the right ways to do it and make their systems more efficient. But if not, calling a pro might be the best option. Thank you for sharing!

    Shelley Coday @ C & C


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