What I'm Seeing Now

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What's Wrong With This Thermostat?

What's wrong with this thermostat?

It's  a fine thermostat, a brand universally used for replacement thermostats.

It's  new and programmable!

It's  in a good place in the house!

It's  a little off kilter on the wall, but that doesn't matter.

It's  okay in every regard ... except one.

It's

wrong!

Why is it wrong?

This is a newly-renovated house.

It has a new roof (second layer), new drywall in the basement (replacing drywall damaged by a previous and maybe ongoing foundation leak), new appliances, new carpet, new paint, new deck (with a trip hazard and stairs not to code), and new HVAC system!

The new HVAC system was even installed by a professional company, well known in the area with lots of TV commercials. 

Before the buyers arrived I did a complete recon of the outside of the house.  I am habitually early, so when the buyers arrive I can begin to speak about the house. 

I look to see what the house has in terms of systems.  There was a gas meter and

there was a brand-new air conditioning compressor out back. 

Key word:  air conditioning.

In previous emails I learned that there was a new roof and HVAC system.  So I examined the compressor.  It was fine and installed well.

But when I got inside I saw this thermostat.  I said out loud, "Why is there a heat pump thermostat here with a gas furnace?"  Going back outside to examine the manufacturer's plaque in detail (with my glasses) I discovered that the compressor was not a heat pump compressor! 

My client's brother was present, and is an HVAC guy.  He went outside and confirmed my statement.

How can you tell it is a heat pump thermostat?  There is an extra place for the system button to be set on.  Here it says "Em. Heat."  That controls the electric resistance portion of the furnace in a heat pump system, and is used if the heat pump compressor breaks.  It gives you heat while you are waiting to get the heat pump serviced.

The  professional HVAC company installed a new system (cheap builder grade, not their style - they usually get people for the most expensive stuff) but with the wrong thermostat. 

A heat pump thermostat has 7 wires coming from the wall to connect to the thermostat.  A combo gas/AC system thermostat only has 5 wires.  So this guy went to install the thermostat, saw the two extra wire screw locations on the back side of the unit (perhaps not having read the box which said it was for a heat pump), and 

1.  Realized it was wrong but installed it anyway, or
2.  Brought the wrong thermostat with him, didn't have the right one and wanted to get done, and, thinking nobody would notice, installed it anyway, or3.  Didn't know it was incorrect.

Not impressive.

My recommendation:  on home inspections I check to see if the thermostat is compatible with the system it services.  Replacement thermostats are cheap (yes, I know, there are some real expensive ones).  They are easy to install.  I installed a new programmable thermostat in my house many years ago.  Just follow the instructions.  A professional company should know the difference between a gas/AC thermostat and a heat pump thermostat.  Let's hope so anyway...

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 11 commentsJay Markanich • July 20 2015 02:12AM

Comments

Oh gosh, what a dumb thing to do.  Glad you were able to catch it.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) about 5 years ago

It's disappointing, but also indicative of where we are now Debbie.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Good morning Jay.  The basic design looks like my thermostat.  I don't have the (em heat) on mine. Good information thanks

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) about 5 years ago

It probably is, James.  You don't have a heat pump apparently.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay, nice to know there is a difference. Evidence again that every buyer needs a home inspection. Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) about 5 years ago

Good morning jay,

Another tid bit that was learned today; thank you.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) about 5 years ago

Many people do not know Wayne!

Raymond - an important tidbit.  Next time you go on an inspection, will you look? 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay, don't most of the new programmable thermostats have the ability to handle gas/AC units along with heat pumps?  My local HVAC company installed my Bryant programmable Wi-Fi thermostat for my gas/AC unit downstairs, but I installed my Honeywell Wi-Fi thermostat upstairs (RTH9580).  That unit is a heat pump.  The manual seems to infer that it can handle Gas/AC also. 

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) about 5 years ago

Opening the door it says "Heat Pump" inside, Stephen.  I have never heard that they are interchangeable.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

It's simple stuff for those of us in the trades, but an average homeowner would never know. I'm sure they were banking on that. I do have a gas air handler with a heat pump. Mine does look like that, but all the right parts are there. On ours, the EM is the gas side of the system. Ours is old enough not to have the fossil fuel pack installed. Therefore, when the heat pump can't keep up, we have to change it manually. It will be leaving us this fall. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) about 5 years ago

You've no doubt seen the local company that installed this Mike.  He, um, waves from the back of his truck.

I have seen those gas back ups.  It is an older system.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

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