by Steve Abercrombie, Connected Buildings
Wireless thermostats are a perfect way to improve comfort, make your home smarter, and save money and energy. Radiant Ceiling Panels supplied by Mighty Energy Solutions are a perfect complement to wireless thermostats. Since they offer precise heat on a per-room basis, you can fine tune your comfort while keeping your energy bills low for the rooms that are not in use. Radiant heat makes you start feeling warm in seconds, so you don’t have to worry about a long lag between turning up the heat and feeling comfortable.
“Wireless” thermostats are a bit of a misnomer. While they can be controlled from anywhere you have an internet connection, they still need power to run, and need to be connected to your home heating system. In some projects, you don’t have to run wire to mount a controller on the wall, which saves a lot of hassle and allows for a cleaner look. However, code requirements vary so make sure you get approval from your local building department. Wireless thermostats often allow control of your heating system from not only the next room, but from across the globe.
Smart, wi-fi enabled thermostats and radiant ceiling panels are an intelligent home-heating solution. Have a heat-pump serving the main part of your house, except for that cold guest bedroom or basement? You need to consider supplemental radiant ceiling panels controlled by a smart thermostat. If you replace your heat pump thermostat and use a home automation system you will be the envy of all your neighbors while also saving money on your heating bills! The radiant panel / smart thermostat combo is also ideal for vacation homes or Airbnb rentals where you can warm things up for maximum comfort just prior to arrival.
Have you ever wanted to say “Alexa, turn on the heat in the bedroom” so that it is warm and toasty when it’s time to go to sleep? A wireless thermostat integrated with your home automation system or controlled by your smart phone is just the ticket. Including such other conveniences as: turning off your heat from the airport before you depart for vacation, automatically setting your house to a lower temperature whenever you leave home, or warming up the house when you leave the office.
Wireless Thermostat Basics
Wireless or “wi-fi enabled” thermostats connect to your wireless network to allow you to control them via the internet. This control then allows you to use Amazon Echo, Apple Home, Google Home, IFTTT, or a variety of other Internet of Things (IoT) services to automate your home.
There are too many wireless thermostats on the market to review them all, but below are a couple of the most popular ones. Almost any wi-fi enabled thermostat can be paired with radiant panels!
Nest Learning Thermostat
The original ‘smart’ thermostat, the Nest is a great choice if you are looking for style and simplicity that you can control with your smartphone. If you want a minimalist look to accompany the low-profile radiant ceiling panels, and just want to save energy, consider the Nest. It works best when you are controlling a large room, say a great room or integrated kitchen / living room. This is because its learning algorithm works best in places that get regular activity, as compared to a sparsely-used spare bedroom. The Nest costs about $250. It also has a built-in occupancy sensor to detect room usage without other home automation components.
Ecobee 3 Lite thermostat
Ecobee produces a popular wi-fi enabled thermostat that can be controlled via a tablet, smart phone, or home automation system. The “lite” version of this thermostat is about $150. It is a good choice for folks looking for multiple room thermostats, while still getting a modern look, or for people with an established home automation system. To get a built-in occupancy sensor function or to be able to add native room temperature sensors, you have to upgrade to the non-lite version, the Ecobee 3.
Although they don’t have the sleek design of the Nest or the Ecobee, Honeywell is a trusted name in thermostats. They have a line of wi-fi enabled and smart thermostats, with features rivaling their upstart competitors. After some evaluation, I chose the Honeywell RTH6580WF for my home. At less than $100 apiece, installing two of these was a snap to heat my office and guest bedroom!
By reading online reviews and doing a little shopping it isn’t hard to find the thermostat that is right for you. Don’t forget, security is always important with any internet-connected device you get. Make sure to buy from a reliable manufacturer and change the default password immediately upon installation.
Bring it all Together with Relays
The key to making a smart thermostat work with radiant ceiling panels is a relay with a built-in transformer. The relay acts a switch that turns the heating panel on and off when commanded by the thermostat.
The Aube 840T is the relay that I used to connect my Honeywell wi-fi thermostats to the radiant ceiling panels in my office and guest bedroom. Besides allowing the thermostat to cycle the power on the radiant panels, it also provides power for the thermostats via 3 small wires that are run from the ceiling to the wall-mounted thermostats. The Aube relays cost about $40.
I almost never use the thermostat controls on the walls, although I notice when guests stay over on cold nights, they love bumping up the temperature a few degrees to bask in the heat from the panels. Of course, I can check the temperature on my cell phone after they depart to set things back to normal.
You’ll want to consult with an expert to help you with the design of your control system and make sure everything meets code – Mighty Energy Solutions can help direct you. There are a lot of possibilities depending on the number of zones that you set up and how many thermostats and panels you want to install. They will also make sure that the relay you select matches the voltage of your heating panels.
Here is a diagram that I used to work with my electricians on the installation in my house. They took it from there and made everything look easy!
I found setting up an efficient, comfortable, and smart home with a couple of wireless thermostats and Radiant Ceiling Panels from Mighty Energy Solutions wasn’t nearly as daunting as it sounds and was made even more simple with assistance from Mighty Energy.