Thursday, April 09, 2009

Installing a thermostat

Next on our list of things to fix up in the house before we sell it and move away forever: installing a new thermostat.

The old thermostat was one of those ugly ones from the 1980s. You've all seen this one before, or perhaps one of its circular dial cousins:

It was the kind of thermostat whose temperature gauge was so obliquely designed that at any given moment, you could really only tell the temperature to the nearest 10th degree. Knowing that the temperature was "in the 60s" or "in the 70s" wasn't very helpful when trying to put the thermostat on an efficient setting.

Also, it had real mercury inside of it, which I found out when I took it off the wall. Seeing the mercury brought back a childhood memory of a broken thermometer and playing with the spilled mercury on the counter. Hmm.

I think this was my favorite household repair project so far. It wasn't quite as hands-on or manly as installing the bathroom faucets, nor was it as wet and disgusting as putting in a new garbage disposal. Maybe that's why I liked it: it was a household project for the thinking man. It required intense concentration, delicate fingerwork, and the labeling with stickers of tiny colored wires, rather than wrenches, screwdrivers, and brute strength.

Warning: photographs taken on my camera's micro setting, accompanied by instructional commentary, follow below.

Here was one of my helpers. I eventually put her down in the hallway and scattered the floor with Cheerios so she would keep herself busy by scavenging. It really worked!

This is the inside of the old thermostat. The premise of taking out the old and putting in the new was so simple, I'm surprised the instructions didn't just say so: all you have to do is de-wire the old one, label the wires, and then re-wire the new one to the matching terminals. The only tricky part is figuring out which letter is equivalent to which, since different kinds of thermostats use different names. Nothing a quick Google search couldn't handle, which verifies my recent theory that Googling instructions is often more useful and straightforward than following the directions in the pamphlet that came with the product.

After I labeled the wires, I took off the remaining piece of thermostat and was left with this lovely bunch of wires sticking out of the wall.

I put the new thermostat cover on the wall, pulled through the wires, and set about making the new connections. I really felt like I was making a bomb. I was even doing it under pressure, since Magdalena was starting to get fussy and I knew my time was running short. Isn't it pretty? My favorite part is the middle red wire, which I learned is called a jumper, and I had to put it in myself. And althought it looks complicated, the concept here is very simple. Each lettered wire tells the thermostat to do a specific thing. You just have to put the wires in the correct terminals.

The finished product. This particular thermostat has a touch screen, which is kind of nifty. I only wish we were going to be around longer so we could, you know, use it.

Although we are getting into AC season here in Tucson, which reminds me of a post I've been meaning to write since February about the fact that I appear to have reverse Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder. Stay tuned.


Liz Johnson said...

Ooh. I am very impressed that you didn't shock yourself at all doing this. I have a rabid fear of working with wiring.

sarah said...

nice work! i prefer rainy cloudy weather to bright hot sun any day.

Britney said...

Because we just bought a house, I was actually on the phone asking questions about thermostat installation, just minutes before checking out your blog. Funny coincidence. If I have to install my own in the next few weeks, I'll be using your description and photos as a guide.

Jennifer said...

Whoever buys your place should thank you for doing all these projects for you. As new homeowners, we are doing these projects ourselves. In fact, we just installed a new disposal last night. I remembered you had done so and looked at your post after we returned from the store and before we started the installation. I should have looked before we went to the store because we didn't buy a power cord either! GRRR!! They totally need to make that more obvious! It isn't even that obvious in the instructions! I had to send Jeff back to the store to get one...I was grateful I didn't have to go back myself with kids like you! Thanks for sharing your fun experiences!

Jill said...

My favorite part was scattering the cheerios so Magdalena would have to go around and pick them up. Brilliant!
We should have done this in our VA house, but never got around to it - I didn't think it would be as easy as you describe!

Julie said...

Way to go, Bridget! I like the touch-screen. We have all sorts of projects that we're trying to work on around here as well- maybe I should just buy a box of Cheerios for my kids and fly you out for a week!

Mikael said...

I am still amazed you do all the fixing up around the house. I used to be independant, until I married my husband, who does and fixes EVERYTHING. I have become the typical homemaker - do kids, clean, and meals. Hubby does all the fixing up (wait! I do paint!!)
Anyway, I am so reliant on him I even ask him dumb things like changing lightbulbs!!! I know, I am a nerd


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