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Are you smarter than a smart thermostat?

Image of a woman looking at a smart thermostat app on her phone
A smart thermostat will give you the convenience of controlling the temperature right from your smartphone, but not all of the most well-known models are a good fit for electric baseboards. Do your research on which thermostat is right for you.

Programmable thermostats and smart thermostats offer savings, when you choose the right one

It's no secret that cooler fall and winter temperatures mean extra heating needs for all of us. Whether you have a gas furnace, electric baseboards, or some other heating source, everything needs to work a little bit harder to keep things cozy inside when it gets cold outside.

Space heating is typically one of the biggest electricity draws in your home, particularly if you use electric baseboards as your primary heating source. A single 1000W electric baseboard heater can use 900 kWh per year, if on for 6 hours a day through the heating season. That's a cost of more than $100 per year at today's electricity rates.

It might seem like a no-brainer to make it easy to cut down on those costs by automatically having your heat lower when you're sleeping or away from home, but it turns out most British Columbians haven't made the switch yet: 66% of BC Hydro customers still have manual thermostats in their home.

Although replacing each baseboard heater thermostat can be challenging, it may be worth it. Upgrading the thermostats in areas of your home where you use heating the most can help cut down on your electricity use (and reduce your bill). But be sure to pick the one that's right for you, and for the level of control that you want over your heat.

Basics of programmable thermostats

Whether you have electric heating or a gas furnace, a programmable thermostat offers more control and greater potential for savings over mechanical thermostat models; they control temperature more precisely and accurately.

A simple programmable thermostat allows you to program a set schedule; for example, lower temperatures during the periods of the day that you're not at home, and more consistent heating on Saturdays and Sundays, or turning the heat down at the same time every night.

If that's all the functionality you need, look for a simple programmable thermostat that will work with your existing heating system.

But if you're interested in more options – like the ability to control the heat remotely from your smartphone – consider a smart thermostat instead.

Smart thermostats: how they work, and whether to use a hub

Most smart thermostats available today can be used to control electric baseboards, electric wall heating, and certain models can even be used to control in-floor electric heating. But do some research to determine which model is best for your home's system and your existing wiring.

A typical smart thermostat offers you the ability to control your heating through your smart phone (while at home or on the go). The remote functionality is the main difference between a smart thermostat and a simpler programmable model, along with the ability to manage multiple thermostats from a single central device (like your phone or tablet).

If you're looking to control multiple thermostats and manage your whole home heating, you may also want to consider using a smart home hub, such as an Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

Many smart thermostats also offer additional features, such as the ability to see the electricity use from your baseboard heaters. Knowing how much you're using can be helpful in finding ways to save: upgrading to a smart thermostat to control electric space heating can reduce electricity used for space heating by 9% on average.

If a smart thermostat is starting to sound right to you – make sure you do your research and select one that will work with your home's heating system. For example, the Nest is one of the best-known smart thermostats on the market, but it's not actually designed for electric baseboards.

Tips for selecting the right thermostat

Before you purchase a new thermostat, consider the compatibility of your existing electric heating controls, baseboards, and wiring:

  • Is the existing electric heating controlled by a manual dial on the heater or a thermostat on the wall? If there's no existing wall thermostat for the heater, an electrician will need to install wiring to the heater from a thermostat. You may also need to upgrade your baseboard heater itself.
  • Multiple baseboards can be controlled by a single wall thermostat, for example in your living room. A qualified electrician can either physically wire the baseboards to a single wall control or replace the baseboards with units that can connect wirelessly to a compatible wall thermostat.
  • Check the compatibility of the new thermostat: the replacement thermostat selected should be capable of controlling electric heating. This is sometimes referred to as ‘line voltage', ‘high voltage', or 120/240V heaters. Many thermostats aren't designed for electric baseboards and other electric heaters.
  • If it doesn't specify electric heating on the box for your new thermostat, it probably won't be compatible. In addition, special types of electric heating, such as in-floor electric heating, need thermostats specifically designed to handle those systems. Always check the packaging to be sure.

Save on thermostats this month at participating retailers

Ready to make the switch? Until November 29, 2019, you can save with instant discounts on select smart and programmable thermostats for electric heating at participating retailers online and in store:

$40 off select smart thermostats for electric heating

Eligible thermostats include:

  • Stelpro
  • Sinope
  • Mysa

Participating retailers (in-store):

Participating retailers (online):

$5 off select programmable thermostats for electric heating

Eligible brands include:

  • Honeywell
  • Aube
  • Dimplex
  • Stelpro

Participating retailers (in-store):

Participating retailers (online):

Win $150 for Best Buy this month to upgrade your thermostat

If these tips have you thinking it's time to upgrade one of the thermostats in your home, this month's Team Power Smart members-only contest can help: the prize is $150 to spend at Best Buy.

If you're already a member, log in and enter the contest in your Member Tool Box.

Haven't joined the team yet? You're missing out on exclusive contests like this one, along with the chance to start an electricity reduction challenge for a shot at a $50 reward. Get started by joining the team now.