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The question of how a thermostat works is, unfortunately, one of those questions that only comes up after it’s stopped working correctly. For companies that have had to arrange for significant commercial air conditioning maintenance, this is a question that has had a direct financial impact. To prevent unnecessary tampering with the equipment and avoid fickle temperature shifts, an overwhelming portion of HVAC thermostats are placebos and don’t actually control the building’s HVAC systems. But for the real ones – often located in high, hard to reach locations – the question remains: how do they work?

Understanding the Mechanics: How Do HVAC Thermostats Work?

commercial air conditioning maintenanceModern thermostats use a variety of methods to determine the temperature and communicate it to the heating and cooling system. For HVAC systems, there are two primary means: electromechanical and electronic. Electromechanical systems use a bimetal coil and a vial of mercury to monitor the temperature and trigger the HVAC system to turn on or off as appropriate. As the temperature changes, the coil expands or contracts, tipping the vial to move the mercury which makes or breaks a circuit, controlling the “on” state of the HVAC system.

Electronic systems are more advanced and operate using a sensor with more variable control and sensitivity. It also eliminates the use of mercury, instead electronically bridging the gap to control the HVAC system. For the most advanced or complicated systems, including commercial air conditioning systems that permit individual room temperature settings, there will be a separate thermostat for each room that may be adjusted independently.

How Thermostat Malfunctions Can Affect Commercial Air Conditioning Maintenance

One of the most common ways in which a malfunctioning thermostat can cause problems for your HVAC system is by working ineffectually. If the thermostat has become insensitive to temperature changes, it can either remain on too long and thus over-cool your rooms, or not turn on enough, leaving your building hotter than you want it to be. In either case, your employees, clients, and customers will feel uncomfortable, and you’ll be paying good money for power that isn’t being utilized correctly.

Further, malfunctioning thermostats can cause commercial air conditioning maintenance issues when they strain your system too far. Beyond just driving your employees to wear winter coats in July, an overtaxed system will require more frequent maintenance and prompt you to replace parts more frequently. Depending on the type of system you have, you may also see different rooms fighting each other if they have independent sensors and one is malfunctioning. It’s both a waste of money and damaging to your HVAC system to have it attempt to cool and heat adjacent rooms that have substantial airflow between them.

Dust Mites in your HVAC Ducts

What Are the Ways to Discover Your Thermostat May Not Be Working Properly?

There are three major ways to determine if your thermostat is malfunctioning: firsthand experience, third-party reports, and your power bill. In an ideal situation, you’ll quickly experience the malfunction yourself and become aware of it before anyone else does. In this case, you can call your HVAC contractor to inspect and repair the faulty thermostat before you suffer significant consequences.

Unfortunately, life is not always so kind, and in other instances, you are only made aware a problem exists when someone else reports the issue. If your HVAC technician catches the problem during a routine check, you may still prevent negative consequences. However, if your employees or customers notice it, it may take some time before word makes its way to you. Lower level employees may not have a direct line of communication to you, and intermediate managers may not always pass the message along timely. On the other hand, customers may only let you know through a less-than-warmly worded Yelp review.

Possibly the worst way to find out is by seeing an unusual and otherwise-inexplicable spike in your power bill. Particularly for campuses with several buildings and separate thermostats, significant variances can be easily buried in seasonal fluctuations. Nevertheless, if the difference is enough to draw attention, you have already suffered a significant cost.

Bringing It Together: The Importance of Commercial HVAC Thermostats

A properly working HVAC system is essential both for your employees’ comfort and your business’s financial concerns. As the “brains” behind your system’s functioning, it’s vital that your thermostat is in good order. You’ll want to remain as informed as possible about any issues with your system, so you can promptly inform your commercial air conditioning maintenance contractor.

While it can be expensive to replace an entire system, many instances of a system working too hard or not hard enough prompt much simpler solutions if it’s determined that your thermostat was at fault. If you have a qualified contractor, they can assist you with diagnosing and resolving any HVAC thermostat issue before it becomes a chronic issue that unnecessarily costs your business thousands of dollars.