The air conditioning thermostat is the control center of your AC system – it’s what allows you to set the desired temperature in your home. So when your thermostat stops working properly, it can be incredibly frustrating. A malfunctioning thermostat means you have little control over your home’s temperature, and it usually indicates there’s an underlying issue with your AC system.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the most common reasons an AC thermostat may stop working correctly. We’ll provide troubleshooting tips to help you diagnose the problem. And we’ll give you a step-by-step guide to getting your thermostat functioning properly again.
Common Causes of AC Thermostat Malfunction
There are a few key reasons why your AC thermostat may not be working:
One of the most common causes of a thermostat malfunction is a loss of power. Thermostats are electronic devices that require continuous electrical power to operate. If the thermostat loses power, it will be unable to accurately control your AC system.
A power loss can occur due to:
- A tripped breaker or blown fuse in your electrical panel. The thermostat circuit relies on a dedicated breaker or fuse. If this gets tripped or blown, power will be cut off.
- A loose wire connection. Thermostat wiring can become loose over time, interrupting the power supply.
- Dead batteries. Many thermostats have backup batteries in case of power loss. If these batteries die, the thermostat loses function.
Incorrect wiring between the thermostat and the HVAC system can prevent proper communication. This leads to erratic thermostat operation or a complete lack of function.
Potential wiring issues include:
- Loose connections. Over time, vibrations can cause wires to become loose at connection points.
- Incorrect wire installation. Hooking up thermostat wires incorrectly can break communication.
- Damaged wires. Old, brittle, or damaged wiring prevents signals from transmitting.
Thermostat Hardware Failure
Like any electrical component, thermostats can fail over time. Mechanical parts wear out, circuits stop working properly, and components like LCD screens can malfunction. The thermostat itself will need replacement if it has an internal hardware failure.
Troubleshooting Steps for an Unresponsive AC Thermostat
If your thermostat isn’t functioning correctly, there are a few basic troubleshooting steps you can take:
Confirm the thermostat has power
The first thing to check is whether the thermostat is getting power. Try the following:
- Check your main electrical panel for a tripped breaker or blown fuse, and reset/replace if needed. The thermostat requires its own dedicated circuit.
- Remove the thermostat housing and ensure wiring connections are tight and intact.
- If the thermostat has batteries, remove and test them. Replace batteries if drained.
- Verify the thermostat has the correct voltage rating for your system. Most HVAC systems provide a 24 VAC power supply.
Check thermostat wiring
If the thermostat has power, next inspect the wiring:
- Ensure wires are securely connected at both ends – at the thermostat and the HVAC control board. Loose connections can prevent electrical transmission.
- Verify wires are connected to the correct terminals. Sometimes wiring can get dislodged or improperly connected during service work. Consult a wiring diagram to check accuracy.
- Test wires for continuity. Use a multimeter to confirm a complete circuit through each wire. Broken connections will be revealed if there is no continuity.
Inspect the thermostat
If wiring is intact, examine the thermostat itself:
- Look for physical damage like cracks or broken parts. Internal circuitry and sensors can be knocked loose if the thermostat housing is damaged.
- Try resetting the thermostat to factory defaults. This can clear out software glitches and re-establish system communication.
- Test components like the LCD screen and buttons. Non-responsive components indicate hardware failure.
If there are no physical issues, the internal thermostat hardware itself has likely failed. Replacement is needed in this case.
Professional Thermostat Troubleshooting
For DIY-averse homeowners or complex electrical issues, professional thermostat troubleshooting is recommended.
An HVAC technician has the tools and expertise to accurately diagnose problems. They can test components, examine connections, and pinpoint whether the thermostat itself is faulty.
Professional troubleshooting is the fastest way to get your thermostat up and running again. It avoids the hassle and uncertainties of DIY trial and error.
Replacing a Faulty or Old Thermostat
If your system has a faulty thermostat that requires replacement, upgrading to a newer smart thermostat is recommended.
Here are key benefits of installing a modern, WiFi-enabled smart thermostat:
Advanced Temperature Control
Smart thermostats offer much more precise temperature regulation than old-style analog models. Options like learning ability, sensing, and remote adjustment allow your system to better match the temperature to your living patterns.
The latest thermostats have energy-saving features like adjustable setbacks and timers that reduce unnecessary heating/cooling. This cuts down on energy waste and lowers utility bills.
You can remotely monitor and adjust your thermostat settings from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop for added convenience. Voice control is even an option with some models.
Smart Home Integration
Modern thermostats can connect with other smart devices and home automation platforms. This allows comprehensive control of your home environment.
Replacing an aging thermostat with a new smart model is an easy upgrade that provides the latest technology and convenience. It can resolve functionality problems while also saving on energy costs.
Below we review the top smart thermostat options to consider:
Google Nest Thermostat
The Google Nest Learning Thermostat is a popular smart choice thanks to its intuitive operation and energy-saving capabilities:
- Auto-Schedule – Automatically programs itself based on your temperature adjustments
- Remote access & voice control via Google Assistant
- Energy Star-certified – Saves an average of 10-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills
Ecobee’s SmartThermostat line provides robust remote functionality and scheduling:
- Room sensor integration – Accounts for hot/cold spots
- Geofencing – Detects when you leave/return and adjusts temperature
- Alexa built-in – Control through Amazon Echo
- If This Then That (IFTTT) support – Integrates with other smart devices
Emerson Sensi Touch
The Emerson Sensi Touch combines intuitive touchscreen operation with smart home connectivity:
- Easy DIY installation
- Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit
- 7-day flexible scheduling – Customize each day of the week
- Remote access via smartphone app
Honeywell Home T9
The Honeywell Home T9 Smart Thermostat is a solid budget option that still offers smart controls:
- Area-specific temperature control – Set profiles for different rooms
- Auto seasonal scheduling – Adjusts based on weather
- Compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant
- Easy-to-read touchscreen
For an affordable smart thermostat, the Wyze Thermostat provides energy-saving features and app connectivity:
- Automatic scheduling based on usage patterns
- Remote access and voice control through app
- Energy Star-certified
- No C-wire required for most systems
Be sure to choose a thermostat that is compatible with your HVAC system. Most smart thermostats work with 24V systems like forced air furnaces, heat pumps, central air conditioners, etc. Professional installation is also recommended to ensure proper wiring and setup.
A non-working AC thermostat can make your home uncomfortable and disrupt everyday life. In many cases, there are basic troubleshooting steps you can take to get it functioning again. Examine the thermostat wiring connections, inspect for physical damage, and test the hardware. Resetting to factory defaults or replacing batteries can also do the trick.
For more complex issues, rely on an HVAC technician for professional assessment and repairs. They have the knowledge to accurately diagnose problems in a timely manner.
If your system has an old or damaged thermostat in need of replacement, installing an advanced smart thermostat is strongly advised. The latest WiFi-enabled models provide precise temperature control, energy efficiency, and the ultimate home comfort convenience. With a few thermostat troubleshooting and installation tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to a perfectly climate-controlled home once again.