2010 February 15
by Otto

Thermostats. How tough can they be?

We have an in-floor radiant hydronic (ie water running through tubes) system divided into five zones. When I heard that the plumber was planning on five thermostats, one in each zone, that seemed like a lot of hardware on our walls. And then I got it into my mind that, c’mon, this is 2010, I should be able to control the temperature of my house from my cellphone, over the Internet, etc.

Aside from the gee-whiz nature of controlling the temperature from far away, I came up with two scenarios where it might be really useful: 1. You leave home on a trip and forgot to turn down the temperature (or just aren’t sure if you did). 2. The big downside of radiant systems is that they take a long time (several hours) to come to temperature. So I imagined us coming back from a long trip and pulling out our cellphones in the Minneapolis airport and turning on our heat so the house is toasty when we land in Bozeman.

Well. With the goal of having one central thermostat gathering input from five temperature sensors and then connecting the whole thing to the Internet, I quickly waded into a world of extraordinarily expensive systems. You can do absolutely anything, it turns out, but before you know it someone wants to charge you $5,000 for it.

The Internet-controlled BAYweb thermostat

The Internet-controlled BAYweb thermostat

So I started backpedaling. What if I still had five separate thermostats, but each was Internet-controlled? Here I had greater success. I found a great thermostat from BAYweb (check it out) that combines a really nice clean wall mounted unit with full Internet control.

But the Bayweb units are about $200 each. Your basic thermostat is in the $30-40 range. A 5-2 programmable one (ie you can have one programming setting for weekdays and one setting for weekends) are about $50-60. A 7-day programmable one (ie every day can have its own settings) are about $70-80. So the Internet control still adds quite a bit of cost, especially since we need five units.

In the end we decided to go with one of the BAYweb ones for the main floor, and then get 5-2 programmable thermostats for the other four zones.

One Response leave one →
  1. Ian permalink
    October 18, 2010

    These look really cool. I looked into ordering a couple. I have two radiant electric zones in the house but I need both heating and floor warming capabilities. Unfortunately for me, Bayweb’s thermostats can’t accept a floor probe input.

    Are you hydronic floors able to achieve floor warming or can it only be used as a heating system? I am currently living in a house with 8 zones of hydronic but there are no floor probes so typically the house gets up to temperature and the tile floors are then cold at least 1/2 of the time.

    The other issue is that our in floor heating passes the current through the thermostat much like a baseboard heater style thermostat and bayweb doesn’t seem to have a thermo that can handle this either.

    Guess I am stuck with the non-internet connected programmable option. We looked into other systems but as you mention these all seem to have the first born clause. I am sure another 10 years will make all the difference – too bad my wall will already be finished by then.

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