Understanding Your Smart Thermostat’s Furnace Alerts

Smart thermostats are an incredible innovation that can make heating and cooling your home more convenient and save money by intelligently monitoring your usage. However, these thermostats also include numerous other features that make your life easier. Some smart thermostats even include the ability to monitor your furnace for potential faults.

Since most thermostats can only communicate with the furnace in one direction, smart thermostats monitor your heating system's health by watching for long-term heating patterns. The actual information available will vary between thermostat models. Still, this article will demystify some of what your smart thermostat may be trying to tell you about your home's heating system. 

How Do Smart Thermostats Monitor Your Home's Heating Performance?

You may be surprised to learn how your thermostat controls your home's heating system is surprisingly straightforward. Most thermostats operate on low-voltage power and only require a handful of wires to control your furnace. In particular, the thermostat uses one wire to demand heating and another to turn the fan on. Your furnace will do nothing until it receives signals over these wires.

Of course, these wires can't provide any data back to your thermostat, so how do smart thermostats monitor your heating system? The answer is that they pay attention to the same things that you might. Your smart thermostat can monitor how long it takes to heat your house or whether your furnace cuts off unexpectedly. Some thermostats can even use past data to judge your system's performance.

Since this information isn't particularly sophisticated, your thermostat can't tell you what's wrong with your furnace. However, it may be able to display warnings about symptoms such as excessively long heating times or short cycling. Depending on your thermostat model, it may display these warnings or even send you an email or phone alert.

What Should You Do If Your Smart Thermostat Detects a Problem?

First, don't panic. Remember that your smart thermostat doesn't have any special information about the state of your heating system, so an alert doesn't necessarily mean that your system is malfunctioning. However, these alerts can be an early warning sign to alert you to trouble before you would have otherwise noticed.

Second, perform some basic maintenance. Many furnace problems result from old or dirty air filters. Since your furnace requires good airflow across the heat exchanger, a dirty filter can result in short cycling or excessively long heating times. If you can't remember when you last changed your filter, now is a perfect time.

If changing the filter doesn't solve the issue, start paying closer attention to how your heating system functions so you can confirm the thermostat's warning. Do you notice your system struggling to maintain your setpoint? Does your furnace seem to shut off long before fully heating your home? If so, you'll want to contact an HVAC professional to help you investigate and, ultimately, repair the issue.

Contact a local heating contractor to learn more.