Having replaced my 25 year old York boiler this past fall with a new Buderus with a 4 Zone Taco control using the 007e circulators for each zone, it was now time to upgrade the thermostats into the modern world. I live in NE so this is a simple oil boiler with baseboard forced hot water. 4th zone is a SuperStor for DHW.
In other words it’s a 2 wire system and no C wire anywhere. While there are lots of posts and videos on “How To” for C wires, there were still a lot of unanswered questions about these Wi-Fi connected smart T-stats. Will they reconnect if you lose power? Will all your settings be lost if you lose power? Should it have a battery backup? What about the security? Will a Dual Band Router work? Just how convenient is the mobile app? What about positive feedback that your command was accepted? Is connecting to your home Wi-Fi really the nightmare that everyone seems to complain about? What if you change your router, can I toggle it over to the new one or do I have to call Support hot line? Etc., etc.
What follows is NOT a How To but rather my experience that I am sharing in hopes someone else can benefit.
Smart Thermostat Selection.
Wow, a lot of choices. For me I had a few requirements. 1st it needed to be a 7-Day. I had gone to programmable t-stats some time ago that were 3-Day (M-F, Sat, Sun) but my wife’s work situation had her only needing to go into the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays; work from home the others. So she was always ‘overriding’ the programmed setting on stay at home days. 2nd, I did not what a ‘learning’ thermostat. You know the kind: where you keep adjusting the temp and over time the software learns your habits and thus will take over based on it. To me it seems the more sophisticated our technology becomes, the harder it is to use. And while I am sure these learning types, like Nest, are designed to be incredibly simple to operate, I also want control over the when and how high. Little OCD I guess. 3rd I did not want to pay a couple hundred smackers. If I did not meet my needs I did not what to be out lots only to have to try another.
I ended up with a Honeywell RTH6580WF which is a 7 Day Smart T-Stat without any batteries which can be had as a ‘new old stock’ or ‘open box’ on eBay for a lot less than a hundred.
So before formally installing, I giving it a test ride by hooking it all up at the boiler and just took over one of the zones now that I do not need to worry about heating the house. For the C-Wire, the Taco has an internal 24VAC x-former that I tapped off of and thru a little bit of trial and error, found that the 24VAC needed to be fed to “C” and “Rc” with no jumper between Rc and R (aka Rh) and the T-stat wires red to R and white to W (aka W1).
Followed the instructions (a booklet did come with the device, but is also on line, but nice to have the hard copy to make notes) and could not get it connected to the home Wi-Fi. Frustrating. Finally tracked it back to me: I was using the wrong passcode. Dummy!
Took me two attempts with proper passcode to get connected. Not bad at all and the instructions were clear as well as the prompts on both the device and its web browser. At some point you will need the MAC ID and they have conveniently provided it on a card in the box. It’s also on a sticker on the inside of the device. But not having to power down and pull off the back plate to get it during the set up was a thoughtful bonus. Downloaded the apps on both my laptop and phone with relative ease.
Set Up and Initial Findings.
Using the laptop with its larger screen and keyboard, the setting up the schedules was straight forward. The other features, like if you want an email alert under certain conditions was also fairly straight forward. Setting up the device and telling it what type of system you have, etc. did require a little flipping back and forth in the booklet but overall was straight forward. Again simply having this hard copy is nice as I note what settings I have applied.
Ok, now to take it for a spin. The control on the iPhone app and PC were same. And you can be logged into both, nice. Turing the system on or off, overriding the schedule to raise or lower the temp, all easy peasy. On the app, you get a display of the device settings and actual temp and the outside temp, humidity and forecast, obviously keyed off your location from some service they have; a nice touch. Any change make on the app gets reflected in the other device where the app is also open. So if I changed the temp on the iPhone, the app on the PC also ‘updated’ and of course the device did as well. Changed the settings on the device itself and it gets reflected in the app.
Wi-Fi. Cut power to the boiler to simulate a power loss. Waited a few minutes. Turned back on. Something happening, its backlight came on, wait for it – IT RECONNECTED! Is it some smallish capacitor that is holding the setting or does it have a ROM chip that stores the settings and not impacted by power loss. Back off the power goes. Let’s give it a command via the app and see what happens. Nothing but goodness. I get the expected email alert AND the app has a pop up warning it has lost connection with the device. Nice. And I added in another email address in the app and we both got the alert of device not responding. Nice twice. Powered back on after an hour. And voila! Reconnected. And the apps updated as well, i.e. the warnings disappeared and got back the system status. Must have ROM. Smart. Next test is power down for a couple of days and try again. More as to why I want to test that later. And it seems on first blush based on the documentation and app settings that if I change my router I am in control –> no 1-800 numbers in my future!
Security: when doing the initial set up the device broadcasts its SSID. But after connecting with home Wi-Fi, it’s no longer visible > a very good thing. While it’s obviously still broadcasting and receiving without being able to ‘see’ or literally knowing the SSID (which is unique for each device, i.e. they are not all “Honeywell-1234”) I suspect you would have to be really good to hack into it and need some special hardware. I’ll check with a programming buddy of mine on this idea.
I could not be happier. While took some experimenting to get it power up (and odd that a 2 wire is not addressed in their documentation) it was all straight forward, clear and simple. And best off all, it auto reconnects on power loss! Still lots more experimenting to do, like what happens on a true power loss where the router is also re-booting. And then there is the ultimate challenge and why I am so interested in ‘auto reconnecting’: installing one of these in my RV where we just become a seasonal this year. Boy would it would be nice, says the wife, to be able to kick on the A/C in the RV an hour before we get there. And of course there is the issue with the dog being left alone at times in the RV. Is it cool enough? Did we lose power and need to head back? So much to do…
I’ll try to keep this going along with some show and tell pics.