On paper, it seemed like a simple task: move two thermostats. In reality, I knew it would not be so easy but I never expected it to turn into a multi-day project. Then again, almost everything I attempt to do takes far longer than it should, so why would I expect this to be any different?
Why move the thermostats?
Our house has zoned heating, so there are half a dozen thermostats throughout. The two thermostats in question are located in the front hallway– one for the in-floor heating in the bathroom, hallway and kitchen, and the other one for the baseboard radiators on the rest of the main floor (except for the family room) and air conditioning for the entire house.
The first problem is that these two thermstats have a tendency to cancel each other out. If the in-floor heat is on, it warms the other thermostat so it will not kick on the baseboards resulting in warm tiles, but cold bedroom and living room. In order for the baseboards to kick on, the in-floor usually has to be off resulting in a warm air, but cold tiles. It took a lot of experimenting to find a “sweet spot” where both thermostats functioned, but maintaining a comfortable temperature should not be so complicated.
The other problem is that the thermostats are located on a wall that was designed by the architect to be a feature, since it is framed nicely by the living room archway. On his last visit to our house, he lamented the poor location of the thermostats, indicating that “There should be a picture hanging there.” This was something I hadn’t really contemplated until now. I wanted them moved for the first reason, but this second reason now gave me even more incentive.
After some careful thought, I decided that the thermostats would be better located on the wall dividing the livingroom and hallway– the AC/main floor heat on the livingroom side, and the in-floor on the tiled hallway side. The new locations are closer to the boiler, so re-routing the wires for the heat would be relatively simple. The AC wire, on the other hand, would be a little more difficult, but still do-able.
Thermostat wiring is low-voltage– no device box necessary– and require only a small hole drilled in the wall. Smaller holes make fishing wires a bit of a challenge. This is where a chain comes in handy.
- Drill a hole through the bottom plate from the basement.
- Drill a hole in the wall where the thermostat is to be located.
- Feed the chain into the hole in the wall and let gravity take it down to the bottom plate.
- Somehow find the chain from below and pull it through the hole in the bottom plate. I cut out a small piece of drywall at the bottom plate and fed the chain into the hole from the main floor.
- Attach the wire to the chain and pull the chain back up.
Aside from taking time to measure carefully, and running up and down stairs a few times, this was not a terribly difficult task and I was able to do it without any assistance and the in-floor thermostat is now wired up.
Then progress grinds to a halt
The boiler is in the basement. The basement is unfinished. Working from below the main floor is relatively easy. The air handler for the cooling, on the other hand, is located in the attic and the thermostat wire is buried behind finished walls. Fortunately, several years ago, before the big renovation, while some walls were opened up, I had run conduit from the attic to the basement for cat5 wiring from an exterior wall mounted wireless Internet receiver. Subsequently, that receiver was moved to another location and has since been abandoned after we went to a 3G hub. Fortunately, we did not remove the conduit during the renovations so I have a means of running wires from the basement to the attic.
Working in the attic is not comfortable. There isn’t much room for crawling over the air handler, the numerous ducts and the drain pipes, and I’m a pretty big guy (even though I weigh about 50 pounds less than I did a couple of years ago). But I managed to cut into the conduit and used the old cat5 wire to fish the thermostat wire up to the attic. I routed the new wire over to where the old wire was connected to the air handler. And that was where my forward momentum ceased.
The existing connections were encased in electrical tape. When I unravelled the tape, I noticed two wires that were not connected to anything. The end of one was capped with a connector. The other one was not, so the question is whether it had been connected to anything or had just not been capped. Uncertainty is not a good thing when it comes to a such a sophist-i-ma-cated mechanical contraption. At that point, I made the decision to call someone to make the necessary connections.
I figured I would at least get the thermostat wires roughed in, but when I went down to the basement I discovered a second problem. There wasn’t enough thermstat wire left. The time was approaching 6:00 (the thermostat wiring was not my first project of the day). I rushed over to Canadian Tire, hoping that (one) they did not close at 6 and (two) that they had the wire I needed to finish the job. Unfortunately, I got to Canadian Tire about two minutes before they closed. Not wanting to be that last-minute shopper store employees loathe, I didn’t bother going in.
I could have gone to Home Depot, which closes later and which I know has what I need, but that’s a half hour drive away. That meant that it would be between 7 and 7:30 before I would return home. Before I left on this errand, my daughter was already making noise about wanting dinner so I made the decision to delay the Home Depot run until the morning.
Thus a project that should have only taken a couple of hours will span a couple of days, and I’m still going to call in the heating contractor to make the connections so I can be confident that they are done right, adding an expense that I had not anticipated. But at least once everything is finshed the heat will work better, and we will have the feature wall that the contractor envisioned.