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Old 11-09-2012, 07:03 PM   #1
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


A service man told my mother not to turn the mercury thermostats all the way down during the winter to prevent damage to her 25 year old boiler. So, Instead of switching them all the way to the left (below 60) at night, she backs it off a few millimeters from the end. I wasn't there to hear this guy's explanation, but I can't figure how this would do anything one way or another. Can anyone give me a reason why this might benefit the boiler?

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Old 11-09-2012, 07:51 PM   #2
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


i didn't know people still used those.

probably didn't want it to shut off.

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Old 11-09-2012, 08:56 PM   #3
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


Using a thermostat for it's purpose won't damage anything. If you turn a boiler off in an unheated structure THAT will create a problem.
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Old 11-09-2012, 09:00 PM   #4
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


Set to 50 or to 60 won't make a difference.
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Old 11-10-2012, 11:15 AM   #5
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


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i didn't know people still used those.
F'real, given how cheap digital ones are it's almost crazy to keep the old style. You save a lot more than the cost of them within a very short time. Far better to set-and-forget with timers than fiddling around with it. You end up being tempted to bump it up too much. Versus the timer being set to automatically bring the temp up for you in the morning and shut it down for bed time. You wake to a nice temp and stay away from the thermostat, so you don't turn it up higher than necesssary or leave it running longer than necessary.
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probably didn't want it to shut off.
Which doesn't make a lot of sense because it's ALREADY turning itself off and on a lot during regular heating cycles anyway. Unless there's something about the age and condition of that particular setup that makes it fragile somehow.

I'd give them a call and play the 'helping my dear old mother understand' angle. And if you're not handy enough to install new digital thermostats, ask them how much they'd charge to do it. Their price might encourage you to become handy enough to DIY, it really IS an easy task.
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Old 11-10-2012, 01:42 PM   #6
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


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F'real, given how cheap digital ones are it's almost crazy to keep the old style. You save a lot more than the cost of them within a very short time. Far better to set-and-forget with timers than fiddling around with it. You end up being tempted to bump it up too much. Versus the timer being set to automatically bring the temp up for you in the morning and shut it down for bed time. You wake to a nice temp and stay away from the thermostat, so you don't turn it up higher than necesssary or leave it running longer than necessary.

Which doesn't make a lot of sense because it's ALREADY turning itself off and on a lot during regular heating cycles anyway. Unless there's something about the age and condition of that particular setup that makes it fragile somehow.

I'd give them a call and play the 'helping my dear old mother understand' angle. And if you're not handy enough to install new digital thermostats, ask them how much they'd charge to do it. Their price might encourage you to become handy enough to DIY, it really IS an easy task.
Easier than programming a DVR.

Besides.....you have us to help you with it.
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Old 11-10-2012, 01:58 PM   #7
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


Some DVRs are easier than others, our Tivo units certainly make it easy. And some people are seriously lacking when it comes to handyman or DIY skills. That's why I usual suggest calling a pro, if only to get enough of a shock from the price to encourage them to learn. Or recognize it's worth paying to get someone else to do it. But this is definitely one of those easier jobs.

The only tricky part might be the lack of wire colors. A system that's old enough to still have the mercury units might be older than the common color scheme typically used for wiring up a boiler. But even then, the directions that come with most digital thermostats cover a pretty wide range of connection types.

One suggestion, get one that lights up when you press buttons. We're renting a place while our house is being built and I swapped in an old digital for the one that was here. Trouble is it doesn't light up the screen so it's been a little tricky to do some reprogramming on it later in the evening. Otherwise I have to turn on the hall lights and likely wake up our child. You wouldn't think it'd be as important, but it really would be nice. That and the larger the display screen digits, the better. Some screens are big but they still have very tiny bits of text on them. Better to have something that's easy to read, especially if you're retrofitting into a house with older occupants.
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Old 11-10-2012, 02:21 PM   #8
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


My mortgage payments have certainly been helped by all the new thermostats that stop with battery failure, folks struggling with day light saving time changes, the slightest space developing between connecting pins etc. etc. etc.
compared to those ridiculously reliable 40 year old mercury thermostats.
As a hvac tech. a big thank you goes out to all my brothers dedicated to marketing self serving planned obsolescence.

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If your older style boiler does not have a bypass (a loop directly connecting the inlet and outlet line just above the boiler ) then you will cause scale and condensation issues from repeatedly running cold water through the boiler heat exchanger by turning down the thermostat too low during the night.
I'd listen to your boiler plumber as he was the one on site who had a chance to look at your boiler, radiator set up and the likely building insulation.
It is not an uncommon problem with older boiler set ups, large radiators, and poorly insulated homes that allow the temp to drop in some areas (basement) substantually below the temp zone that the thermostat is in.

Last edited by how; 11-10-2012 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 11-10-2012, 02:39 PM   #9
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


Like anything else, if you want the benefits of new solutions you have to accept the costs. The upside to changing the batteries and resetting the daylight savings change is a CONSIDERABLE savings in HVAC operating costs and a decrease in wasted fuel and the pollution it creates. To say nothing of eliminating the use of cancer-causing mercury.

Yes, simpler switches "worked" but using them wastes a lot of energy and damages the environment. Better to see them go, and perhaps end up using a local HVAC contractor to help deal with reconfiguring it. That's a far better 'problem' to have, for everyone-- including the contractor.

There's a fine line between listening to an educated tradesman and the usual half-assed nonsense you hear from some flunky masquerading as such. Made even worse when it's advice given to the elderly and then passed on second-hand.
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Old 11-10-2012, 03:09 PM   #10
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


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The upside to changing the batteries and resetting the daylight savings change is a CONSIDERABLE savings in HVAC operating costs and a decrease in wasted fuel and the pollution it creates.

Yes, simpler switches "worked" but using them wastes a lot of energy and damages the environment.
I'm lost. How is an old thermostat using considerably more energy than a new digital? What's the comparison to? I would think spending the money on caulking and a few cans of spray foam for air sealing would save more than the cost of a new thermostat + installation?
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Old 11-10-2012, 03:17 PM   #11
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


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I'm lost. How is an old thermostat using considerably more energy than a new digital? What's the comparison to? I would think spending the money on caulking and a few cans of spray foam for air sealing would save more than the cost of a new thermostat + installation?

In a perfect world you would save money by installing a thermostat that would turn the heat down when not needed and at night. In a perfect world it wouldn't take twice as long to bring it back up to the temperature you want it either. Set back thermostats have their place and their limits. I have one which I do utilize when the temperature is moderate yet cool enough to heat. When it gets cold or hot out, it stays put.
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Old 11-10-2012, 03:44 PM   #12
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


I agree, they do have their place. It really depends on the heating equipment and what your heatloss is for your house. In a drafty old house with an old cast iron boiler, the set back could help(I still say the money is better spent on the air sealing) With newer construction and a mod con, all its going to do is cool the structure off enough to put the unit in high fire more often. That's not saving much when that happens. Plus, the argument could be made that there is one less new t stat having to be made when you don't switch. That's a considerable energy saving, right there.
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Old 11-10-2012, 03:44 PM   #13
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


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I'm lost. How is an old thermostat using considerably more energy than a new digital? What's the comparison to? I would think spending the money on caulking and a few cans of spray foam for air sealing would save more than the cost of a new thermostat + installation?
Does it really need an explanation? An old one left on a particular temp ends up using more fuel heating the space when it's not 'needed'. A digital one (or any sort that has a timer on it, for the nitpicking kinds) stands to end up using less fuel as it controls when heat is actually needed. And by doing it automatically it helps prevent forgetfulness, which also ends up using less fuel.

None of this is an either-or proposition. Yes, you'd CERTAINLY want to improve any sealing and insulating. But it would be silly to choose that in exclusion of a smarter thermostat (be it just time scheduled or a new 'learning' kind).

Would sealing and insulating alone be better than using a better thermostat? Who would even ask that sort of question? I'm sure one could definitely reduce their energy use by just sealing, insulating or a thermostat individually. But that's not saying any one of them is the better choice, they ALL are.

Yeah, in some situations given the type of heating plant, building insulation and local weather it ends up being a fine line between using just one temperature value vs the typical 4-interval (wake, day, eve, night) schedules. But you'd very likely still see reductions in energy costs fine-tuning the schedules. Not always the easiest thing to do given the fiddly nature of some programmable thermostats, but the potential money saved and pollution not generated make it at least worth giving serious consideration.

We're putting in a geo-thermal setup in our new house. It's very likely that using the same kinds of setback schedules we had before with a natural gas furnace would be a mistake. But given we're going from pretty much NO insulation in the old brick-on-block house to the new 6" spray foam and insulated zip panels it will likely be less expensive heat/cool the tripled amount of new living space. So does this mean I shouldn't bother with a smarter thermostat? Of course not. The few watts less the system might consume make it worthwhile. The end result is less energy used and that's good for my wallet and the environment as a whole.

Given the thermostats can be had for little more than the price of a latte and are pretty simple to install it'd be just plain stupid to ignore their benefits, let alone cling to using something inefficient. But hey, people have held onto dumber ideas longer...

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Old 11-10-2012, 04:00 PM   #14
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


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Given the thermostats can be had for little more than the price of a latte and are pretty simple to install it'd be just plain stupid to ignore their benefits, let alone cling to using something inefficient. But hey, people have held onto dumber ideas longer...
I disagree that its a blanket solution for energy saving, and in a lot of situations, I doubt its saving someone as much as you think it is. But hey, people have held onto dumber ideas longer...right?
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Old 11-10-2012, 04:24 PM   #15
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does turning a thermostat all the way down during the winter damage the boiler?


More heating gospell from the folks that profit from there sales.

When you turn down a mercury thermostat at night when you go to bed (like folks do when turning off the lights) and turn it back up when you get up in the morning, the savings equal those of a digital thermostat. Oh... unless like most folks do with a digital thermostat, you set the timer to come on 20 minutes before you get up, then you are paying to heat your house 20 extra minutes every day of your heating season... which makes a digital thermostat more expensive to use.

Common guys....Common sense! Each has there use and there comfort but lets not all drink the sales koolaid.

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