MinuteRant: Thermostats–why not heating & cooling at the same time?

Okay, we all have thermostats in our homes and offices and businesses.  They help us to control the temperature in our buildings.  The thermostat talks to the furnace and tells it “Hey, it’s dropping below 65 degrees in here, you’d better do your thing for a little while so the peeps and fuzzies in here don’t freeze.”  And then it talks to the air conditioner, telling it “You know, it’s getting kinda warm in here…80 degrees is about as warm as the peeps and fuzzies want it to get, so chill us all out for a little bit.”

See, the thermostat talks to the furnace, and to the air conditioner, but not both at the same time–WHY can’t it talk to both of them at the same time?!  Why do we have to CHOOSE whether we want the furnace running, or the air conditioner running?  Why can’t we say “All right, I want the temperature in here to stay right around 68 degrees.”   And then have the thermostat advise whoever’s turn it is to run to take care of that?

If you have a large building with many different zones and thermostats, you have to keep on top of whether you need heating or cooling at any particular moment in any particular zone.  If you have a lot of afternoon sun coming in the windows, you’ll need the air conditioning in that area during the day–but try to remember to turn the furnace back on when you leave for the day, after the sun goes down.

Most of the time, this isn’t such an important issue, because it’s warm (or cool) enough to warrant just one type of air handling.  In the springtime, though, there are often drastic shifts in temperature, necessitating cooling during the day and heating at night.  If you live in Michigan, you can sometimes experience these drastic shifts during many seasons, and occasionally multiple times per day.

Sooo…why can’t we just tell the thermostat what temperature we want the house to stay at, and have IT deal with the subordinate parties?  There are automobiles which have this capability, and there are even automobiles which offer separate thermostats for the driver’s and passenger side of the car.  It doesn’t seem to me like that’s a big deal…but that’s probably why I’m not in the heating and cooling profession.

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