We get lots of calls from landlords and property mangers who are looking for ways to prevent their tenants from cranking up the heat or cranking down the air conditioning to unnecessary levels. Obviously, this issue comes about where heating and cooling of an apartment or home are included in the rent. In this case, the landlord gets the bill and the tenant never sees it. With energy costs rising - it is good to know that there are some powerful and relatively inexpensive solutions out there.
Below, we will outline some of the technologies/products available to help landlords put a cap on high energy bills!
NOTE: before proceeding with any strategy, consult local laws and find out what limits are on the books for providing heat and/or cooling to tenants.
Solution # 1 - thermostats with electronic "range stops"
In our opinion - this is the best solution to the problem of tenants turning up the heat or turning down the cooling beyond reasonable levels.
Many thermostat manufacturers are addding a feature to new models that allows for the setting of high and cool setpoint limiting within the onboard software on thermostats. With this feature - it is possible to set the high and/or low setpoint limit using the installer menu on the thermostat. The default temperature range on a thermostat is 45-90 degrees. Using this setpoint limiting feature - it would be possible, for example, to set the high limit at 74 degrees or the low limit at 70 degrees. By doing this - the tenant would not be able to dial the setpoint any higher or lower than the set limits. In order to set up these limits - one must have the installation guide and must know how to get into the installation menu. One must also know the appropriate key to set the limits.
here is an excerpt from Honeywell FocusPro Installers Guide:
Provides an aesthetically pleasing, and accurate temperature control solution that is under your control.
Offers complete flexibility to change or remove setpoint limits whenever you want
Generally speaking, there is no way for the tenant to tamper with the thermostat or raise/lower setpoint beyond limits you set (see cons for the flipside)
Current thermostat must be completey replaced
A very resourceful tenant could find the installer guide online and learn how to disable the setpoint limiting
Here is a list of some thermostats that offer this feature:
ControlTemp CT100 - this is the only limiting thermostat that has hard-coded limits (72 for heat / 75 for cooling) that cannot be changed.
Braeburn 1000NC - this NEW thermostat take setpoint limiting to the next level. A 2-step process locks the thermostat down. It is very unlikely that a tenant could figure this out!
Braeburn 1025C - same as the 1000NC - but for heat only systems.
LuxPro model PSD010B - non-programmable, heat only. A low priced thermostat with this feature - but it only does heat.
Honeywell FocusPro 5000 - TH5110D1022 - non-programmable 1 heat / 1 cool - cost is around $45.00 (absolutely the BEST value in a non-programmable thermostat)
Honeywell FocusPro 6000 - TH6110D1021 - 5/1/1 programmable 1 heat / 1 cool - cost is around $60.00
Honeywell VisionPro 8000 - TH8110U1003 - 7 day programmable 1 heat / 1 cool - cost is around $100.00
Robertshaw RS4100 - Non-Programmable 1 heat / 1 cool - cost is around $40
White Rodgers Blue - 1F97-1277 - 7 day programmable 1 heat / 1 cool - cost is around $100.00
Lux PSP722E - 7 day programmable 2 heat / 2 cool - cost is around $80.00
Solution # 2 - thermostats with mechanical range stops
If a traditional Honeywell "round" thermostat is desired in the property - mechanical range stops are available. Honeywell's new mercury free round thermostat is an exact duplicate of the old, popular model. Inside the case on the thermostat is a track where an optional range stop can be placed. By inserting supplied screws in the range stop at designated areas - the tenant will be unable to turn their dial to a setpoint beyond where the screws have been placed.
Relatively inexpensive solution - range stop sells for $5.99 and thermostat sells for around $40.00
Classic, round thermostat which tenant make be accustomed to
Only works with 3 thermostats - the T87N1000, T87K1007, T87N1026
Thermostat will have to be replaced by one listed above
Could be physically disabled by tenant
Solution # 3 - thermostats with keypad lockout feature
Most people who call are looking for this feature until they find out about the electronic range stops. Some thermostats allow for a total or partial lockout, meaning all some thermostat settings cannot be changed until a secret code is entered into the thermostat. In most cases, this feature has a long way to go. Often, the secret code has to be reset EVERY time the thermostat is unlocked. Not very practical. A listing of thermostats with this feature can be found here.
it is possible to lock down the thermostat so that the tenant cannot make ANY change to setpoint or programs
This feature is difficult, unpractical, and hasn't been fully developed in most thermostat models
Solution # 4 - external temperature limiting devices
Often landlords are looking for a solution that does not involve replacing an entire thermostat. New devices have been created which interrupt the circuit which is normally completed between the heating/cooling equipment and the existing thermostat. An example would be the Temp-LimiterT from Jackson Systems. This device looks like a little white box, and wires beween the thermostat and the heating equipment. The limiter will break the circuit once the heat in the space rises to a specific, preset temperature (example - the Temp-LimiterT TL-70H breaks at 70 degrees and the Temp-LimiterT TL-73H breaks at 73 degrees). Even if the tenant turns the thermostat to 85 degrees, there will be NO CALL FOR HEAT when the ambient temperature where the Temp-LimiterT is located gets to 70, or 73 depending on the model you choose.
There is also a cooling version of this limiter which breaks the circuit to the compressor instead of the heater circuit. There is also a hybrid product called a LimitStat which combines a standard digital thermostat with an internal 73 degree limiter.
Does not require the replacement of the existing thermostat
Housed in a small, inconspicuous box
Not extremly accurate - works within + / - 3 degrees of the intended temperature
Requires extra wiring and fishing of wires
Set up to break the circuit at a specific temperature - offers no flexibility to change set limit
Solution # 5 - use a thermostat with a remote sensor
Many property managers and landlords would prefer to operate the thermostat themselves from a central mechanical room - but have no way of knowing what the actual temperature is in the tenants space. Some thermostats offer an optional remote indoor sensor that can sense the temperature from the sensor location rather than the thermostat location. By hooking up a remote sensor, the thermostat sensor can be disabled. With this method, even a thermostat placed on the wall in a hot boiler room can get an accurate readings from the remote apartment and base it's call for heat or cool properly. A good example of a thermostat with a remote sensor is the Honeywell VisionPro 8000 . Running a wire from the thermostat to the sensor allows for remote sensing but central control.
Thermostat can be placed anywhere
Landlord can adjust thermostat setpoints and programming him/herself. If the the tenant leaves on vacation, but doesn't turn the heat back - NO problem.
Only the more expensive thermostats offer remote sensors as optional accessories
Wires must be run through walls. No good wireless solutions exist at this time