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Thermostats and other products that help protect landlords from high utility bills
Posted 10/24/2007

This video explains some easy ways landlords can prevent their tenants from adjusting their thermostats to costly extremes. Energy costs are constantly on the rise, so it's no surprise many landlords and property managers are looking for ways to prevent their tenants from setting their heating and cooling systems at costly levels. This problem typically occurs when heating and cooling costs for an apartment or home are included in the rent. In this case, you get the bill and the tenant never sees it. Sometimes those bills can be quite pricey. You'll be glad to know there are some powerful and relatively inexpensive solutions to prevent situations like this from occurring.

Solution # 1: Thermostats with Electronic "Range Stops"      

We think the best solution for tenants who persist in setting their heating and cooling systems at inefficient, costly levels is to install thermostats with electronic range stops. This feature allows you to set high and low setpoints within the onboard software of thermostats. If you've been suffering from pricey heating and cooling costs, then you definitely understand the appeal in limiting the highs and lows on your tenants' thermostats.




ü   Provides an aesthetically pleasing and accurate temperature control solution that's under your control.

ü   Some thermostats have hard-coded limits  that   cannot be changed.

ü   Offers complete flexibility to change or remove setpoint limits .

ü   Current thermostat must be completely replaced

ü   Generally speaking, there is no way for tenants to tamper with the thermostat

ü   Tenants will know their thermostat is being controlled


Solution # 2: Thermostats with Mechanical Range Stops  

For those individuals who want to stick with the traditional Honeywell "round" thermostat, there are mechanical range stops   available. Honeywell's   new mercury free round thermostat   is an exact duplicate of the older, popular model.  Inside the case of the thermostat there is a track where an optional range stop can be placed. When you insert the supplied screws in the mechanical range stop at points of your choosing, your tenants will be unable to turn their dial any further or lower than the sepoint where the screws have been placed.  




ü  Relatively inexpensive & easy to install.  

ü  Only works with three thermostat types

ü   LandTenants will most likely be familar with these types of thermostats.

ü   Wires The mechanical range stop could be physically disabled.

Solution #3: Thermostats with Keypad Lockout Feature  

Some landlords want a keypad lockout feature on their thermostat. These types of thermostats allow for a total or partial lockout, which means certain thermostat settings cannot be changed until a secret code is entered into the thermostat. Unfortunately, this feature still needs a lot of work. The secret code typically needs to be reset EVERY time the thermostat is unlocked. Talk about a pain. 




ü   The capability to lock down thermostats so tenants cannot make ANY changes to setpoints or programs.  

ü    Often difficult and impractical. You're better off purchasing a thermostat with electronic range stops .  


Solution #4: External Temperature Limiting Devices  

We definitely understand if you're looking for a solution that doesn't involve replacing an entire thermostat. Luckily, there are cost-effective devices that interrupt the circuit between the heating/cooling equipment and the existing thermostat. 

A great example of this type of device is the Temp-LimiterT from Jackson Systems. This external temperature limiting device looks like a little white box and has wires between the thermostat and the heating equipment. The limiter will break the circuit once the heat in the space rises to a specific, preset temperature. For example, the Temp-LimiterT   TL-70H   breaks at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and the Temp-LimiterT TL-73H   breaks at 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if the tenant turns the thermostat to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, there will be NO CALL FOR HEAT when the ambient temperature where the Temp-LimiterT is located reaches the preset temperature.




ü   These external temperature limiting devices do not require the replacement of existing thermostats.

ü   Not extremely accurate. They work within + / - three degrees of the intended temperature .

ü   They're housed in a small, inconspicuous box.  

ü   Requires extra wiring and fishing of wires.  

ü   This low cost temperature limiter prevents heating temperature from exceeding a fixed limit.

ü   Intended to break the circuit at a specific temperature, which offers no flexibility to change set limit.

Solution #5: Use a Thermostat with a Remote Sensor   

Many property managers and landlords prefer to operate the thermostat themselves from a central mechanical room, but have no way of knowing what the actual temperature is in their tenant's space. Therefore, some thermostats offer an optional remote indoor sensor that can sense the temperature from the sensor location rather than the thermostat location.
 With this method, even a thermostat placed on the wall in a hot boiler room can get an accurate reading from the remote apartment and properly base its call for heat or cool. Some good examples of a thermostat with a remote sensor are the   Honeywell VisionPro 8000  + C7189U-1005 Remote Sensor (more expensive option) and the Braeburn Model 5020 + 5390 Remote Indoor Sensor (less expensive option) . In essence, running a wire from the thermostat in the central mechanical room to the   sensor  allows for remote sensing with central control.




ü   Thermostat can be placed anywhere.  

ü   Only the more expensive thermostats offer optional remote sensors

ü   Landlords can adjust thermostat setpoints and programming.

ü   Wires must be run through walls. 

Solution #6: Use a Wifi Thermostat  

Many thermostats offer setpoint limiting and other security features, but what happens when a tenant inevitably discovers how to circumvent these limits?   

ColorTouch WiFi Thermostat from Venstar enables the landlord to program Email Temperature Alerts. In this way the landlord can receive an Email Notification if the tenant has managed to figure out the four-digit security code and lower the cooling setpoint below the agreed upon temperature. After receiving the email the landlord may then log into the thermostat remotely from any computer, change the security code, reset the temperature limits, and even write a Text Message to the thermostat display alerting the tenant that their thermostat has been reset. 

Additionally the landlord has the ability to view the Energy Usage, as a function of unit run-time, for each thermostat to compare day to day, week to week, and month to month Energy Variances. 



ü Receive email alerts if setpoint is out of tolerance, and change thermostat security code remotely.  

ü More expensive than other thermostats.

ü Monitor, control, and configure thermostat via the internet using your computer, smartphone, or tablet.

ü Requires 24 Volt "common" wire at thermostat and requires wireless internet service at property.


NOTE:  You should always consult local laws and find out what limits you can enforce when providing heat and cooling to tenants before proceeding with any energy saving strategy.