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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. The need for creating high and low setpoints in your tenants' thermostats is understandable considering utility costs are typically one of the largest variable expenses in property ownership. The opportunity to save money on heating and cooling costs is quite appealing, especially since these systems consume 46 percent of the energy used in most homes.

 

 

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. Since one of our main goals is to help you save money on your heating and cooling, we've outlined some of the technologies and products that can help you put a cap on exorbitantly expensive utility costs.

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.

You're able to utilize this feature by using the installer menu on your thermostat. The default temperature range on most thermostats is 45-90 degrees Fahrenheit. For example, if you used this setpoint limiting feature you'd be able to set the high limit on their air conditioner at 74 degrees or the low limit at 70 degrees. When you do this the tenant is no longer able to dial the setpoint any higher or lower than the set limits. Exciting, huh?

 

Pros:

Cons:

  Provides an aesthetically pleasing and accurate temperature control solution that's under your control. No more pricey utility bills!

  Some thermostats have hard-coded limits (72 degrees Fahrenheit for heat /75 degrees Fahrenheit for cooling) that cannot be changed.

  Offers complete flexibility to change or remove setpoint limits whenever you want.

  Current thermostat must be completely replaced

  Generally speaking, there is no way for tenants to tamper with the thermostat to raise or lower setpoints beyond limits you set.

  Tenants will know their ability to manipulate the setpoint is being controlled because their thermostat simply won't allow them to exceed the limits.

 

While many thermostats offer a setpoint limiting feature, we personally recommend the Braeburn line-up of products. Why? The limiting feature on these thermostats is essentially tamper-proof. Even though it's quite simple to set up setpoint limiting on the Braeburn thermostats, it's extremely unlikely tenants would EVER figure out how to disable the feature.  We won't go into details for obvious reasons, but trust us when we say these thermostats are extremely effective!  Unlike other manufacturers, Braeburn does not publish any written instructions on their limiting feature. This means crafty tenants won't be able to "Google" their way to dismantling the limits!

Here's a list of Braeburn thermostats with this limiting feature:

v  Braeburn Tamper-Proof 1020NC - This NEW thermostat takes setpoint limiting to the next level. A two-step process locks the thermostat down for both heating and cooling. It is very unlikely tenants will figure out how to dismantle the setpoint limiting!

v  Braeburn Tamper-Proof 1025NC - Same as the 1020NC, but for heat-only systems.

v  Braeburn Tamper-Proof 2020NC - This thermostat has the same great limiting features for heating and cooling as the others, but also features a programmable schedule.

Some other limiting thermostats with electronic range stops:

v  ControlTemp CT100 - This is the only limiting thermostat that has hard-coded limits (72 degrees Fahrenheit for heat / 75 degrees Fahrenheit for cooling) that cannot be changed.

v  LuxPro model PSD010B  - Non-programmable thermostat that's for heat only. 

v  Honeywell FocusPro 5000 - Honeywell is a name you can trust.  The limits for this non-programmable thermostat are set in the installation software.

v  Honeywell FocusPro 6000 - The limits for this programmable thermostat are set in the installation software. If used as directed, programmable thermostats can save up to 33% on annual heating and cooling costs.

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. 

 

Pros:

Cons:

  Relatively inexpensive solution.

  Only works with three thermostats - the T87N1000, T87K1007, and T87N1026. 

  Tenants may be familiar with classic, round thermostats rather than newer digital versions. This solution will keep them in their comfort zone.

  If you don't already have one of the above listed thermostats that are compatible with mechanical range stops, then you'll have to replace it with an approved version.

  Easy to install.

 

  The mechanical range stop could be physically disabled by a resourceful tenant.

 

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. 

 

Pros:

Cons:

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

  Thermostats with the keypad lockout feature are 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.

 

 

Pros:

Cons:

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

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

  They're housed in a small, inconspicuous box. 

  Requires extra wiring and fishing of wires. 

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

  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. 

If you chose to install a thermostat with a remote sensor you can disable your tenants' thermostat sensors and control the temperature of their living space. 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.

 

 

Pros:

Cons:

  Thermostat can be placed anywhere. 

  Only the more expensive thermostats offer remote sensors as optional accessories.

  Landlords can adjust thermostat setpoints and programming. If the tenant leaves on vacation, but doesn't turn the heat back on before leaving there won't be any frozen pipe damage to repair.

  Wires must be run through walls. There are no practical wireless solutions exist at this time.

 

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.