How you heat your home makes a big difference when you’re shopping for smart thermostats. Home heating systems can vary a lot, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for smart home heating thermostats. Smart thermostats offer a lot of benefits: they can help you save money, or let you put the finishing touches on your smart home. The first thing that you can do is to determine whether you have a Low Voltage heating system or a Line Voltage (also known as High Voltage) heating system.
It comes down to a very simple question: How do you heat your home?
In North America, the majority of people rely on furnaces to do just that. Whether it’s natural gas, oil, propane, or wood, most houses get their heat from different distribution systems running directly from a central furnace. It might be a duct-based system, or it may be hydronic (radiator) based heating. If you use one of these systems, you most likely regulate your home heating with Low Voltage thermostats.
The electricity use for these types of thermostats is much less demanding than Line Voltage, as described below. The current going through is not actually being converted to heat – it uses another fuel source. They typically run at 24V and control blowers, fans, and pumps but do not power them. If your house has ducts and has one central thermostat for both air conditioning and heating, it’s almost sure that you have a Low Voltage system.
Still not sure? Well, let’s look at the wires!
If you see a setup similar to this with numerous, small, thin, multi-coloured wires going into a board, you have a Low Voltage thermostat. There are many different options for low voltage smart thermostats, many of them brands you may have heard of. We’ve already done the research for you here.
Although most North American homes use Low-Voltage systems, there’s a mix of both older and newer homes that use Line Voltage heating. Millions of them, in fact! This is commonly referred to as “electric heating” and if you have baseboard or forced-fan heaters as your main source of heat, you’ll need a Line Voltage compatible thermostat. You’ll usually need one for every heater, or at least one per room. These thermostats actually convert the house’s incoming current (120V or 240V) into usable heat. Each thermostat also has a limit of how much current they can handle, which we detail here.
The wires will usually look like this:
Or something very similar. There will be between 2-4 thick wires separated into either black and red or black and white groups.
For a long time, there weren’t a whole lot of options for your smarthome setup if you relied on Line Voltage thermostats for your home heating. Luckily, there’s now the Mysa Smart Thermostat – a device that comes fully featured with the same smarthome integrations, heater zoning, and app support that people have experienced with Low Voltage smart thermostats for years.
The physical differences between Low Voltage and High Voltage thermostats take place mostly under the hood. High Voltage thermostats are usually bigger in size – it has to contain a heat sink because of the active current passing through it. However, this current ensures that the electronics remain powered without the need for a battery. Low Voltage thermostats, in comparison, often use a process called power-stealing, which allows the device to run on a small battery and recharge by sapping small amounts of power from the main line.
About a third of Canadian households and 10% of American households run on Line Voltage heating systems. While they aren’t the most common way to heat a house, a lot of people rely on electricity for their comfort. With so many options for people with Low Voltage systems to take the next step, it only makes sense that High Voltage customers aren’t left in the cold.