As interactive security systems become more popular, one of the most desirable features is the ability to remotely control thermostats through Web-enabled smart devices. This is a very appealing value proposition for consumers and it’s a great add-on for alarm dealers to include with their monthly monitoring fees.
While the revenue generated by these services is attractive, there are some issues to consider. For one, there is much debate whether the thermostat is part of the HVAC system and whether it can be serviced by someone who is not HVAC licensed. Granted, compliance will differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
In Texas, for example, the rules regarding HVAC systems changed when HB 2294 was signed into law in June. As a result the thermostat is no longer considered to be part of the HVAC system, thereby paving the way for alarm installers to service and install thermostats without an HVAC license. This is big news for alarm dealers in Texas.
It is important to understand that thermostat installation is not a cut-and-dry proposition. Not just any thermostat can be installed with an HVAC system. In cases where the HVAC system is new and under warranty, the alarm company may void the warranty by changing the newly installed thermostat. I recently found this out when I had my own thermostats changed. I have a new HVAC unit and I was told by the installing company that even if another HVAC-licensed company did the installation, my warranty would still be voided.
Thermostat Installation Best Practices
Because I am not involved with the installation side of the electronic security business, I called on someone who has vast experience in this field, Pat Egan, proprietor of Select Security in Lancaster, Pa. Egan stated that roughly 15% of all newly installed Select Security alarm systems have remote-controlled thermostats as part of the installation.
“Select is careful to program rules into our customers’ systems that adjust the temperature up or down 6° with the arming or disarming of the security system,” he said. “This simple rule saves our customers, on average, $356 per year in energy expense. Thermostat installation is by far the most powerful return on investment for our customers.”
Egan went on to explain his technicians will program a rule so that if the fire alarm is activated, the air handler is automatically shut down. This keeps smoke from being redistributed through the house and it stops fresh air from ventilating into the fire and making it worse.
“We learned a lot about HVAC systems through trial and error. Unfortunately, we blew up a few systems in the process. I recommend that dealers use HVAC manufacturers’ online Web training and YouTube videos to learn how to properly install thermostats,” Egan advised.
Egan also admonished dealers to not rush through an installation and always shut off power at the secondary transformer. Also, the wiring is not universal like a dialer connection. Installers should closely examine the wiring at the head end of the unit and make sure that they wire the thermostat, accordingly.
Egan’s points are well taken: installing alarm companies should exercise extreme caution when dealing with thermostats. If there is any doubt at all about your company’s thermostat installation skills, perhaps the best policy is to simply rely on third-party licensed HVAC installing companies for the installation.
For decades now, alarm dealers have had to master phone line connections to hook up alarm systems for central station monitoring. That is a walk in the park compared to the skillsets required to master the new home automation protocols. The popularity of the new combined alarm system and high-tech home automation systems are requiring alarm dealers to adopt skills in IT, HVAC and locksmithing.
In many cases, the alarm company does not possess some or all of these skillsets and may not have the proper license required for the installation. In such cases, they may have to rely on third-party vendors to complete their installations. These factors should be considered when proposing these services.
Mark Matlock is Senior Vice President at United Central Control Inc. (UCC), a wholesale monitoring station based in San Antonio.