Depending on where you live, the winter season can be a costly one. And that cost can be high when it comes to heating bills.

According to the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, Americans currently spend over $2,000 per year on energy bills, and half (or more) of that expense goes to home heating. Aside from a smart but very costly decision to replace an old furnace with something more modern and with higher efficiency, simply moving the location of the thermostat can shave a nice little chunk off of the seasonal heating bill.

Every little financial respite helps, right?

Why does the location matter? When a thermostat is placed near a drafty window or door, near a heat source, or in an area that receives direct sunlight, the furnace may falsely respond to a temperature which is inconsistent with the rest of the home. These are known as "ghost readings" and can result in hundreds of dollars of unnecessary fuel usage. With an investment of no more than $50, homeowners can save a few hundred dollars a year by preventing unnecessary furnace triggering. Here’s how:

Shut off the Breaker to Your Furnace

Thermostats operate on low voltage, so cutting off the energy to the furnace has less to do with shocking yourself than preventing the accidental engagement of the furnace or the thermostat with live wires.

Remove the Dial

Separate the thermostat dial from the back plate, pulling it gently away from the wall in order to remove the different colored wire ends from the electrical contacts on the screwplate. To avoid confusion later on, wrap a small piece of masking tape around the end of each wire, and write which contact the wire was originally connected to. Now unscrew the backplate from the wall and remove it.

Make a Hole for the New Location and Snag the Wiring

As much as it may pain you to do so, you'll need to drill a hole in the wall where the thermostat dial will be going. Make this hole as large as possible (in order to fish the wiring through) without it being so large that you can't mount the thermostat over it. Tip: Anything less than an inch in diameter could make the job difficult and frustrating.

If the distance between thermostat locations is short, move the wiring from one hole to the next by unraveling a metal coat hanger (leaving the end hooked), putting the hooked end through the new hole, and snagging the wiring from the old location to pull it through to the new one. If the distance is greater, use what's known as "fish tape" (a spool of metal wiring with a hooked end that can be reeled in). Pull the ends of the wires out through the new hole.


Pull the wiring through the backplate and fasten the backplate over the new hole. Reconnect the wire ends to their respective contacts, push any excess wire length back into the wall, and refasten the backplate to the wall over the new hole.

Power On and Patch Up

The final step is to turn on the breaker, which powers the furnace back on. The hole left behind where the old location was can easily be repaired. Drywall patch repair kits (which usually contain a small bucket of spackling), self-adhesive aluminum patches, sand paper, and a putty knife can be purchased at a hardware store for just under $10.

Cost Breakdown:

  • Drywall repair kit: $10 (rounded up)
  • Fish tape, or wire-pulling tool: $15-$40

This is a guest post by L.K. from Albany, NY
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