Thermostats play a major role in efficiency and comfort. (Photo: Dreamstime/TNS).

In recent years, the ubiquitous home thermostat has evolved a great deal, from traditional dials and needles to electronic screens to models that can predict your HVAC needs. While basic models work well for some, more advanced models offer major benefits in terms of both comfort and energy efficiency. Here’s a rundown of the major types and what you can expect to pay for them.

Mechanical non-programmable thermostats
Mechanical thermostats are the lowest costing option, averaging between $15 and $30 to install. These are your old-fashioned style that function entirely by turning a dial left or right to select the temperature. This will be your least expensive option, but it also comes with the fewest features. Although mechanical thermostats are very common, they are being phased out of use because they contain mercury.

Non-programmable electronic thermostats
Non-programmable electronic thermostats cost around $20 to $50 to install. They need to be adjusted manually and have very few other features beyond those offered by a mechanical thermostat. However, they usually feature a digital display that can make it easier to select a specific temperature, and have become very common in homes in the last few decades.

Programmable electronic thermostat
Until recently, these were the most advanced and expensive option available at a cost of $20 to $150. Features include the ability to set heating and cooling options, and program temperatures according to preset weekday, weekend, and week-long programs. Many of these models can have numerous programs set for days at a time. These components help control homeowners’ HVAC costs. They may illuminate for easy access in the dark. And many of the newest models have touch screens.

Smart thermostats
Installing a smart thermostat can cost between $200 and $300. They are significantly more expensive than other options, but the additional features can save energy and money. They can be remotely operated by your mobile device or computer no matter how far away from home you’re at. Some high-end devices can learn your preferences and automatically adjust the temperature in your home to suit you. “Learning” devices are best suited for homeowners with a consistent schedule, since that learning curve is defined by your everyday habits.

Most high-end equipment also “communicates” with the heating and cooling systems they are controlling. Wiring for these systems is more advanced, but the added work comes with extra benefits like troubleshooting assistance and maintenance warnings.

Electrical work such as thermostat installation should be left to a professional to prevent injury or damage to your home. While it may cost more money up front, ensuring the job is done right can save you time and money in the long run. Most electricians can install or replace a home, apartment, or business thermostat in two hours or less at a rate of $65 to $85 per hour for a total labor cost of less than $170. Whether you opt for a modern, digital model or a simple, manual one, the installation costs will not differ by be significantly difference. It is still an electrical job no matter which type you choose.

By Paul F. P. Pogue, Tribune News Service (TNS)