Give Your Thermostat a Voice

White rectangular thermostat hanging on a wallIt’s November. We have turned on the heat in Mayberry. We live in an older house, complete with cast iron radiators and an inefficient boiler that won’t quit. The heat isn’t as humid as my eyes would like, but you take what you can get.

Last winter when our thermostat failed, Stockton checked out the issue not entirely optimistic he could find a solution. Especially because it was 8pm on a Sunday–a professional housecall was going to be expensive and the only store open was the 24 hour Walmart miles away. After inspection, he realized our boiler would still run, but the thermostat, the old fashioned kind with a turn dial, had died and was no longer sensing the low temperature and therefore was not sending the “fire it up!”signal down to the boiler.

We piled in the car for the trip to our only retail option. We came home with a basic digital thermostat and hope. After an hour or so, Stockton wired it in and we had heat again. I cheered from under a few blankets.

I havent thought much about our thermostat lately until I heard a story on accessible thermostats from the BBC’s In Touch. With low vision, as long as I use my LED magnifier or my phone’s Visor app, I can slowly adjust the controls as I wish. Previously, I placed a bump dot on our old thermostat. On the digital one, I suppose I could place a dot over the increase and decrease boxes, but there’s no audible cue to verify I pressed hard enough when I select a box. Bump dots weren’t going to help me to program or reset our new heating system. What do people do who have less vision than me?

The brand of our new thermostat is Honeywell. Our model doesn’t have a voice chip so while the readout is digital, no auditory announcements happen. Honeywell does make some digital models that are accessible though, if unintentionally. Those digital versions are WiFi enabled thus users can control their thermostat through a smartphone app. With VoiceOver, the once silent system becomes accessible to the visually impaired.

Heat is something many of us only worry about due to cost or when we are without it. Inspect your thermostat. Is it accessible for you? Are your family’s systems accessible to them? Now is a good time to upgrade your thermostat or to paint bump dots on an older dial or lever control. Not being able to read the display should not be a reason someone suffers chilling temperatures.

How easy to use is your heating control? Can you reset your thermostat without help after a power outage? Would you use an app to manage your heat? Tell me about it.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Casee says:

    I have plans when I move into a home to get a talking thermostat but for right now my heating controls are on the baseboard and I must get on hands and knees to change. Once it is setup from the basement it comes on and off based on temperature. I leave the thermostat alone and just crack a window if I get a little warm and try to avoid adjusting it from the baseboard. It is an old knob on the baseboard and I don’t want to keep adjusting it in case I break it and then I am waiting around in middle of the night for someone to repair it. 🙂 The thermostat that can be adjusted via smartphone sounds like the one for me!

    1. Sounds like you have it under control, but what a hassle those low baseboard heater controls are. I, too, would be nervous I would snap off a knob.

  2. Joy says:

    I, too, live in an old house. Our thermostat is newer and digital, but not accessible for me. The arrow buttons are tactical, so I “bindle” hit them up and down a couple times if I’m cold or hot! Not the most efficient way to d things, I’m sure! I really want to get one of those NEST thermostats that you can control from your phone.

    1. whatever gets the job done when it comes to staying warm in an old house! I wonder how many homes use the thermostats like Nest now compared to even just two or three years ago.

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