The Lesson of the Thermostat

My thermostat started clicking over and over again a couple weeks ago. Not the kind of clicking a thermostat makes when it’s switching from heat to cool or fan to not-fan or whatever, but the kind of clicking a thermostat makes when it’s broken and needs to be replaced.

Google it. That’s what I did.

If you want confirmation, head to Facebook.

“Replace it”, was the general consensus among people who seemed to know what they were talking about. Or at least conveyed the confidence that comes with brevity. (“It’s broken. Replace it.” That’s way more authoritative than, say, “Hmm. How old is it? Gas or electric system? Heat pump?”)

Whatever. I digress.

In short, enough people on the Internet gave the impression this was an easy thing to handle myself that I said the hell with Saturday night and drove to Lowe’s for a replacement.

What follows is a single woman’s step-by-step guide to replacing a faulty thermostat – complete with playlist, cocktail selection, conversation starters with bored girlfriends, and applications to the finer parts of life.

1. I cranked up my “She’s Got That Look In Her Eye” playlist on Spotify. (Look out, men. When I play it, I’m coming for you with a screwdriver in hand.)

2. I found said screwdriver.

3. I stared at the broken thermostat for a long time, trying to figure out how to get the cover off in a reasonable way.

4. I failed, and ripped it off dramatically instead.

(I believe Adele was playing. Maybe Joan As Police Woman, and if you don’t know her … and if you take nothing else from this post … then at least download “The Magic”. Oh. My. God.)

5. I battled intimidation from the naked thermostat. At least 12 different colored wires poked mysteriously into equally mysteriously labeled metal conductors. I took a picture of it with my iPhone in case I screwed it up later and needed to remember how to put it back together. I also wanted to document the last moments of my life in case I electrocuted myself in this endeavor.

6. I went downstairs to the circuit breaker box (and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure switching off a circuit breaker was the thing I was supposed to do in this situation). This thought went through my mind: Who will “save me” from being that woman whose cats devour her as Liz Phair plays in the background?

I made damn sure I switched the right breaker.

7. Risk of death averted, I went back to staring at the scary mess of wires.

Google taught me RH is heating and W turns the heating on; RC is air conditioning and Y turns it on; G turns on the fan. There are myriad other colors and letters. Blue, brown, etc.

But the wires on my old thermostat did not, in the least, line up with the wires on my new one.

8. I tried to follow the instruction manual and got as far as Page 2 when I realized I’d bought the wrong thermostat.

9. I drove back to Lowe’s and bought a more complicated one.

10. I drove back home and poured myself a scotch.

11. I read the instruction book for the newer new thermostat.

12. I stared at the wires some more. They still did not line up the way the instruction book said they would.

13. I called the 1-800 number on the manual. No one answered.

14. I Googled some more.

15. I stared at the wires some more and made a few somewhat educated guesses as to what to do with them.

16. I finished my scotch.

17. I put the thermostat cover over the crazy wiring.

18. The last few instructions involved programming some things into the electronic panel like, “Gas” (as opposed to “Electric”) and “Zone System” and “Heat Pump”, etc. I had to look up definitions for every single one of these.

19.  The fancy new thermostat clicked on and my house began to feel warm again.


A couple days later, it was particularly cold outside and – I realized – in my house as well.


20. I sent a series of frustrated, bitter text messages to my bestie single mom friend, who told me to call a professional so I could spend my time on things I am actually good at doing.

21. She and I commenced an extended conversation about independent women, men we’ve dated and our friends’ husbands. Her latest love interest, by the way, claims his middle name is “Fix S***”.

22. I relented and called a professional.

23. The professional came out to my house yesterday, and I promise – here is the real point of this dysfunctional, mis-wired story.

I did it right.

That’s right.

I replaced the thermostat properly, and I didn’t electrocute myself, and I put the wires in the right places, and I programmed the complicated part the right way, and yeah it took me a lot of Googling and a glass of scotch and two trips to Lowe’s – SO WHAT.

You know what I did wrong?

I didn’t bother to program the clock.

The default time zone setting on it meant the thermostat was automatically switching to 50-something degrees when I came home from work, then gearing up to around 70 by early afternoon.

So the professional HVAC guy set my clock for me, charged me $89, then (maybe just to make me feel better, but I’m going with it) assured me it would have cost a few hundred bucks if I’d paid someone to do the work I’d done myself.

Another close friend told me today I will always be most fulfilled, most productive, most happy and creative, when I’m choosing the most challenging option.

She has me pegged.

What I need to remember is this: Don’t assume I’m finished because the hard part is over. Don’t write off the details. That goes for home repair, relationships, my career and the whole bit.

That is the lesson of the thermostat.


21 thoughts on “The Lesson of the Thermostat

  1. Pingback: Things We Overcome « Knight Stivender's life in full

  2. I attempted and failed at that task. So, you are apparently more of a man than me! I can relate totally to the color combinations and functions. If I had to attempt it again, I’d be starting at square 1. It’s hilarious that you ended up with the age old “programming the VCR” issue in the end.

  3. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree – your dad has to make a dozen trips to somewhere when fixing anything too. Sometimes the trip is just to the garage to get a different tool – but still…

  4. Absolutely hilarious! Well done and good for you KS! I will admit here and now that every time I have tried to fix something, it has involved multiple trips to the hardware store (sometimes just to ask “…and then I take this and do that, right?”, keeping google up and running the entire time and then making the call to the pro.

  5. It took you 10 steps to get to the instructions I gave you over on Facebook: pour yourself a scotch. Tsk.

    Well done, pour yourself another one in victory.

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