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Room thermostat installation & wiring guide: this article series explains the basics of wiring connections at the thermostat for heating, heat pump, or air conditioning systems.
We provide Honeywell, White Rodgers & other thermostat wiring diagrams and explanation showing how to wire a room thermostat, including just what connections to make and how wires and connectors are color coded to make things easy.
Our page top sketch, courtesy of Honeywell Controls, illustrates the wiring diagram for a traditional Honeywell T87F thermostat used for 2-wire single pole single throw control of heating only in a typical gas-fired heating system.
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
Guide to Room Thermostat Installation, Location, & Wiring
Where to Locate & Mount a Room Thermostat & what spots to avoid
Locate the room thermostat at about chest height on an interior wall, in a location where the thermostat won't be affected by drafts or other unusual temperature conditions.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Good thermostat locations are
in a living room or dining room,
about five feet from the floor on an interior wall and
in a position where the thermostat will be in natural air circulation (not dead air space)
but where the thermostat will not be exposed to strong drafts from windows, doorways, or from a heating or cooling air supply register.
As Carson Dunlop Associates' sketch (left) explains, there are a number of places where you should not locate the room thermostat.
Bad Room Thermostat Locations
Don't locate the room thermostat in these locations:
on an exterior building wall (exposed to outdoor temperature effects)
where drafts from an exterior door will affect its reading
above or in the line of airflow from a heating or cooling air supply register
in direct sunlight
on a wall shared with a hot space such as a kitchen or boiler room
in a kitchen, bath, or entry hallway
in an alcove, behind an open door, behind furniture
next to concealed pipes or air ducts
Do not place heat-emitting devices such as lamps or small appliances close to the thermostat. Their heat may affect its operation.
Room Installation Thermostat Installation Tips
Use new thermostat wires to avoid the risk of insulation nicks, cuts, and shorts in old wiring
Seal the hole in the building wall through which the thermostat wires pass out to the thermostat mount. Drafts through wall cavities can blow out of this hole and affect proper thermostat operation.
Do not use the thermostat power transformer to operate any other devices such as doorbells
Does the Room Thermostat Need to be Level on the Wall?
Yes for Older Mercury Bulb Switches
It's important to mount mercury-bulb thermostats as level as possible since otherwise you're putting the thermostat out of accurate temperature calibration.
That's because the coiled bimetallic spring has to move that mercury bulb to a tipped position to turn the heating or air conditioning system on or off in response to room temperature.
When we found a thermostat that did not heat a room accurately to the called-for temperature, we'd take a look to see if it was installed out of level before looking further.
Because the "set" range on these thermostats may have had a lower-end of 55 deg .F., when we wanted the thermostat to maintain a building at a temperature lower than the minimum that the thermostat dial provided, we just tilted the whole thermostat backing plate on the wall in the proper direction to shift the operating range of the switch.
No for Newer Solid State, or Digital Room Thermostats
Newer thermostats that rely on other sensor and switch designs do not have this sensitivity to being out of level and some (such as the 3M-22 thermostat) note in their installation instructions that the thermostat does not have to be level.
Our photo (above left) illustrates the red (R) and white (W) wire connections in a simple two wire heating control thermostat hookup using the Honeywell RTH2300/RTH221 series programmable wall thermostat.
Thermostat wire used for heating and cooling systems is usually 18 gauge solid copper conductor, unshielded cable. Some installers may use 20 AWG copper thermostat wire.
Use a 5-conductor thermostat cable for standard thermostat installations. Five conductor thermostat wire cables will include these colors: Blue, Green, Red, Yellow, White wires.
Use 8 conductor thermostat wiring cable for heat pumps or multi-stage installations (staged or ganged heating or cooling). Eight conductor thermostat wire cables will include these colors: Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Red, Yellow, White wires.
Thermostat Replacement Types: What Kind of Thermostat Do I Have?
A quick scan of heating and cooling thermostats in the catalogs of HVAC suppliers such as Grainger can quickly become overwhelming as there are literally hundreds of thermostat models and quite a few different types and applications. If you are replacing a heating or cooling room thermostat or "wall thermostat" a shortcut is to examine what is already installed.
At THERMOSTATS, HEATING / COOLING we include photographs of just about every type of heating and cooling thermostat. Here we describe further details that can help you choose a replacement thermostat that will accomodate the wires used to control you rair conditioning, heat pump, or heating system.
Pay particular attention to the following to help sort out what you've got or what type of thermostat you need:
Cooling, heating or both: does the wall thermostat control only air conditioning, a heat pump, or a heating system, or both?
Type of Thermostat by Temperature sensor: many older wall thermostats used a combination of bimetallic spring and a mercury bulb to activate the thermostat in response to room temperature. No modern room thermostat uses mercury bulbs - rather they use a thermistor or other device to respond to temperature changes.
Our photos above show a traditional round Honeywell® room thermostat and at above center my dental pick pointer indicates the mercury bulb switch in this device.
At above right is the ultra-modern Nest® thermostat
Wall mounted vs. hand held Heating or Cooling controls: while central heating and air conditioning systems are normally controlled by a wall-mounted thermostat, split systems and portable air conditioners use a control that might be wall-mounted in a bracket but can also be held in the hand. - shown below.
Number of Control Wires Used in the Thermostat: keep in mind that the number of wires in the wall may be greater than the number of wires actually in use. Check the colour and number of wires actually connected to your thermostat and make careful note of the terminal name, ID or number to which each wire was connected.
Type of Thermostat by Display: analog dial versus digital display
In some jurisdictions there may be environmental protection restrictions on the proper disposal of mercury-containing thermostats.
Hooking up a 2-Wire Thermostat: How Do I Install & Wire Up a Room Thermostat like the Honeywell Round Wall T87F Series Thermostat?
Basic 2-wire Room Thermostat Wiring Instructions
Wiring connections for a room thermostat such as the Honeywell 24-volt T87F, the Honeywell series 10 (out of production), or Penn "Rimset" low-voltage wall thermostat models are pretty simple as are the wiring instructions for White Rogers, Mercoid, General Controls, and similar thermostats.
Two wire thermostat wiring instructions: In a two-wire installation, the thermostat backing plate is mounted level on an interior wall in the room which we want to be the master temperature control for the area served by the heating or cooling system.
The red wire from the heater or air conditioner control is mounted to the "R" terminal on the backing plate. Typically the red wire is originating at the heating or air conditioning low voltage transformer and brings power to the thermostat.
The white wire from the heater or air conditioner control is mounted to the "W" terminal on the thermostat mounting plate. Typically the white wire is taking power from the thermostat to the operating control circuit board in the heater or air conditioner.
Our photo (above left) shows the backing plate that is mounted first when installing a round Honeywell Series 20 type room thermostat. Notice that the plate shows a "level" line.
We left off the actual wires so that you could see the "R" and "W" by the two screw terminals at the lower left 7 and 8 o'clock positions on the thermostat backing plate.
Note: The thermostat in this HVAC/R set-up is simply acting as an "on-off" switch to turn the heater or air conditioner on or off in response to room temperature. The electrician may have run a multi-wire set of low voltage wires through the walls of the building between the low voltage transformer and the thermostat (etc), but in this simple installation the other wires at the thermostat are not being used.
At the low voltage transformer you will see two wires labeled "C" for common and "R" for red. We discuss wiring the low voltage transformer itself at LOW VOLTAGE TRANSFORMER TEST.
Watch out: do not short any wires together. Turn off power & confirm it is off. Don't forget to turn off all electrical power involved with your heating system before working on thermostat wiring, and confirm that power is off where you are working by using an appropriate test instrument such as a VOM. Failure to respect this advice risks equipment damage, and in some cases electrical shock or even a building fire.
Where do the Thermostat Wires Start and Where do they End-Up?
At left the thermostat wiring diagram illustrates use of a Honeywell T87F thermostat in a 2-wire application controlling a gas fired heating appliance.
In the Honeywell T87F thermostat series the single pole double throw switch makes (closes) one set of contacts when the temperature falls - to turn on the heating appliance.
In thermostats that also control a cooling system, a second set of contacts will make or close on temperature rise. This second set of contacts may also be used to operate other controls or valves in some heating systems.
[Click any image or thermostat wiring schematic to see an enlarged, detailed version]
For completeness in understanding where the red and white thermostat wires originate and end up, at below left we illustrate the red and white thermostat wires originating at the low voltage transformer, and at below right we illustrate a typical thermostat wiring connection in an R8182 Aquastat primary controller of a heating boiler, using the T and T terminals.
3-Wire Thermostats: Where Do We Connect the Red, White, & Blue (if present) Wires to a Typical Three-Wire Wall Thermostat?
Three-wire thermostat wiring instructions, also called "series 20 installations" we have three wires rather than two to connect.
Then the thermostat body is screwed in place. The screws that secure a round Honeywell traditional wall thermostat to its backing plate will also connect it properly to the wiring.
A plug connector may be used:
On other, in fact most contemporary room or wall thermostats it may be necessary to plug in a connector between the thermostat and its mounting plate.
On a typical 3-wire room thermostat where just three thermstat wires are all in use, the connections are as follows:
Typical thermostat connections when wiring a thermostat to control only a heating system or only an air conditioning system
If your thermostat is controlling only a heating system or only an air conditioning system, you will only have a red wire, and a white wire coming form the inside unit, to the outside unit.
On an air conditioner these two wires will go on the contactor to send 24 volts to the coil to pull the contactor in to start the air conditioner.
On a heating system these two wires will go to two thermostat connections on the primary controller such as an aquastat or air handler control that turns on the heating unit. Depending on the type of heating system, the thermostat, acting simply as an "on-off" switch will
Hot water heat In the U.S. the TT wires will turn on a hot water circulator (or open a zone valve) on a hydronic or hot water heating system; falling boiler temperature will cause the aquastat to turn on the oil or gas burner (this is the U.S. typical installation).
Hot water heat In Canada the TT wires will activate an aquastat control that will turn on and off the boiler based on its temperature; circulators are already running.
Hot air heat: the TT wires will turn on the furnace heating equipment (oil or gas or electric, say); when the air temperature in the furnace heating plenum is hot enough the fan limit switch will turn on the blower fan.
These are the traditional wiring schematics, again, check the thermostat to see if this is the case with yours.
THERMOSTAT WIRING LENNOX: Lennox thermostat and equipment wiring color codes may vary significantly from common usage. Be sure to consult with Lennox and obtain the proper installation manual for your equipment.
Watch out: do not short any wires together. Turn off power & confirm it is off. As we have warned before, don't forget to turn off all electrical power involved with your heating system before working on thermostat wiring, and confirm that power is off where you are working by using an appropriate test instrument such as a VOM. Failure to respect this advice risks equipment damage, and in some cases electrical shock or even a building fire.
We provide thermostat wiring connections for just about every type of residential heating or cooling room thermostat as well as a description of thermostat wiring color codes & conventions.
This article is part of THERMOSTATS our article series Guide to Finding, Using, and Adjusting Thermostats for Heating & Air Conditioning Furnaces & Boilers, Heat Pumps or Electric Furnaces or Boilers.
This article series answers most questions about central heating system troubleshooting, inspection, diagnosis, and repairs. We describe how to inspect, troubleshoot and repair heating and air conditioning systems to inform home owners, buyers, and home inspectors of common heating system defects.
Continue reading at THERMOSTAT WIRE FUNCTIONS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
 Thanks to reader S.R. for discussing loss of heat due to a thermostat wiring mistake, October 2010
 Thank to Mr. Scott Meenen , G&S Mechanical Services , for providing some common thermostat wiring codes also found at Mr. Meenen's web page Malware Deleted 12/9/2014 . Mr. Meenan provides heating, heat pump, and air conditioning repair services in Maryland, Washington D.C., and northern Virginia. He can be contacted at 301-591-1646 or by Email to Malware Deleted 12/9/2014 - 10/2010. Quoting:
We service American Standard, Amana, Arco, Arco-Air, Bryant, Carrier, Coleman Evcon, Comfortmaker, Day/Night/Payne, Dunham-Bush, Fedders, Fredrich, Goodman, General Electric, Heil, Intertherm, ICP, Janitrol, Lennox (Armstrong, Johnson Air-Ease), Miller, Modine, Nordyne, Rheem/Ruud/Weatherking, Sears, Stewart Warner, Trane, Weather King, Williams, White-Westinghouse, Whirlpool, Weil Mclain, York, (Frasier Johnson/Borg Warner) and others.
 Honeywell Controls, the company wants you to use their contact form at this web page: http://www51.honeywell.com/honeywell/contact-support/contact-us.html
Honeywell Consumer Products,
39 Old Ridgebury Road Danbury, CT 06810-5110 - (203) 830-7800
World Headquarters, Honeywell International Inc.,
101 Columbia Road,
Morristown, NJ 07962,
Phone: (973) 455-2000,
Fax: (973) 455-4807 1-800-328-5111
Honeywell product model numbers & instruction Manuals: see http://yourhome.honeywell.com/home/Applications/FindYourModelNumber.aspx
 White Rodgers Thermostats and HVAC controls,
Homeowner information: http://www.emersonclimate.com/en-US/brands/white_rodgers/Pages/wr-homeowner-info.aspx
Contractor information: http://www.emersonclimate.com/en-US/brands/white_rodgers/wr_contractor_info/Pages/white-rodgers-contractor-info.aspx
White Rodgers Product Catalog (don't misspell the company's name as White Rogers Thermostats) -
http://www.emersonclimate.com/Documents/thermostats.pdf - Thermostat Catalog
 White Rodgers 1F90 Low Voltage Digital Comfort-Set thermostat Installation Instructions, PN 37-3654, White-Rodgers Division, Emerson Electric Co., 9797 Reavis Rd., St. Louis MO 63123
 Thermostat wiring color codes & conventions,
Thanks to reader "
Helpful Pointers" Regarding 24V T, 10/7/2012
 Domestic Central Heating Wiring Systems and Controls, 2d Ed., Raymond Ward, Newnes, ISBN-10: 0750664363, ISBN-13: 978-0750664363, Quoting from Amazon.com:
This unique A-Z guide to central heating wiring systems provides a comprehensive reference manual for hundreds of items of heating and control equipment, making it an indispensable handbook for electricians and installers across the country. The book provides comprehensive coverage of wiring and technical specifications, and now includes increased coverage of combination boilers, recently developed control features and SEDBUK (Seasonal Efficiency of Domestic Boilers in the UK) boilers ratings, where known.
In addition to providing concise details of nearly 500 different boilers fuelled by electric, gas, oil and solid fuel, and over 400 programmers and time switches, this invaluable resource also features numerous easy-to-understand wiring diagrams with notes on all definitive systems. Brief component descriptions are provided, along with updated contact and website details for most major manufacturers.
 Proliphix Corporate Headquarters, 3 LAN Drive Suite #100, Westford, MA 01886 Phone: +1.978.692.3375 Toll Free (U.S.): 866-IP-LIVING (866.475.4846) Fax: +1.978.692.3378 - Sales: email@example.com Marketing: firstname.lastname@example.org Customer support: email@example.com http://www.proliphix.com/ - quoting from the company's website: All Proliphix Network Thermostats come with our free Uniphy Remote Management Service. This unique offering lets you monitor and control your HVAC systems by simply pointing your Browser to our secure Proliphix Web Site. Enjoy the convenience of programming a thermostat from any location, using a simple graphical interface. No computer equipment or software is required. And since Proliphix takes care of the network configuration for you, you’ll be up and running in no time. We’ll even proactively monitor your thermostats and send you an immediate email or SMS message when an HVAC problem is detected.
 "Heating Control Handbook for the Installer and Service Man,Oil Burner, Gas Burner and Stoker Controls", Honeywell Corporation, March 1949 [copy on file as HoneywellControlsHandbookSA1399-2-1949.pdf] . Some of the controls discussed in detail here include the
Honeywell T1 and T11A = Series 10
Honeywell T21A (T2) = Series 20
Honeywell T847A = Series 80
Honeywell RA117A (RA1) = Series 10
Honeywell LA101A = Series 10,
Honeywell LA419A (LA4) = Series 40
V155A = Series 10, V435A = Series 40, V575A = Series 50, V835A = Series 80
 Trane TCONT800 Series Touch Screen Programmable Comfort Control Ownes Guide, American Standard, Inc., Troup Highway, Tyler TX 75711, January 2005, Telephone: Customer Service: 1-877-3381, website: www.trane.com
Domestic and Commercial Oil Burners, Charles H. Burkhardt, McGraw Hill Book Company, New York 3rd Ed 1969.
National Fuel Gas Code (Z223.1) $16.00 and National Fuel Gas Code Handbook (Z223.2) $47.00 American Gas Association (A.G.A.), 1515 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22209 also available from National Fire Protection Association, Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02269. Fundamentals of Gas Appliance Venting and Ventilation, 1985, American Gas Association Laboratories, Engineering Services Department. American Gas Association, 1515 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22209. Catalog #XHO585. Reprinted 1989.
The Steam Book, 1984, Training and Education Department, Fluid Handling Division, ITT [probably out of print, possibly available from several home inspection supply companies] Fuel Oil and Oil Heat Magazine, October 1990, offers an update,
Principles of Steam Heating, $13.25 includes postage. Fuel oil & Oil Heat Magazine, 389 Passaic Ave., Fairfield, NJ 07004.
The Lost Art of Steam Heating, Dan Holohan, 516-579-3046 FAX
Principles of Steam Heating, Dan Holohan, technical editor of Fuel Oil and Oil Heat magazine, 389 Passaic Ave., Fairfield, NJ 07004 ($12.+1.25 postage/handling).
"Residential Hydronic (circulating hot water) Heating Systems", Instructional Technologies Institute, Inc., 145 "D" Grassy Plain St., Bethel, CT 06801 800/227-1663 [home inspection training material] 1987
"Warm Air Heating Systems". Instructional Technologies Institute, Inc., 145 "D" Grassy Plain St., Bethel, CT 06801 800/227-1663 [home inspection training material] 1987
Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Volume I, Heating Fundamentals,
Boilers, Boiler Conversions, James E. Brumbaugh, ISBN 0-672-23389-4 (v. 1) Volume II, Oil, Gas, and Coal Burners, Controls, Ducts, Piping, Valves, James E. Brumbaugh, ISBN 0-672-23390-7 (v. 2) Volume III, Radiant Heating, Water Heaters, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Heat Pumps, Air Cleaners, James E. Brumbaugh, ISBN 0-672-23383-5 (v. 3) or ISBN 0-672-23380-0 (set) Special Sales Director, Macmillan Publishing Co., 866 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022. Macmillan Publishing Co., NY
Installation Guide for Residential Hydronic Heating Systems
Installation Guide #200, The Hydronics Institute, 35 Russo Place, Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922
The ABC's of Retention Head Oil Burners, National Association of Oil Heat Service Managers, TM 115, National Old Timers' Association of the Energy Industry, PO Box 168, Mineola, NY 11501. (Excellent tips on spotting problems on oil-fired heating equipment. Booklet.)
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones