You install a smart thermostat for one reason: to save money. And while they are great at automatically adjusting the temperature so that your heating and cooling costs go down, they can’t stop people from overriding your program on their own. We’ve all seen the tropes where kids turn the air conditioning down to 64 degrees or the heat up to 80 in the winter. Or watched office workers try to turn the heat up or down.
That’s where a thermostat lock box comes into play. A lock box doesn’t care if you have kids who are too lazy to put on a sweater or workers who fight over the temperature. It is there to prevent people from tampering with your settings so you can continue to save money on heating and cooling.
What Kind of Lock Boxes Are There?
When it comes to choosing a lock box, you basically have two options: metal or plastic. There are pros and cons to each, which we’ll go over in a second. When selecting a lock box, remember that you need to consider where it will be, and how often you’ll need access to it.
Plastic lock boxes are great for when you need easy access and readability with your protection. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they are fairly durable, as long as you’re putting them in a residential or educational setting. Because they are clear, you can see the temperatures and settings without having to open them.
Metal lock boxes for your thermostat are best for when you need something that is going to last. You want durability, then a metal lock box is what you need. The only drawback is that you can’t see through the metal. You might have a small slit in the front where you can look at the temperature, but in most cases, you’re going to have to open the lock box up to get to the thermostat. Even if all you want to do is check the temperature.
There’s another option if you have a smart thermostat like an ecobee or a thermostat designed for commercial applications. They have a way to lock the settings so nobody can change things without the app or the passcode. For some commercial thermostats, you can set the lock so that the clients can change the settings but only within a short-range.
What that means is that while the thermostat can adjust the temperature from 32 degrees Fahrenheit to 99 degrees Fahrenheit, your tenants will only be able to change it from 74 to 80 degrees in the summer or 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. It is still a lock box, it’s just one that’s built into the thermostat.
How Will Installing a Lock Box Help Me?
There are three main situations where a lock box, either physical or programmable will benefit you: Do you have customers, tenants, or other family members who like to fiddle with your thermostat settings.
Customers Aren’t Always Right – If your thermostat is out in the open and unprotected at your place of business, you don’t know who’s going to be messing with it. And that can be customers, your employees, or anyone else who has access. And you can’t be there 24-7, even as much as you would like to be.
So if someone messes with your thermostat in the summer and sends it down to 66 degrees, your air conditioning will be working overtime and your cooling bill is going to go through the roof. So, if you run any sort of business, you can be sure that a thermostat lock box will be worth its weight in gold.
Tenants – If you rent, whether it is an apartment or an industrial building, you don’t just have to worry about the costs of the heating and cooling. You also have to worry about the wear and tear on your HVAC systems. Most tenants don’t worry about cycling your heater or air conditioner and most don’t even know what that means.
But you know that cycling, when the system is turned on and off again rapidly in succession is horrible for the durability of the equipment. And sometimes an impatient tenant will flick the air conditioning on and off again multiple times, trying to cool down faster. Stop all that nonsense with a lock box.
Of course, in some situations, it’s not legal to completely lock a tenant out of their own thermostat. That’s when a virtual lock box with the ability to set limits is the best option.
Put On a Sweater, You Darn Kids – When you walk in from work and wonder why your breath is forming icicles as you speak, that usually means that someone in your family has messed with the settings on your thermostat. While it’s not really nice to actually lock the thermostat away from your family, you can set a virtual lock if you have a smart thermostat. And that might be the best option. It’ll prevent your kids from changing the settings without looking like you’re a warden in a prison.
What are the Drawbacks to a Lock Box?
There are drawbacks to everything, including systems designed to save you money. The same is true of lock boxes for your thermostat. One of the biggest drawbacks of physical lock boxes is that they reduce accuracy. They need small holes and vents to let air in, but the holes have to be small enough that people can’t just stick a ballpoint pen in and change the settings.
Those small holes reduce air flow and that makes your thermostat less able to adjust. For instance, on a sunny day, a metal lock box will get warm, and that can cause your air conditioning to come on when it doesn’t need to.
Another drawback to lock boxes is that they aren’t tamper-proof. We aren’t talking about someone who knows how to pick a lock (although that is an issue as well). We mean that people have figured out how to force the thermostat to react. If someone wants the heat to kick on, then wrapping some ice in plastic bags around the lock box will chill the air inside.
Likewise, pointing a space heater at a lock box will raise the temperature enough to trigger the air conditioning to come on.
Essentially, even though you are installing a lock box to prevent people from overtly changing your settings, you still have to trust them a little bit, because there’s always a way to game the system.
Oh, and the biggest drawback to lock boxes is that they lock. And those locks require keys. And sometimes keys get lost. So make sure that you have copies made, and backups to those copies stored somewhere safely.
Who Needs a Lockbox?
When it comes to who needs a lockbox, the list is pretty long. If you run a place of business, or you have a location where people come and go a lot or even your own home in some situations. You should consider the amount of traffic you have, the space you’re trying to heat and cool, and what the potential costs would be if someone messed with the system.
Places like hospitals where climate control is essential are a given. Likewise for schools. Those places require a neutral level of climate control where most of the students and teachers will be comfortable. They have closed schools down when the air conditioning breaks down, so maintaining the health and life of the HVAC system is extremely important.
Here’s a short list of other places that could benefit from a thermostat lock box.
● Retail stores
● Dorm rooms
● Military barracks
● Hotel lobbies
● Public restrooms
● Daycare Centers
As you can see, there are a lot of places that can benefit from a physical lock box for their thermostat.
In the end, the decision to get a thermostat lock box is one that the property manager has to make. There are a lot of factors that go into that decision, but the primary ones must always be the overall costs of climate control and the health and longevity of the heating and cooling equipment.
If you own a business with a physical retail location, then you should absolutely have a lock box for your thermostat. Not only will it prevent tampering, but it can also prevent damage to your equipment by an irate customer.
If you rent apartments, you might not be able to install a physical lock box for legal reasons. But you definitely can and should install a virtual lock box that limits your tenants’ ability to adjust the heating and cooling in your rentals. After all, if the air conditioner or heat pump throws a wrench, they aren’t the ones who have to pay for it.
And if you’re a mom or a dad, and your kids can’t seem to stop fiddling with the thermostat, investing in a smart thermostat will not only save you a lot of money on your heating and cooling costs, you can also just set it so nobody else can make adjustments but you.