While I can set my house to be a particular temperature, I still have to manually switch it between "Heat" and "Cool" mode, and this seems to be true of every thermostat (programmable or not) that I've seen. Is there a reason for this?

  • It's not every thermostat, but the ones without an automatic switch are certainly in the minority: homedepot.com/…
    – BMitch
    Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 21:49
  • @BMitch: Interesting find; I hadn't seen one before. Nevertheless, I'm curious why it's such a rare thing. Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 21:52
  • Hm.. mine does. It's optional, though and has to be explicitly enabled.
    – tylerl
    Commented Jun 30, 2012 at 3:12

4 Answers 4


The logic involved is much more complex.

Right now the logic is simple:

if AC Mode and it's too hot, turn on AC, else turn off AC
if Furnace mode and its too cold turn on furnace, else turn off furnace

But the determination of when to switch between heating and cooling modes is much more complex - otherwise the ac would kick on, and it would get too cold, so hte furnace would kick on, making it too hot, and a cycle would begin that would never end.

So the logic must be more like:

if the average ambient temperature has remained below a certain threshhold 
    for a given period of time 
    and the air conditioner hasn't been on in quite a while, change to furnace mode 
but if average ambient temperature has remained ABOVE a certain threshhold
    for a given period of time 
and the furnace hasn't been on in quite a while, change to a/c,

then if we're in furnace mode and it's cold, turn on the furnace, 
but if we're in a/c mode, and it's hot, turn on the a/c.

The circuitry involved is much more complex, so the price is higher and the market share obviously will be smaller.

  • 13
    You also have to worry about the outside temp. If you had a fireplace lit, and that caused the ambient temp around the thermostat to be too high, it could kick on the a/c. If it were freezing outside, it could end up damaging your a/c system. Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 22:49
  • 2
    Thermostats that switch automatically generally have separate heat and cool setpoints, and most of the time you'd have them some distance apart (i.e., heat at 70 and cool at 78), so the chances of bouncing back and forth would be fairly minimal. That said, we don't use the auto mode. If we have a particularly warm day in winter, there's no way I want to kick the A/C on, even if the temp goes above 78 or 80 for a short time.
    – TomG
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 3:24
  • I appreciate what you're saying, TomG, but you're talking about a manual set -stat, while I'm talking programmable. Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 10:25
  • To offer a counter point, I can see a huge market for automatically switching thermostats in second homes, where you want the range to be something like 55-90F while you're away.
    – BMitch
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 1:16
  • 2
    A market, yes. A huge one? ... How many people actually own 2nd homes? Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 2:11

There are programmable thermostats that automatically switch from heat to a/c and to heat again. Some Honeywell thermostats, such as the 8000 Series, have 'auto' setting where you can program the Heat temperature and the cool temperature and the thermostat will automatically switch from heat to cool. I don't know how long they've been on the market though.


Some do automatically switch. I remember getting a new thermostat for free with my new A/C unit. The manual said that the model XXX-A auto switched. In small text it said something like "This feature is only needed in cities like Phoenix where it can be very hot during the day and very cool at night." I literally said D'Oh! I live in Phoenix, and they would not give me the XXX-A version. Oh well...


Check out www.nest.com for the Learning programmable thermostat.

It isn't stated right up front but it has an auto switching mode and does so very intelligently. It also uses local weather forecasts (via wifi) and time to temp (the time it takes for your system to heat and cool the home) to help determine what mode it should be in and when.

  • Comment from an anonymous user: Nest can be in cool, heat, or cool/heat mode. It will not switch automatically between those three. In cool/heat you have a min/max set point. It kicks on heater/ac as needed in that mode to keep house within that range.
    – BMitch
    Commented Oct 28, 2012 at 10:33

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