WILT #31: How a Thermostat Works

We have a guest for the next month and were spending time today getting their room ready. We turned up the heat, a previously unheated room, and waited for it to warm up, but it seemed to vary and the thermostat would say it was cold in the room but the gas fireplace wouldn’t come on. We messed with the stove a bit, checked all its wires, which were all only going to the thermostat as the fireplace has no internal fan.

Essentially while messing around with it, we removed the thermostat from the wall and the thing conveniently turned on. We replaced the batteries in the thermostat, checked all the connections and put it back on the wall where it started working better ever since.

I didn’t learn “much” about thermostats til I read about them later but it got me curious. I found a little article on Howstuffworks.com on how digital and non-digital thermostats work.

Digital thermostats use a simple device called a thermistor to measure temperature. This is a resistor which allowselectrical resistance changes with temperature. The microcontroller in a digital thermostat can measure the resistance and convert that number to an actual temperature reading.

A digital thermostat can do a few things that a regular mechanical thermostat cannot. One of the most useful features of a digital thermostat is programmable settings. In the winter, you can program it to automatically turn up the heat for an hour or two in the morning while you get ready for work, turn down the heat until you get home, turn up the heat in the evening and then turn down the heat while you sleep. This is a great money-saving feature because you can simply turn down the heat when it isn’t needed.

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