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      • Published 9 Feb 2024
      • Last Modified 9 Feb 2024
    • 11 min

    Mastering Home Comfort: Your Guide to Thermostats

    Our comprehensive thermostats guide explains their uses, the different types, and their advantages.

    What is a Thermostat?

    You’re probably familiar with thermostats from your everyday life, but there’s more behind these seemingly simple machines than you likely realise. At its core, a thermostat is simply a temperature regulating device. It acts on its own to ensure that temperatures stay comfortable, whether that means maintaining a cosy warmth during the winter or keeping things cool on a hot summer day. However, they aren’t used in just homes and industrial settings, they are also used within water heaters, electrical enclosures, and a range of household appliances. 

    The beauty of a thermostat lies in its ability to adapt to the environment that it is placed in. Thermostats are more than just on/off switches; they are sophisticated devices that bring comfort and efficiency to your living or working space. They ensure that your environment remains within the desired temperature range, all while optimising energy consumption.

    In the upcoming sections we’ll explore how thermostats work, the different types available in the market, and the benefits that thermostats bring to our lives. We’ll also offer some insights on what to consider when choosing the perfect thermostat for your needs. 

    How do Thermostats Work?

    Regulating temperature might seem simple in theory, but simultaneously monitoring temperatures and controlling heating or cooling elements can in reality be quite complex. 

    Inside the thermostat, there is a temperature-sensing element, which is often a bimetallic strip, a thermistor, or some other type of sensor. This element continuously measures the temperature in the room or space where the thermostat is installed. 

    To function thermostats require a desired temperature for it to achieve. This desired temperature is called the setpoint. The thermostat must then measure the differential between the setpoint and the temperature that the sensor is detecting. The thermostat constantly compares the current temperature it detects to the setpoint to see if adjustments in heating or cooling are needed. 

    Once the temperature the thermostat senses deviates from the setpoint by a large enough differential the thermostat sends a signal to your heating or cooling system. For example, when the temperature falls below the setpoint in a heating scenario, the thermostat instructs the furnace or heating element to kick in and warm up the space. When the setpoint is reached, the thermostat sends another signal to turn off the system to maintain a constant temperature. 

    Next we’ll go into the various applications of thermostats, the types available, and benefits they offer.

    What are Thermostats Used For?

    Thermostats are almost ubiquitous in our daily lives. We see them in our homes, office buildings, and various other settings where temperature control is needed. We’ll go into a few common use cases for thermostats where they play a vital role: 

    Residential Use: In homes, thermostats are commonly used to control the heating and cooling systems. They help maintain a comfortable temperature in bedrooms, living rooms, and throughout the entire house. Whether you have a central HVAC system or individual heaters and air conditioners, thermostats are at the heart of keeping your home cosy.

    Commercial and Corporate Spaces: Office buildings, commercial establishments, and corporate spaces rely on thermostats to create a comfortable working environment for employees and visitors. Precise temperature control is essential for ensuring productivity and well-being in offices and other corporate spaces.

    Industrial Settings: Industrial facilities often require stringent temperature control for various processes and machinery. Thermostats are instrumental in regulating temperatures in manufacturing plants, warehouses, and other industrial spaces.

    Hot Water Systems: Hot water cylinder thermostats are vital in ensuring that your hot water supply is at the right temperature. They prevent water from becoming scalding hot and help you save energy by keeping the water at a comfortable level.

    Industrial Settings: Industrial facilities often require stringent temperature control for various processes and machinery. Thermostats are instrumental in regulating temperatures in manufacturing plants, warehouses, and other industrial spaces. 

    Appliances & Devices: Thermostats are also commonly used in devices such as ovens, heat pumps, refrigerators, and incubators. All of these devices require precise temperature monitoring and control, making them ideal devices to make use of thermostats. Modern versions of these devices all typically include a thermostat. 

    Whether it’s about maintaining a comfortable temperature at home, ensuring a productive workplace, or preserving critical processes and products, thermostats provide assistance in the form of effective temperature control. In the next section we’ll look at the different types of thermostats available on the market.

    Types of Thermostats

    Thermostats come in various types, each designed to cater to specific needs and preferences. Let's take a closer look at the different categories of thermostats:

    Smart Thermostats

    Smart thermostats are one type of thermostat that are becoming incredibly popular due to the additional benefits that they provide. Smart thermostats are equipped with advanced technology and connectivity features that allow you to control your heating and cooling systems remotely through your smartphone or computer via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. This gives users the ability to control their thermostats remotely even when they aren’t near the vicinity of the thermostat or to make use of a voice control service like Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant Or Amazon’s Alexa. 

    Some popular smart thermostats, such as those offered by Nest and Ecobee, even learn your preferences and adjust settings automatically for maximum comfort and energy efficiency. Smart thermostats are even more effective when combined with other smart devices, such as smart smart radiators or proximity sensors. The results of this can lead to significant savings in energy. 

    Finally one additional feature that smart thermostats offer is the ability to notify users when the system is in need of maintenance, allowing users to be more proactive in maintaining their heating and cooling systems.

    Digital Thermostats

    Digital thermostats typically have LCD screens for displaying temperature and programmable options for more advanced functions as compared to traditional thermostats. However, digital thermostats are not smart thermostats, meaning that they often do not connect to the internet or monitor usage patterns to improve energy efficiency. 

    With the right set-up a digital thermostat can still accomplish quite a lot. Due to their programmable features, digital thermostats can run routines and generate alerts when temperatures reach certain levels. However, each of these functions are typically required to be set up manually. 

    Overall, digital thermostats offer an attractive mid-way point between traditional mechanical thermostats and more modern smart thermostats.

    Mechanical and Bimetallic Thermostats

    Mechanical thermostats use a simple mechanical mechanism, often involving a bimetallic strip, to control temperature. This bimetallic strip acts as a lever that expands in response to changes in temperature. The end of the lever will touch a contact point when the temperature falls, triggering the heating system. When the temperature rises the lever moves away from the contact point turning off the heating system. It is due to this lever that these thermostats are called bimetallic or bimetal thermostats. 

    Mechanical thermostats are reliable and cost effective but lack the advanced features found in digital or smart thermostats. They are less precise as compared to more modern thermostats and cannot normally be set to a precise temperature. 

    They are commonly found in older heating and cooling systems and are no longer used widely in modern systems, but they still have a place as inexpensive on-off devices for HVAC systems. They are also a good choice for areas that are prone to power surges as they won’t be damaged by the surge, unlike smart or digital thermostats. 

    There are also miniature versions of mechanical thermostats called KSD or KSD 301 thermostats that are typically used in boilers, electric resistors, and heat exchangers.

    Enclosure Thermostats

    Enclosure thermostats are specially designed for controlling the temperature within an enclosure, such as in an electrical cabinet or control panel. They are typically used in specialist electronic and IT settings. 

    Modern electronics can generate a surprising amount of heat, and enclosure thermostats primarily focus on cooling these devices when things get too hot. Ensuring these devices remain at the correct temperature prevents the buildup of excessive heat, humidity, and condensation. This makes enclosure thermostats an important tool for maintaining modern electronics. 

    Enclosure thermostats typically come in four different varieties. 

    Small Enclosure Thermostats: Ideal for electronics with very limited space 

    Mechanical: focused on controlling air temperature in control cabinets and enclosures. 

    Dual: These thermostats are actually two thermostats combined in one for heating and cooling control. 

    24VDC: 24 VDC thermostats are focused on diverting 24 volt electrical loads

    Each type of thermostat offers its own set of advantages and features, catering to different environments and user preferences. Whether you’re looking for the convenience and connectivity of a smart thermostat or the reliability of a mechanical thermostat, there is a solution for every scenario.

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    Benefits of Thermostats

    Generally the main benefits of thermostats is their ability to control temperatures. However, there are a wide range of other benefits to consider when thinking about whether or not to make use of one which we will cover below. 

    Energy efficiency is one benefit that almost all thermostats can provide, especially smart and digital thermostats. These are often designed to optimise energy usage. They can adjust temperatures based on occupancy and time of day, helping you to save on energy bills. 

    This increased efficiency can also lead to cost savings. By efficiently managing your heating and cooling systems, thermostats can lead to significant cost savings over time. You’ll waste less energy and reduce your utility expenses through correct usage of thermostats.

    With increased energy efficiency also comes a reduced environmental impact. Using thermostats to reduce energy consumption not only benefits your wallet but also reduces your carbon footprint. 

    Finally automation is another benefit that has come with more modern thermostats. Digital thermostats can be set to follow specific schedules while smart thermostats can actively monitor occupancy and behaviour to adjust temperatures accordingly. They can raise or lower the temperature automatically, so you don’t have to remember to do it yourself. This is particularly useful in commercial spaces and industrial settings, where things usually follow a set routine. 

    This is just a few of the key benefits to consider when determining whether or not to make use of a thermostat.

    Key Considerations when selecting a Thermostat

    Choosing the right thermostat for your needs requires some careful consideration. Here are some of the key factors to keep in mind when selecting a thermostat: 

    Compatibility: Ensure that the thermostat you choose is compatible with your heating and cooling system. Different systems, such as central HVAC, heat pumps, or individual heaters and air conditioners, may require specific types of thermostats.

    Type of Thermostat: Consider the type of thermostat that best suits your preferences. Smart thermostats offer advanced features and remote control, while mechanical thermostats are simple and reliable. Digital thermostats offer a mid-way point providing a balance between the two. Make sure you assess the pros and cons of each type before making your decision. 

    Programmability: If you want to create specific temperature schedules, opt for a smart or digital thermostat. This is particularly useful in commercial and industrial settings where you can automate temperature adjustments.

    Energy Efficiency: Look for a thermostat that is designed to optimise energy usage. Smart thermostats, in particular, offer features like learning your preferences and adjusting temperature settings for energy efficiency.

    Installation: Consider the installation process. Some thermostats may require professional installation, while others can be easily installed as a DIY project.

    Compatibility with Home Automation: If you have a home automation system, ensure that the thermostat can integrate seamlessly with your existing smart devices.

    Scalability: In commercial and industrial settings, think about the scalability of the thermostat solution. Can it be expanded to cover multiple zones or rooms if needed? 

    Thermostats are more than temperature control devices; they are essential tools that offer comfort, energy efficiency, and cost savings in various settings. Whether you're seeking the convenience and intelligence of a smart thermostat or the reliability of a mechanical thermostat, the right choice can make a significant difference.

    By considering compatibility, type, programmability, and other factors, you can select a thermostat that perfectly matches your needs. Whether you're a homeowner, a business owner, or an industrial manager, the right thermostat can enhance your quality of life, productivity, and energy efficiency.

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