The world we live in is one of light, heat, energy, and motion. Our post-industrial lifestyles are enhanced and supported by machines and electronics that, while providing many labor saving services or comforts to humans, can risk damage or destruction from as simple a situation as too much heat. This, as well as the need to regulate the level of heating and cooling in homes for comfort and protection, led to the development of the device known as the thermostat.
A thermostat is a device created expressly for moderating and maintaining the temperature of a particular system. It manages the temperature within a specific range that varies depending on the system, and controls either directly or indirectly the amount, or flow, of heat energy that passes through it.
Thermostats have applications in nearly any industry or consumer application where heat energy needs to be controlled, either for comfort or to safeguard a machine or its operators. For example, the common car engine uses a thermostat to prevent parts from overheating and fusing together and radiators use thermostats to prevent overheating. Thermostats can also be found in car passenger compartment heating systems, air conditioning units, heat pumps, and many more applications.
There are a number of ways a thermostat can be built, all of which use:
- A component to determine temperature
- A component to report measurement
- A component to activate a mechanical or electrical process, such as turning off a power source or activating one, like in the case of too-cold temperatures in an apartment activating the central heating unit
- A coiled metal spring that contracts when cold and expands when hot; calibrated to show the temperature when it moves.
Automobile thermostats often use wax pellets in a special container; when the heat goes up, the wax melts, expanding the container.
When it comes to the ultimate in energy conservation and convenience for controlling heat energy in the home, programmable digital thermostats are it. Installing a model in a home will allow the homeowner to set temperatures on the digital read out display for different times of the day, and each day can hold its own settings.
This way, the house can be cooled down for bedtime and warmed up for the morning during the winter, and can begin warming the house a bit later for those who sleep in on weekends. Vacation settings can be programmed in, so while energy is saved while away from home, at-home settings can be restored with the touch of a button.
Armchair programmable models are a boon as well; they come with control modules that can be detached from the main system, and can be programmed while you take a seat and plugged back in when done.
Buying a Thermostat
When shopping for a thermostat, jot down the specific types of heating units you have to make sure the thermostat is compatible with the type of wiring in your home. Simply writing down "central heating" is too vague, as there are many types.
If you decide to buy and install a programmable thermostat, take the time to plan out your programming and then leave it alone; the less you touch it, the more energy you will save.