Brrrrrr! For those of us lucky enough to live in the Midwest and Northeast, our much beloved winter is back and ’tis the season for sledding, snow angels, snow forts, snowmen, and snowball fights. After participating is such riveting activities, nothing beats coming into a warm, toasty house for hot chocolate by the fireplace. But what if you don’t have a fireplace, wood burning stove, or equivalent to warm the house? Those of us who don’t rely on thermostat controlled heating systems to keep our environment in a constant state of comfort. We will discuss how a thermostat works and why it is one of the most essential elements in the home heating process.

To keep the human body temperature at a comfortable equilibrium during the winter months, there are several methods in which to do so. Our houses have heating and cooling systems, densely insulated wall, and proper ventilation but the most important overall aspect of this system is the thermostat. The history of the thermostat can be traced back as far as the 17th century when a float was used inside of a mercury thermometer. When the mercury rose, the float did to and closed a vent on the furnace. When the temperature would decrease, the mercury and float would too and the vent would consequently open back up.

Not surprisingly, today’s thermostats have advanced quite a substantial amount. The sophisticated thermostats that we currently have operate through a heat-activated switch that opens or closes based on a temperature sensor. When the temperature reaches a desired level determined by the user, the sensor triggers and interrupts an electrical circuit that controls the heating system and shuts off the heat. An effective thermostat will monitor and control the heat in such a way that there are no major fluctuations in room temperature. Most systems will attempt to control the temperature within a two-degree range.

There are two types of thermostats that are generally utilized by residential home heating systems. One type is known as electromechanical where a bi-metal coil is used to sense temperature changes. As the temperature rises or falls, the bi-metal coil expands or contracts at varying rates. The movement of the bi-metal strip results in a connected device of differing types to activate or deactivate the heating process.

The second type of thermostat is definitely a more modern method of home heating. Electronic thermostats use electronic heat sensors to activate and deactivate the home heating equipment. This type of device is substantially more precise that the bi-metal coil thermostats. This type can be programmed to suit your schedule for differing comfortable temperature levels when you are home during the day, away at work, and while you are sleeping. This precision and scheduling ability enables a homeowner to save money by eliminating wasted energy.

To correctly coordinate the thermostat of your choice with your heating system, you will first have to determine what kind of energy it is powered by. Both types of thermostats discussed are compatible with gas, oil, and electronic heating systems. Most thermostats purchased will include specific instructions on how to install the equipment and the wiring based on the heating system that you own.

Since many thermostats are out in the open and are very visible in the home, many manufacturers today tend to focus of features and aesthetics. Nowadays, this might be something to consider in addition to the type when deciding on a new thermostat. Whatever your decision may be, though, it will certainly help you in staying snug during those chilly winter nights.

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