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What Is a Probe Thermostat?

By Maggie J. Hall
Updated May 16, 2024
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Maintaining predetermined temperatures is the main purpose of probe thermostats, sometimes called immersion probe thermostats. The device typically functions in combination with cooling and heating units. Animal husbandry products, automobiles, and household appliances all contain different types of probe thermostats. Thermostats malfunction from time to time and require periodic replacement.

The entire thermostat, or the probe extension of the device, generally lies within the air or fluid requiring temperature regulation. When temperatures fall below or exceed desirable levels, the probe thermostat detects the change and either closes or opens an electrical circuit. After receiving this signal, the heating or cooling system of the appliance turns on to correct the temperature.

Depending on the appliance or device requiring regulation, manufacturers calibrate probe thermostats to detect a certain range of temperatures. These temperatures may fall as low as 65 degrees Fahrenheit (53 degrees Celsius) below zero or climb as high as 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees Celsius) above zero. Immersion or probe thermostats may have manual or automatic setting control systems.

Some devices also contain safety components that alert the system when extreme temperatures occur. When used for animal husbandry, probe thermostats may resemble a metallic cylindrical stem attached to a cable and the thermostat control. The probe might be placed in an animal’s environment or in a water supply. In another type of probe thermostat, the immersed stem is directly attached to an small exterior box-like mechanism with controls. Household water heaters often contain this type of device.

A self-contained cylindrical probe device might be used in barbecue grills. Another type of probe thermostat resembles a bolt or a spark plug. These temperature-monitoring units might be components of automobiles, industrial refrigeration units, or livestock warmers.

If temperatures continuously climb above or fall below acceptable levels, the problem may lie in a faulty probe thermostat. Appliance instruction manuals typically provide information regarding the name and serial numbers of replacement parts. The ease of replacing probe thermostats depends largely on the appliance in which the device is installed.

Some thermostats merely screw into or out of an appliance and may require electrical wire removal. Other types of thermostats may only require removing a connecting cable. Before attempting repairs on any appliance, for safety reasons, individuals should first disconnect the electrical source. Replacing automotive probe thermostats usually involves a more lengthy process. In addition to disconnecting the electrical source, individuals must drain the coolant and replace the fluid following thermostat replacement.

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