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Westwood, NJ Heating Guide: What Is a Thermocouple?

If you’ve taken an interest in how heating your Westwood, NJ home works, you may have come across the term “thermocouple” and heard that it’s an important part of your system. What exactly does this component do?

We’ll try to give you an answer to this question while avoiding too much heavy tech-talk. If you want more information about how thermocouples operate and why they are important to your home heating, contact a professional company like DB Heating & Cooling.

Thermocouples are small devices that determine heat levels. The principle behind their operation is deceptively simple. They are made up of two different pieces of metal that are joined at one end. The dissimilar metals produce higher voltage as the heat around them increases. This occurs because of the “Seebeck Effect,” discovered in 1821. The different metal types vary based on the temperature range they are intended to record. If hooked up to a computerized system, the voltage is translated into a temperature reading. Thermocouples can therefore serve as a guide to machines that require temperature readings in order to operate.

Thermocouples have numerous industrial and scientific uses. In the home, thermocouples are occasionally found in thermostats, but not often any more. The main use you’ll have for thermocouples is if you have a gas-powered heater, where they serve an important safety function. A thermocouple determines if the pilot light is burning. Should a pilot light shut off, unburned gas can begin to build up in the combustion chamber and become a hazard. However, if the thermocouple detects the pilot light has gone out, the voltage to the gas supply valve will cease and the valve will close, preventing this issue.

Because the thermocouple does a vital job in preventing gas build-up, its failure can become a serious issue. Although thermocouples are small, they aren’t something you should try to replace yourself: you are, after all, dealing with flame, voltage, and a flammable gas. You will also not know the proper type of thermocouple to get. If you suspect a problem with your gas-powered heater, no matter if it’s a thermocouple or a break in the line, call in a professional HVAC technician to take care of the matter. Do not risk your own safety.

DB Heating & Cooling offers 24-hour emergency service, so give us a call anytime you think you have a problem with your heating system in Westwood, NJ!

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