thermostat on wall by living room

Difference Between a Mechanical and Electronic Thermostat?

4 min read

What's the difference between knob-style and electronic thermostats?

Did you know that there's more to an electronic thermostat than just a digital display? These thermostats have different internals that make them operate more accurately and responsively than non-digital thermostats. 

How Do Mechanical Thermostats Work?

The temperature sensor in a mechanical thermostat (also known as bi-metal) is made up of two pieces of metal that are laminated together. Each type of metal has a different rate of expansion when heated or cooled, which is what controls the thermostat temperature. 

Note: Mechanical thermostats operate within a temperature range and you are not setting an actual temperature.

The thermostat manufacturer calibrates the thermostats in the test lab, so the numbers on the thermostat closely match the actual temperature of the room. This means the temperature in your room will stay around your set point, but can be about five degrees above or below it at any given time.

thermostat on wall above computer desk

The Cadet T521 Mechanical Single Pole Thermostat, it's easy to install and has a simple-to-use twist dial to adjust to your room’s comfort level, making it very easy to use.  

How Do Electronic Thermostats Work?

Electronic thermostats have digital sensors to read the room temperature. They're much more accurate and responsive than mechanical thermostats, which means your room should stay within 1 degree of the temperature you set on the thermostat. 

Note: In addition to increasing comfort, the smaller temperature swings of electronic thermostats can translate to energy savings. 

thermostat on wall by living room

The Cadet TEN Series is a great choice for a non-programmable electronic thermostat. This thermostat has touch controls and a backlit display with large, easy-to-read content. Just set it and forget it!

How To Know Which Thermostat To Choose?

Even though mechanical thermostats aren't as responsive as electronic thermostats, our Vice President of Engineering says that some people want to use a thermostat like an on and off switch. In this case, mechanical thermostats are an excellent choice because they are more affordable than their electronic counterparts.

Mechanical thermostats are also best suited when dealing with a space that uses a generator, solar power, or in places that are prone to power surges. This type of thermostat is highly recommended because they are generally very reliable, consistent, and there are no electronic components.

Note: Electronic thermostats aren't designed to withstand a certain amount of power or inconsistency. Power surges or "noise" on a power line could potentially fry their electronic components. 

If you're still on the fence about choosing either a mechanical or electrical thermostat, check out our blog on controlling a thermostat to know which option is best suited for you.

Video Transcription

0:00 Hi, I'm Steve with Cadet Tech Support.

0:02 We're here today to talk about thermostats.

0:07 Is there a difference between these two controls?

0:10 Yes.

0:11 There's a huge difference.

0:13 The bi-metal control (mechanical thermostat) even though you can set it at 60 there's a

0:19 Variance of that temperature.

0:21 You dial in 60 on the electronic, you get 60.

0:25 So huge difference.

0:28 Staying at that constant temperature, regularly, saves you a lot money.