19 Thermocouples

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A is constructed from two dissimilar metals that utilize thermoelectric generation to create a small voltage when heated. When one junction is subjected to presence of heat at the pilot light flame, a small DC current flows through the cold junction of the thermocouple, which is connected to the pilot safety shut-off gas valve circuit.

Thermocouple and pilot light safety control circuit.

If the pilot flame is extinguished, the voltage source disappears and the normally closed, held-open valve re-closes, thus preventing gas from filling the space.

This small value of voltage, usually around 25 – 30 DC millivolts, provides the power to hold the pilot light valve open during normal operation. The types of metals used in the construction of the thermocouple depend upon the values of temperature they are to be subjected to.

If a higher value of voltage is required, a , which is manufactured from several connected thermocouples, can provide voltages of typically 250 DC millivolts or 750 DC millivolts. Certain stand-alone gas fired furnaces and fire-places will utilize a to provide control circuit power to a low-voltage thermostat installed in the room.


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Basic HVAC by Aaron Lee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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