InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.
Thermostat heat anticipator function & adjustment: how a thermostat heat anticipator works.
We explain how adjusting the heat anticipator pointer changes the heat output of the anticipator that in turn changes the behavior of the room thermostat to turn the burner off sooner or later with respect to the actual room temperature.
Our page top photo illustrates key parts of a traditional room thermostat including the temperature sensing device, thermostat switch, and the heat anticipator assembly.
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
What is a Thermostat Heat Anticipator & How Does it Work?
What's a Heat Anticipator?
A heat anticipator, found in some room thermostats, is a tiny heater that warms the thermostat to cause it to turn the heating system off a bit before the room has actually reached the set-temperature on the wall thermostat.
Heating systems such as hot water heat using cast iron radiators have enough thermal mass that the radiator will continue to emit heat after the boiler has shut down. By turning off the boiler a bit early we prevent the room from overheating.
Because many people find this concept a bit confusing, the rest of this article explains how the heat anticipator works and gives a bit of its history.
For readers who need to know just how to set the heat anticipator on their thermostat, you can skip the details below and go directly to HEAT ANTICIPATOR ADJUSTMENT.
A heat anticipator is used to avoid room temperature overshoot
Heating technicians call this room over-heating problem room temperature overshoot.
Stopping the call for heat a little early allows for the delivery of residual heat that is already in the boiler or furnace but that has not yet reached the living space.
[Click to enlarge any image]
In my photo above the green arrow and dots show the path of electricity through the heat anticipator.
How a Heat Anticipator Produces Its Own Heat
Current flows through a tan wire to the heat anticipator's mounting screw at the left side of the photo, from there through the flat-coiled nichrome wire, up throug the black contact button on the movable adjuster, through the adjuster's copper arm, and back into the thermostat.
The green dots show the electrical current's path through the small left end of the heater that is mostly hidden by copper pointer.
The red arrow, which I regret as it clutters the photos, is a pointer to the wider portion of the body of the nichrome wire heating element. Notice that the little nichrome wire heater is located conveniently just above the coiled bi-metallic spring that turns the thermostat's control wire on and off to turn the heating system on and off.
A Nano-Sized History of the Thermostat Heat Anticipator
The first heat anticipator was produced in 1924 (Walker 2008 cited at REFERENCES) in a design that, like the heat anticipator described in Honeywell's T87, used the heat output of an electric current passing through a tiny heating device (a coil of nichrome wire) to warm the coiled bimetallic spring that in turn was used to turn off the thermostat ahead of the time when the room would reach the set temperature called for on the thermostat control.
This was an improvement to a much-older device, the electric room thermostat patented in 1883 the U.S. by Warren Johnson (Johnson Controls).
Just two years later in 1885 Albert Butz patented a furnace heat output regulator that used a moving flap to adjust air entry into a heating furnace.
Butz's company, The Electric Heat Regulator Company ultimately became the Honeywell Corporation whose 1960 first round wall thermostat is shown above. This classic 1960 Honeywell T8332A round day-night thermostat is illustrated and discussed further at HEAT ANTICIPATOR FAQs.
More details follow below.
A heat anticipator is actually a tiny electric heater inside of the room thermostat
The heat anticipator, not found on all thermostats, is a tiny little electric heater that will, depending on its setting, warm up the inside of the themostat, thus warming the thermostat's room temperature sensor, thus fooling the thermostat into thinking the room is a little warmer than it actually is.
That little heat anticipating joke played on the thermostat's room temperature sensor causes it to "open" its contacts (stop calling for heat) a little before the room temperature actually reaches the thermostat's "set" temperature.
The heat anticipator is anticipating the additional heat that is going to arrive and regulating the thermostat accordingly.
Thus we avoid overshooting: we avoid making the room warmer than the thermostat's set temperature.
You won't find a heat anticipator in all thermostats. In fact most newer room thermostats use a thermistor to sense room temperature and they do not usually include a heat anticipator device.
In our photgraph above you can see the critical components of a thermostat heat anticipator such as in the Honeywell T87.
Details of how a heat anticipator works inside of a wall thermostat
The components of the heat anticipator are shown in the photo and are explained in more detail below. They include:
A scale showing Amperes or current ranging from 1.2 at the left to 0.10 at the right end of the scale.
What the heck? The scale also includes the word LONGER imprinted at its right end where we see the lowest amps numbers.
Honeywell, a company I admire, ought nonetheless to apologize to everyone for the countless hours of confusion caused by this unfortunate detail.
If you click to enlarge the photo you'll see an arrow below the word LONGER that points to the left, to the larger Amps numbers at the other end of the scale.
This means that the larger current or Amps numbers will result in a longer heating system "on" cycle. I think some dopey engineer put the word "LONGER" at the right end because that's where there was plenty of room to show it.
A brass pointer indicating the heat anticipator setting along the Amps scale.
A resistance heating wire, probably nichrome wire, wound around a triangular base.
An electrical contact that slides to different positions on the resistance wire coil.
The Nichrome Wire in the Heat Anticipator is a Tiny Electric Heater
The heat anticipator in an electromechanical thermostat includes a tiny heating coil of nichrome wire which gets warm as elecricity (current) flows through the wire.
Moving the pointer along the Amps scale moves the position of the contact that in turn changes the length of nichrome wire that will be used, making the in-use wire shorter or longer.
Meaning of the Numbers on the Heat Anticipator Scale
The heat anticipator numbers along its scale are measurements of current or Amps that will flow through the heat anticipator's little heater at different settings.
When we move the heat anticipator adjusting arm we are moving an electrical contact (blue arrow) along the flat-wound resistor wire, effectively increasing (to the higher current numbers on the left) or decreasing (to the lower current numbers on the right) the amps or current flow through this tiny heating device by lengthening or shortening the total length of wire included in the heater circuit.
Increasing or decreasing the wire length included in the circuit changes how hot the wire gets as current flows through it.
Above: the heat anticipator pointer is set to about 0.45 Amps.
Longest heat anticipator nichrome wire length = most resistance (Ohms) = least current flow ( 0.1 Amps) = least heat from the heat anticipator = heating system stays on longer
If we move the arm and contact fully to the left to the 1.2A position that's using the maximum length of the nichrome wire or heater length - that's the circuit with the most resistance, the least current flow, so the least in-thermostat-heating, so we turn the actual heating system off later.
Shortest heat anticipator nichrome wire length = least resistance (Ohms) = most current flow ( 1.2 Amps) = most heat from the heat anticipator = heating turns off sooner
If we move the arm and contact fully to the right to the 0.1A position, that's using the shortest length of the nichrome wire heater length - that's the circuit with the least resistance, and thus the highest current flow through the wire, so the wire gets hotter, so it produces the most in-thermostat-heating, so the thermostat inside warms up faster than the room air, so the thermostat will turn off the actual heating system off sooner.
How Adjusting the Heat Anticipator Changes Its Heat Output - Variable Resistor
That tiny resistance wire or on older thermostats, a wire wound into a flat coil, is a tiny electrical resistance heater that puts some heat into the interior of the thermostat, fooling it into thinking the room is just a little warmer than it is.
The heating thermostat manufacturer's instructions & heat anticipator operation explanation can be a bit confusing, but significantly, as we detail
at HEAT ANTICIPATOR ADJUSTMENT
The shortest burner-on time will be when the heat anticipator puts out the most heat. This warms up the thermostat's room temperature sensor and therefore tells the thermostat the room is up to set temperature earliest.
The longest burner-on time will be when the heat anticipator puts out the least heat, thus does not turn off heat early, thus lets the burner keep running longer.
The graph at above left, adapted from one provided by Carrier, illustrates how a different device, a thermistor, translates temperature changes into a change in electrical resistance that in turn can be used by a room thermostat to control building heating equipment. That's how newer thermostats work.
Changing the Heat Anticipator's Pointer Changes the Wire Length, Current Amps, Heat Output
More heat output from our teensy electrical resistance heater inside the wall thermostat means more room heat anticipation (more pre-heating of the room thermostat's sensor) and thus a shorter heat-on cycle.
Here we explain heat anticipators a second time to offer another way to understand what's happening in a thermostat that uses a heat anticipator circuit.
Moving the heat anticipator pointer (the open triangle at the top of the copper arm) changes the effective wire length and thus the electrical resistance and thus the heat output of the heat anticipator inside the thermostat.
When we move the adjuster we are essentially using more (longer) or less (shorter) lengths of wire, thus causing more or less resistance through the device.
Key Concepts: Relationship of Wire Length, Resistance (Ohms), Current flow (Amps), Heat Generated, Heat Anticipator Warming, Heating System On-Cycle
If we assume, as is the case for a typical heating system thermostat, that the thermostat voltage level remains fixed (typically 24VAC) then moving the heat anticipator position changes the length of the nichrome wire in the active circuit.
Longer Wire = More electrical resistance = less current flow = less heat generated by the heat anticipator = less pre-warming of the thermostat = longer heat on cycle.
Shorter Wire = Less electrical resistance = more current flow = more heat generated by the heat anticipator = more pre-warming of the thermostat's sensor = shorter burner on time
Below: the heat anticipator pointer has been moved down towards the right end of the scale, and is set to about 0.15 Amps.
LONGER Heat-ON Cycles: Moving the heat anticipator adjusting arm to the RIGHT to LOWER Amps numbers (in the sketch and in the photo above) towards the 0.10A end of the scale uses more of the total length of the nichrome wire heating element, increasing the resistance of the device and decreasing the current flow.
Longer Wire = More electrical resistance = less current flow = less heat generated by the heat anticipator = less pre-warming of the thermostat = longer heat on cycle.
SHORTER Heat-ON Cycles: Moving the heat anticipator arm to the LEFT to HIGHER Amps numbers (in the photo and sketch just above) towards the the 1.2A end of the scale uses less of the heating element's nichrome wire, decreasing resistance and giving more current flow, more heating of the heat anticipator heater element and thus a shorter burner on time.
Shorter Wire = Less electrical resistance = more current flows, more heat is generated by the heat anticipator = more pre-warming of the thermostat's sensor = shorter burner on time.
Watch out: before changing the heat anticipator setting you might want to read both the manufacturer's actual recommended settings and our explanation about matching the heat anticipator to the actual installed-thermostat circuit's current draw in the rest of this article.
Many of us have found the heat anticipator in thermostats confusing because we think intuitively but incorrectly that more resistance means more heat is generated. No.
More resistance (higher Amps numbers) = less current flow = less heat is generated = the heat anticipator heats up less = the thermostat turns off the heat later (or it runs "longer").
Why Lower Electrical Resistance Means More Heat is Generated and Why Higher Electrical Resistance Means Less Heat is Generated in a Heat Anticipator Circuit
A heat anticipator will not work accurately unless the following conditions are met:
The heating or air conditioning system itself has been adjusted to match the electrical current of the valve or relay which the thermostat is controlling. This is a technical problem for your heating or air conditioning service technician, not something a homeowner can address.
The thermostat is installed at a location where voltage and current (amps) fall on or within the limits of the adjustable heat anticipator
The thermostat is not installed on a power pile system (don't ask).
The heat anticipator on the thermostat should be set to match the requirement & electrical characteristics of the particular heating or air conditioning control circuit that it is switching on and off.
Useful References for Thermostat Heat Anticipators
Abstract: This report summarizes results of a literature review, a workshop, and many meetings with
demand response and thermostat researchers and implementers. The information obtained
from these resources was used to identify key issues of thermostat performance from both
energy savings and peak demand perspectives. A research plan was developed to address
these issues and activities have already begun to pursue the research agenda.
 Proliphix Corporate Headquarters, 3 LAN Drive Suite #100, Westford, MA 01886 Phone: +1.978.692.3375 Toll Free (U.S.): 866-IP-LIVING (866.475.4846) Fax: +1.978.692.3378 - Sales: email@example.com Marketing: firstname.lastname@example.org Customer support: email@example.com http://www.proliphix.com/ - quoting from the company's website: All Proliphix Network Thermostats come with our free Uniphy Remote Management Service. This unique offering lets you monitor and control your HVAC systems by simply pointing your Browser to our secure Proliphix Web Site. Enjoy the convenience of programming a thermostat from any location, using a simple graphical interface. No computer equipment or software is required. And since Proliphix takes care of the network configuration for you, you’ll be up and running in no time. We’ll even proactively monitor your thermostats and send you an immediate email or SMS message when an HVAC problem is detected.
 "The Nest Learning Thermostat", Nest Thermostat, 900 Hansen Way
Palo Alto, CA 94304, Tel: 855-4MY-NEST, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website http://www.nest.com/, retrieved 1/24/2013.
 Honeywell Controls, the company wants you to use their contact form at this web page: http://www51.honeywell.com/honeywell/contact-support/contact-us.html
Honeywell Consumer Products,
39 Old Ridgebury Road Danbury, CT 06810-5110 - (203) 830-7800
World Headquarters, Honeywell International Inc.,
101 Columbia Road,
Morristown, NJ 07962,
Phone: (973) 455-2000,
Fax: (973) 455-4807 1-800-328-5111
 Domestic and Commercial Oil Burners, Charles H. Burkhardt, McGraw Hill Book Company, New York 3rd Ed 1969.
 National Fuel Gas Code (Z223.1) $16.00 and National Fuel Gas Code Handbook (Z223.2) $47.00 American Gas Association (A.G.A.), 1515 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22209 also available from National Fire Protection Association, Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02269. Fundamentals of Gas Appliance Venting and Ventilation, 1985, American Gas Association Laboratories, Engineering Services Department. American Gas Association, 1515 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22209. Catalog #XHO585. Reprinted 1989.
 The Steam Book, 1984, Training and Education Department, Fluid Handling Division, ITT [probably out of print, possibly available from several home inspection supply companies] Fuel Oil and Oil Heat Magazine, October 1990, offers an update,
 Principles of Steam Heating, $13.25 includes postage. Fuel oil & Oil Heat Magazine, 389 Passaic Ave., Fairfield, NJ 07004.
 The Lost Art of Steam Heating, Dan Holohan, 516-579-3046 FAX
Principles of Steam Heating, Dan Holohan, technical editor of Fuel Oil and Oil Heat magazine, 389 Passaic Ave., Fairfield, NJ 07004 ($12.+1.25 postage/handling).
 "Residential Hydronic (circulating hot water) Heating Systems", Instructional Technologies Institute, Inc., 145 "D" Grassy Plain St., Bethel, CT 06801 800/227-1663 [home inspection training material] 1987
 "Warm Air Heating Systems". Instructional Technologies Institute, Inc., 145 "D" Grassy Plain St., Bethel, CT 06801 800/227-1663 [home inspection training material] 1987
 Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Volume I, Heating Fundamentals,
 Boilers, Boiler Conversions, James E. Brumbaugh, ISBN 0-672-23389-4 (v. 1) Volume II, Oil, Gas, and Coal Burners, Controls, Ducts, Piping, Valves, James E. Brumbaugh, ISBN 0-672-23390-7 (v. 2) Volume III, Radiant Heating, Water Heaters, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Heat Pumps, Air Cleaners, James E. Brumbaugh, ISBN 0-672-23383-5 (v. 3) or ISBN 0-672-23380-0 (set) Special Sales Director, Macmillan Publishing Co., 866 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022. Macmillan Publishing Co., NY
 Installation Guide for Residential Hydronic Heating Systems
 Installation Guide #200, The Hydronics Institute, 35 Russo Place, Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922
 The ABC's of Retention Head Oil Burners, National Association of Oil Heat Service Managers, TM 115, National Old Timers' Association of the Energy Industry, PO Box 168, Mineola, NY 11501. (Excellent tips on spotting problems on oil-fired heating equipment. Booklet.)
 Trane TCONT800 Series Touch Screen Programmable Comfort Control Ownes Guide, American Standard, Inc., Troup Highway, Tyler TX 75711, January 2005, Telephone: Customer Service: 1-877-3381, website: www.trane.com
 RTI Electronics. "NTC Thermistor Product Guide",
1999, RTI Electronics, Inc., 1800 E. Via Burton St., Anaheim CA 92806, Tel: 714-630-0081
Wikipedia provided background information about some topics discussed at this website provided this citation is also found in the same article along with a " retrieved on" date. NOTE: because Wikipedia entries are fluid and can be amended in real time, we cite the retrieval date of Wikipedia citations and we do not assert that the information found there is necessarily authoritative.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones