Single Pole Vs. Double Pole Thermostat: What Are The Major Differences?

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

Thermostat shopping is a rough time, especially if you are not used to talking about HVACs. There are a lot of ways that shopping can go wrong. Sometimes, it’s not even a matter of shopping. Rather, it’s hard to figure out what type of thermostat you have. Knowing whether you have a single or double pole thermostat can help you out a lot. Let’s discuss what buyers should know.

Single pole thermostats have two wires that are linked directly to the circuit breaker and do not have an official “OFF” setting. Meanwhile, double pole thermostats have four wires that connect to the circuit breaker. They can be shut off.

Both types of thermostats tend to be good choices, but that doesn’t mean that you should assume both are right for you. This guide will help you out.

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Before We Begin: What Is A Pole?

When it comes to thermostats, a “pole” refers to the number of separately running circuits that a switch runs off a single circuit. With a single pole, you have a single switch on a single circuit. This switch can only be turned down to a minimum, not shut off.

A double pole means you will have two switches on a single circuit. This makes it possible to break the circuit safely, which means that you can fully shut off (and de-power) the circuit. That’s why double pole thermostats can be turned completely off.

How Common Are Single And Dual Pole Thermostats?

Single pole thermostats were the gold standard when it comes to older models. They were the first type of thermostat that was invented, so most older homes will have them. If you have a newer home, the go-to is usually going to be a double pole thermostat since these are generally more energy efficient.

What Are Single And Dual Pole Thermostats Used For?

Though they can have other uses, the truth is that you are most likely to see these units as baseboard heating accessories. They are what will keep your home warm when it’s winter. Obviously, this can lead to some annoyances if you live in a naturally warm area.

How Can You Tell If You Have A Single Pole Or Double Pole Thermostat?

Did you recently remove your thermostat? If you’re curious about what you have, then use one of these tips to help you determine the type you have.

  • The most obvious way to do this is to count the number of wires your thermostat has. Two wires shows that you have a single pole thermostat. Four wires would mean that you have a double pole thermostat.
  • You can also take a look at the settings of your thermostat. While this is not always foolproof, you can often get a hint about it one way or another based on the settings. If you see a switch that turns the entire thermostat off, it’s probably double. If you don’t see an off switch but see a “low” switch, it’s a single pole.
  • It also can be easy to tell based on how you work with your thermostat. If you have to manually turn off your furnace, then it’s definitely a single pole thermostat. Otherwise, you can safely assume that you have a dual pole thermostat.
  • Most warm areas will have a double pole thermostat for baseboards. If you live in a place like San Francisco, then you won’t need to have baseboard heating year-round. In fact, it might even make things worse for your home climate. As a result, it’s often safe to assume you’ll need a dual pole thermostat unit in these areas.

Which Is Better: Single Pole Or Double Pole Thermostats?

Single pole and double pole thermostats both have their perks. However, most HVAC techs will tell you that double pole thermostats are gaining popularity for good reason. They tend to be safer and also happen to save you money on energy. Since they shut off the entire system, there’s no background energy hitting your bills.

With that said, it seems to be mostly a matter of personal preference. Most people, though, prefer not to have to run down to their furnace just so that they can shut it off. It’s up to you.

Can You Go From A Single Pole Thermostat To A Dual Pole Thermostat?

If you have a single pole thermostat and want to go to a dual pole setup, there’s some good news on the horizon. You absolutely can. However, there’s a catch. You will need to have all the setup required to make the switch. This means that you will have to have the wiring meant for a dual pole.

Most electricians can make this happen pretty quickly. In some cases, people have installed single pole thermostats in dual pole wiring rigs. If this is the case, you might actually get an easier installation than if you tried to replace your single pole with another single pole.

Can You Go From A Dual Pole Thermostat To A Single Pole Thermostat?

This might surprise you, but dual pole thermostats can’t be replaced by a single pole unit. If you try to replace a dual pole thermostat with a single pole thermostat, you’re going to have loose wires behind your unit. This means that you will not be able to properly use your unit.

If you still try to use a single pole in a dual pole thermostat, you might end up with a house fire. Overall, it’s just not a good idea. So, if you currently have a dual pole thermostat, you don’t really have much of a choice in what type of thermostat you can buy.

How Can You Tell If A Thermostat You Want To Buy Is Single Or Dual Poled?

Obviously, if you are currently using a thermostat, it’s easier to figure out what type of pole it is. However, shopping for a new thermostat can be a little more daunting. You will need to know what type the thermostat is before you are able to buy it.

The good news is that most thermostat companies will give you a heads up as to whether you have a single or dual-pole thermostat. So, you won’t have to stand in the returns line.

Do You Need Thermostat Installation or Replacement Services?

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Related Questions

Do you still need to manually switch power off to a heater if you have a dual pole thermostat?

If you are currently working on any part of your electrical wiring setup, assuming that your heater is turned off is never a smart idea. To prevent bodily harm and fires, it’s best to manually turn off power to your home’s heater. This ensures that there is no electrical current. After all, it is possible for thermostat signals to misfire.

Should you professionally install your thermostat?

Honestly, if you are working with a double pole thermostat, it’s not a bad idea to call a pro. These thermostats need to be installed professionally because improper installation can cause serious damage to your thermostat. In some cases, you might be able to get away with a tripped breaker. However, in most cases, this will short out your new thermostat. This, in turn, means that you would have to replace your thermostat almost immediately.

What brands make single-pole thermostats?

If you are in the market for a new single pole thermostat, then you have a fair number of brands to choose from. The most popular brand for single pole thermostats is Honeywell, but don’t let that stop you from looking around. You can also get an affordable model from top quality names like Dimplex, Cadet, and Columbus.It’s worth noting that single pole thermostats are seen as more of a niche type of thermostat than most others. As a result, many brands that are famous for their thermostats might not be willing to make a model for this.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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