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Water Heater Thermostat Incubators

First of all, if you have the money or means to buy a wafer thermostat for your incubator then that is really your best option.  I have never met someone that said they regretted getting wafer thermostat. But you cant just run up to the hardware store a buy a wafer thermostat or replacement parts so I will tell you how to make a common water heater thermostat work.

Now if you need help wiring up your thermostat then here is a video showing you step by step.

When building an incubator using a water heater thermostat you have one obstacle to overcome. A water heater thermostat has a differential of 6 degrees. That means when the thermostat comes on it has to be heated 6 degrees Fahrenheit before it shuts back off again then it has to cool 6 degrees before it comes back on. Not really ideal for a incubator.

Most people use a light bulb for a heat source in there homemade incubators. An thats a plus for us here. A light bulb puts off 3 kinds of heat. The first kind is conductive, the second is convection an the third kind is radiant.

Conduction is the passing of heat to a solid threw actual contact. Its energy gains slowly after the light comes on. It also dissipates slowly after the light goes off.

Convection is heat traveling threw a liquid of gas like air to other objects. It also gains intensity slowly after the light comes on. And dissipates slowly after the light goes off.

Radiant heat is the actual light wave energy traveling out an hitting other objects an heating them. It looses intensity with the distance it travels but it comes on instantly an goes off just as instantly.

Your incubator is heated mostly by convection. If you let the thermostat be heated that way then the whole incubator has to go up an down 6 degrees with the thermostat. But if you move the thermostat close enough to the light to be heated by the radiant heat then the thermostat will get hot an shut off quicker than the rest of the incubator. When this happens the high temp in the incubator falls. But if you get the thermostat to close then it will cycle to fast an wont let the light stay on long enough to impart enough heat into the incubator to replace the heat the incubator is loosing.

In this video I show you how this works.

Though both clips are 30 minutes long they are playing at 1300 times normal speed making each about one minute. The thermostat is set to come on at 99.1*F threw the whole thing an is never adjusted. The thermostat was first set with the flat side facing the light with enough space between the two to fit four fingers between them. The thermostat cycles from 99.1*F to 105*F. In the second video I moved the thermostat to where I could fit three fingers between them. Then the thermostat cycles between 99.1*F an 100.3*F. Well within the range we need.

Not shown in the video, I later tried to move the thermostat to a distance of two fingers. At that distance the incubator stopped maintaining temp. The light was not on long enough to impart enough heat into the incubator to replace the heat being lost threw the glass walls.

In an incubator with better insulation you may get away with it being closer an get even more stable temps but I had reached my limit for a fish tank. Also if you run a smaller light than the 100 watt bulb I used you will probably need the thermostat to be closer also.

100*F is right at the low end stop for the temp adjustment on a water heater thermostat. You may need to cut the pointer off the knob to adjust it down more.

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