Averaging Sensors and How They Work

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There was a question in the Facebook group a few days ago about averaging sensors. There are two common configurations/methods used for averaging. The first is simply a setting in a thermostat or control where it reads separate sensors and then the thermostat itself averages out the readings using software.

For example, if the onboard sensor is being averaged with a remote sensor it could look like this:

Onboard Sensor = 78°
Remote Sensor = 82°

78° + 82° = 160

160 ÷ 2 = 80°

So the average temperature is 80° between the onboard sensor and the remote sensor. This could be handy if the remote sensor is in one room with a different solar or equipment load that the other but there is no automatic damper to separate the zones.

The other strategy is to simply wire sensors as averaging which has nothing to do with the thermostat or control and everything to do with Ohms law and the nature of parallel and series circuits.

A thermistor (temperature sensor) is a type of resistor that changes resistance based on temperature. There are many different types of thermistors but for this strategy to work, they all need to have EXACTLY the same thermistor properties.

You probably already know that when you connect resistors together in SERIES (Out of one into the next) that the resistance increases. So if you connect a 5,000-ohm resistor in series with another 5,000-ohm resistor they would have a resistance of 10,000 ohms.

What you may not know is that when you connect two resistors in PARALLEL you give the electrical current two paths which decreases the resistance. In fact, if you connect two 5,000 ohm resistors in parallel the total resistance would be half or 2,500 ohms.

This property of ohms law and parallel/series circuits means that we can easily average out thermistor temperatures so long as they are all the same and all the connections are good and we don’t have runs that are too long, as this will add in resistance and throw off the readings.

Take a look at the image at the top.

All you need to do is have the same # of sensors in parallel that you have in series and ohms law does the work. We don’t need to have the thermostat do the math because the series sensors add together and the parallel sensors divide.

This means you can have a few as 4 averaging sensors to as many as you want so long as there are the same # of series and parallel sensors. This means that the total # of sensors will always be a square of a whole #.

2×2 = 4
4×4 = 16
5×5 = 25

So on and so forth…

This can come in handy when conditioning a large room with a single zone but it is also somewhat troublesome because if any sensor fails the thermostat or control will read incorrectly.

— Bryan



One comment

  1. Avatar Davidllanos27 says:

    Is there a device or controller that can accept multiple thermistors and get the average??
    Just wondering because if one of the thermistors goes bad you will loose the whole signal

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