How To Build A Temperature Controller for less than $20

Markw84

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A few people have asked how I built in the temperature controller on the new enclosure I recently posted. It can control a heat source and a cooling source all in one, but I have it just used to control my heat. I may hook it up to a fan as well so it can kick on a fan if the temperature gets too hot. It is rated to handle up to 1000 watts. You can get the ITC 1000 which is what I use to build into a unit for a custom look, or for about $20 more you can get the ITC 308 which does the same thing but is prebuilt as a plug and play unit.

The ITC 1000 is very reasonably priced - you can get it on Amazon for $16.99, but you have to wire it yourself which allows for it to be installed into your enclosure and gives a nice custom approach.

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Wiring it is actually very easy, so I thought I would post a step by step instruction on how to get one set up so you don't have to worry about figuring out a wiring diagram that I think is hard to follow.

All you need for the build is the ITC 1000 and a brown and a white extension cord from the dollar store and you're ready to go.

The unit comes with a very brief manual with instructions on how to adjust your settings, and a wiring diagram that is pretty hard to follow since it doesn't show the power side of the connections to your heat or cooling outlet. You get the unit itself and the temperature probe. Here it is right out of the box.

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The unit comes with a protector plate over the back of the unit and two orange brackets you can use to secure it in it's mount.

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Take off the back plate and then slip off the orange clips on the sides.

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Now you can see the slots on the back with screws on top to connect your wiring. On the top of the unit is the wiring diagram. Don't worry about the diagram except to see the numbers and locations of the connectors for the Line in, the probe, the heat and the cooling outlets.

IMG_2902.JPG

1 & 2 is your power supply.
3 & 4 is the temperature probe
5 & 6 is the heat switch
7 & 8 is the cooling switch.

I will show setting this up as a heat controller only, but to add the outlet for the cooling control is simply adding another outlet with the same process.

I used the brown extension cord for my plug in and the outlet end for the heating to plug into. I cut off about 6 feet for the plug end, and then cut a 6" piece of the brown and a 6" piece off the white cord. That left about 2 feet of the brown cord with the plug end. The 6" section of the white cord is all I needed of that cord.

Separate the 6" sections by pulling the two sections of the cord apart so you have 2 single brown wires and two white wires. Strip about 3/8" off one end and 3/4" of the other end of each of the 4 pieces.

Connect the 3/8" end to the set screws on the unit:
One brown to #1
One brown to #5
One white to #2
One white to #6

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Now connect the two brown to one side of your plug cord.

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Next connect the white from #2 and one side of the outlet cord to the other side of the plug cord.

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Then connect the white from #6 to the other side of the outlet cord.

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The last thing you need to do is connect the temperature probe. Doesn't matter which side goes where, but connect it to #3 and #4.

IMG_2909.JPG

You're done setting it up as a heat controller. It is now ready to use!

(NOTE: If you want to use the cooling control feature, you would need to connect the outlet end of your white cord using #8 just as you connected the brown outlet end to #6.
You need to connect a 6" brown wire to #7 and a 6" white wire to #8.
Connect the brown #7 along with #5 and #1 to one side of the brown plug wire.
Connect one side of the white outlet along with the brown outlet and the white from #2 to the other side of the brown plug.
Connect #8 to the other side of the white outlet cord.
You would now have it set up with the brown outlet to plug any heat source into, and the white outlet to plug any cooling device into.)

Plug in your unit and you will now see this

IMG_2910.JPG

Follow the instruction in your little manual to set your unit as you want.

You will see a dot flashing in the upper left of the screen. That is indicating a delay feature that keeps the unit from instantaneously turning on a compressor for a refrigeration unit when a set point is reached. It is set at a default of 3 minutes. You can adjust that delay feature from 0 - 10 minutes and it will delay turning on the outlet to your cooling device that period when the temperature reaches the set point you want the cooing to come on. As a heating controller this does not matter.

By pressing and holding for about 3 seconds the "S" button it will display "ts". that is the temperature set mode. pressing the up or down arrow will scroll between available modes. Go to "CF" and then press "S". The up and down arrow will now scroll between C and F for your display. Select the one you want, for example stop on F and then press the power button and it will save your F setting and display in Fahrenheit now.
Press "S" and hold 3 seconds again and "ts" will display. Press "S" again and the default 50.0f will display. press the up arrow until you get to your desired set temperature, then press the power button to save.

You will also have to set the differential setting. You can set from 1f - 30f degree differential. To allow one setting to control both heat and cool, this unit works by having a differential you set to control the spread between heat on and cool on. That means if you set this to 80f it does not go on when the temperature drops below 80f but goes on when the temperature reaches the set point plus the differential. I set mine at 1 degree differential as a heat controller only. That is the minimum differential. That means to have my minimum temperature at 80f, I set the temperature set "ts" at 81f. That means When the temperature at the probe dips from 80.1 to 80.0 the heat outlet goes on. When the temperature at the probe raises from 80.9 to 81.0 the heat outlet goes off.

This becomes important if you are using it to control both a heat and a cooling source. You could have your probe at the cool side and set your temperature at 84 and differential at 4. That would have the heat outlet go on when the temperature hits 80.0f and would stay on until the temperature at the probe hit 84.0, then the heat outlet would go off. If the temperature with basking bulbs and warm room temps caused the temp to continue to climb, when it hit 88.0F the cooling outlet would go on and remain on until the temp dropped back to 84.0.

I marked the size of the unit on the face of the chamber and cut a hole it fit snugly into. I slid the outlet, plug and wires in through the hole and slid the unit in place and I had a built in temperature controller without any cords running in and out of the chamber except to plug the controller into an outlet.

So if you want that built in look with an inexpensive, yet an extremely reliable and well reputed controller, this is how you can do it.
 

Redstrike

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I was one of the inquiring parties. I appreciate the detail and the pictures you provide, thanks a lot Mark!

What an helpful and informative post, it's clear you put a good amount of time into this.
 

NDevon

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I can't find out if it's pulsing, dimming or just switching on and off - do you know?
 

jaizei

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I can't find out if it's pulsing, dimming or just switching on and off - do you know?
From the description and the instructions, it seems like it is on/off.
 

Trihog

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I order everything, but realized my lights are 3 pronged. Can I just use an adapter or get one with a ground?
 

jaizei

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I order everything, but realized my lights are 3 pronged. Can I just use an adapter or get one with a ground?
The controller doesnt need the ground; you could just use cords that have a ground wire and have that wire bypass the controller.
 

Markw84

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I order everything, but realized my lights are 3 pronged. Can I just use an adapter or get one with a ground?
The good fixtures from lightyourreptiles.com do come with the 3 prong, grounded plug. As the two previous replies stated, the ground is not needed and used by the controller. The 3 to 2 prong adapter is fine to use in this application.
 

wellington

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Wow, great thread and instruction. I could actually do this myself and I don't do electric. Thanks for this.
 

motero

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Excellent how to post. I have run one of these controllers for just over two years now and it has worked great.
 

saginawhxc

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Just found this thread. Been using this same thermostat for over a year and have no problems with it.

As a user of the thermostat and as an electrician I absolutely support this thread and it deserves a well earned bump.

Personally I am not a fan of using an adapter for ground plugs though. If you actually have a lamp that has a ground plug, it is officially my suggestion to use a cord that has a ground wire in it. It won't land at the controller, but simply wirenut the two grounds from both sides of your cord together.
 

Kapidolo Farms

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Great post, no, super great.

The one probe will offer the device the data needed to turn off the heat and turn on the cool if the temp range for heat is exceeded?

Is maintaining polarity (fat blade/skinny blade) important?
 

Markw84

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Great post, no, super great.

The one probe will offer the device the data needed to turn off the heat and turn on the cool if the temp range for heat is exceeded?

Is maintaining polarity (fat blade/skinny blade) important?
Yes. The one probe uses the differential you set to turn on/off both heat and cooling outlets.

Polarity wouldn't matter for heat if just a CHE, panel, or bulb. But if a fan is incorporated in heat or cooling - could run a fan backwards. All my plugs have polarity prongs so haven't really tried it.
 

jaizei

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Yes. The one probe uses the differential you set to turn on/off both heat and cooling outlets.

Polarity wouldn't matter for heat if just a CHE, panel, or bulb. But if a fan is incorporated in heat or cooling - could run a fan backwards. All my plugs have polarity prongs so haven't really tried it.
It's hard to tell 100% from the pictures, but it looks like you have the polarity reversed when making the connections.
 
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