Identifying Temperature Sensors
We often receive phone calls from potential customers who have a temperature sensor in their hands, but little other information about it. This presents us with a number of problems. The first issue is identifying exactly what type of temperature sensor it is.
Sometimes people ask for a Pt100 thermocouple. This is an incorrect name for a temperature sensor design as Pt100s and Thermocouples are two very different technologies.
Most industrial plant contact temperature sensors are thermocouples, resistance thermometers or thermistors. To identify the type of sensor, our advice goes along the lines of:
- Is there any visible information on the instrument that displays the temperature?
- What temperatures are usually recorded?
- How many and what colour are any wires on the sensor or subsequent cabling?
- Disconnect the sensor from the system and take a resistance measurement across any terminals on the sensor with a multimeter.
A short-cut to identifying your temperature sensor is to give us a call on 01246 261 999.
Step 1: Instrumentation Information
This may not be straightforward due to Jargon. Possibilities are:
- Type K Thermocouple. This may also be referred to as NiCr v NiAl, NiCr v Ni, T1 T2. Type K is the most common thermocouple type.
- Type J Thermocouple. Known as Iron Con, or Fe v Con.
- Type N Thermocouple. Nicrosil v Nisil.
- Type R Thermocouple. Often called Pt v Pt13%Rh.
- Type S Thermocouple. Also known as Pt v Pt10%Rh
- Type B Thermocouple. Also referred to as Pt6%Rh v Pt30%Rh
- Platinum Resistance Thermometer. Also known as Pt100, RTD, Pt1000 or simply RT
- Thermistors may be referred to an NTC, PTC or simply as nominal ohmic value such as 10kΏ. The range of resistance possibilities is very wide.
There are also a range of other less common sensor assemblies which exact but are extremely rare.
Step 2: Temperature Sensor Range
The temperature sensor range that each sensor type can work at can hold vital information as to which sensor the customer is currently using. The usual maximum temperatures of sensors can be summarised as below, however it is not an absolute limit and individual designs can have other limitations.
|Sensor Type||Common limit|
Step 3: Quantity and Colour of Wires
Colour codes can identify a sensor. If there are 2 wires, it could be any type of sensor. The options on Thermocouple colours are summarised here
On top of that, a red and white wire will usually signify a resistance thermometer. American (ANSI) colour codes is another possibility.
If there are 3 wires, two red and one white, it is almost certainly a 3 wire Resistance thermometer. A third wire could also be a sheath grounding wire, while the other two are a thermocouple.
If there are 4 wires, two red and two white, it is probably a 4 wire resistance thermometer. Any other colours can be again cross checked with the above tables as you are probably looking at a duplex thermocouple with two measuring points.
Step 4: Physical Readings
This requires some disassembly and should only be done by experienced, authorised personnel. A resistance reading across the sensor terminals can be decisive. Assuming the temperature sensor is quite small (less than say 1 metre long) a very low resistance reading at any temperature (less than 10 Ώ) will indicate that it is a thermocouple. Around 110Ώ at room temperature will almost certainly be a Pt100, or 1100Ώ at room temp a Pt 1000. A much higher resistance at room temperature is probably a thermistor. Open circuit readings simply indicate that the sensor is broken, and you probably knew that anyway.
We hope that by following this step by step guide, you should find it easy to identify your temperature sensor or assist others to do so.