Dial Thermometers Dying Quickly at Our House

Several years ago, I moved to a country home in the foothills of a mountain range, we’re about 1,000 feet above sea level.

My outdoor thermometer, a dial type, never worked here, though it had been registering the temperature fairly accurately at my house in the valley for about 3 years. My oven thermometer, also a dial type, worked once and it’s needle never rose again. My meat thermometer worked 2 or 3 times after the move and then it died. Since then, a second oven thermometer worked once and then died and a couple of meat thermometers worked once or twice and then died. When I lived in the valley, these types of thermometers would serve me for several years.

I can’t find anything online to explain this, so I’m bringing it here. Could the place where I am living be responsible for this? For instance, does altitude have an effect on the mechanics of dial thermometers? Or am I over-thinking this and just having an incredible run of bad luck with cheap thermometers?


I can’t imagine how altitude (especially only 1000ft) would affect a bi-metallic strip inside of a dial thermometer. It must be something other than your location.

Maybe something to do with how you store them at your new place? Or some other how they were packed during the move, or storage conditions during the move?

Were they handled roughly during the move?

No. They were wrapped and packed in with dishes and stuff.

EDIT: Possibly the outdoor thermometer was banged around a bit during the move. It would have been with some outdoor things and I assumed it had broken during the move until the other dial thermometers started dying constantly.

Actually, I always figured the outdoor thermometer must have gotten joggled during the move and broke. The meat and oven thermometers were wrapped and put in boxes with the dishes. They were probably in the same box with the knives and other things that poke, because that is the drawer they live in. Items in that drawer actually get much easier handling because everything in that drawer is something that will cut or poke – it’s not a place where we go rooting around and shoving things.

:frowning: Hmm… I agree 6 thermometers that all died that close together is a bit odd. Sorry I can’t imagine what might killing them.

I have a dial thermometer outside my house, and, like you, I have dial meat thermometers that just live rattling around inside a kitchen drawer with other utensils with no issues. I live at ~900ft ASL, and have never had any issue nor do I ever make any adjustments living at 900 ft vs. 0ft. So I don’t think the 1000 ft is the culprit.

Is there a thermostat in your house? Does that work?

Yes, there are some wall heaters that have thermostats, but they are not the dial kind, they are digital.

Well, at least this thread is helping me eliminate altitude as a problem. Plus, there are no longer teenagers living in this house, so that’s another factor eliminated. Hubby breaks a lot of things, but he never uses a meat or oven thermometer – it’s like the Cat in the Hat, you see, when I eliminate everything it’s not, the answer will be right there. :slight_smile:

I had a meat thermometer that I thought was broken, but it started working again.

Have you asked around your new neighbours if they have issues keeping thermometers alive? If not, I suspect you’re just at the thin end of the bell curve. There are millions of US household. If your bad luck with thermometers was a million to one chance we’d expect several such to happen. And human nature would have each of them trying to figure out what it was about their situation that caused it.

Did you do anything to make it start working again, or did it just spontaneously go.

I haven’t. We’re friendly with the neighbors but don’t really sit around chatting over coffee.

I think even a digital thermometer (thermostat) still reacts to the same internal measurement principle as a needle-dial, but displays the input differently. There is still a pointer analog that reacts to heat-expansion sensors, but it activates an LED instead of pointing at a graduated scale.

Most modern/electronic thermometers (that read ambient temperature) utilize a thermistor sensor to read temperature.

What does that mean? Does it depend on a physical material that expands?

No. It depends on the semiconductive properties of the materials they are made of at various temperatures.

A thermostat is for controlling temperature, and it doesn’t have to be digital.

Correct. And that property is electrical resistance.

A thermistor is a type of resistance temperature detector (RTD). Most are NTC. Some are PTC.

Since I haven’t seen those letterisms expanded in context yet, I’ll bite the bullet and try to forestall the inevitable question.

“NTC” == “Negative temperature coefficient.” As temperature rises, the sensing phenomenon (i.e., resistance) decreases. For instance, a 10 degree increase in temperature induces a 5 Ohm reduction in resistance. (And vice versa for temperature decrease.)

“PTC” == “Positive temperature coefficient.” As temperature rises, the sensing phenomenon (i.e., resistance) increases. For instance, a 10 degree increase in temperature induces a 5 Ohm increase in resistance.

The choice of coefficient controls the sensing circuitry and the design of whatever you’re doing with the detected temperature (i.e., display, thermostat, etc.)

Relevant wiki content.