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3333 11-18-2012 07:03 PM

Do my range/oven dials function like a 'dial' lightswitch? (noob Question)
A 'dial' light switch has 'infinite' settings (maybe not infinite but a whole lot) as opposed to a standard switch which is either on or off. On my stove, if I set the dial to somewhere between the marked settings, does this have an effect or does it 'round' to the nearest marked setting? Same with the oven? Does this apply to most ranges/ovens? Is there a better term for what I'm asking?

Apologies if this is the wrong place to ask this.

(model: Estate)


kbsparky 11-18-2012 07:23 PM

Stove/oven controls are not the same as a dimmer for a light.

A lighting dimmer reduces the average voltage to the bulb, causing it to dim.

A stove/oven element control operates on a percentage basis, switching on and off to maintain a level of heat. For example: "High" would have it on 100% of the time.

Medium would be on 50% and off 50% of the time.

Low might be on 10% and off 90%.

While the control is "on" the element is applied with full power.

3333 11-18-2012 08:08 PM


Originally Posted by kbsparky (Post 1055483)
Stove/oven controls are not the same as a dimmer for a light.

While the control is "on" the element is applied with full power.


Seems like what you're saying is the element is either on/off (always on high), but the dial controls how long.

Does the specific dial setting still apply though? Okay it's not a constant, but the stove is still doing its best to maintain a certain %. Can I utilize 37% or 59% etc?

Protocol. 11-18-2012 08:46 PM

Stoves with knobs typically run infinite controls with a bi-metal strip. Basically what happens is the current runs through the bi metal strip. As the strip heats it bends away from the point of contact. At a certain point it breaks contact and begins to cool. When it cools enough it makes the contact again.

They are called infinite controls or switches because they are infinitely variable.

mpoulton 11-19-2012 09:10 PM

The light dimmer and stove control work exactly the same way, basically. It's called "pulse width modulation" which is a fancy term for "turning it on and off quickly". A standard light dimmer does this 120 times per second, and some fancy ones do it a few thousand times per second. This is fast enough that the light does not flicker visibly, because the filament doesn't heat and cool that fast and if it did our eyes couldn't perceive it anyway. Some high quality stove controls also cycle 120 times per second, using the same electronics as a light dimmer but heavier-duty. Any of them that say "solid state" or are for a ceramic or infrared cooktop work this way. Old fashioned or cheap ones cycle once every few seconds using a mechanical device instead. Since the stove element takes much longer than that to heat and cool, the heat level remains stable. As with a light dimmer, the control is infinite - there are no "steps" and the numbers are just for your convenience.

AllanJ 11-20-2012 07:00 AM

Ovens typically use a thermostat (separate element typically looking like a pencil with a string at one end) that cycles the power to the element: full on or full off.

Electric stove burners controlled by a continuous rotating knob, I think, have a constant voltage as set to any value by the knob position. How this is achieved (chopper elecronics?) I don't know.

And of course there are knobs with click stops. These are typically used with burners that have two or three elements, and different combinations of elements are energized by the knob positions, sometimes elements are in series with one another to give off different amounts of heat.

Specifically for chopper controls, the output is the same 60 Hz AC but instead of the full positive and negative sine wave loops, the waveform has much smaller loops of a different appearance. The loops are all the same size until you adjust the knob again. The "voltage" depends on the area under the loop if you draw the waveform as a graph.

3333 11-20-2012 02:06 PM

Thanks everyone. I believe my question has been answered.

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