I'm wanting to connect a 120V wall heater to a programmable, 2-pole thermostat. The difference between 1 vs. 2 poles involves whether or not the thermostat can truly, completely cut power or not. With 2 poles, all power to the heater can be cut. With 1, the "off setting" is really a very-lower power setting.

I can find 2-pole programmable thermostats that use 240V, but so far, have been unable to find the 2-pole arrangement for a 120V load. It's a pure guess that this may because 120V heaters are easier to appear "off" due to lower heat output, but 240V heaters would draw twice the current and generate twice the heat so it might be more noticeable. Still, its hard to believe it is only that reason that would prevent manufacturers like honeywell or cadet from making such a thermostat.

Does anyone know why a 2-pole, 120V programmable thermostat is next to impossible to find? Is there some technical or design reason why they wouldn't work?

Of course if anyone knows where one might be found...that would be excellent! I only need 24-hour programmability, not 7-day. But I really would like the full-power cutoff of the 2-pole thermostats.

I hope this isn't too technical for home improvement section, as I've run into this as part of a home-improvement project. Thanks.

UPDATE: many ask or question my conception of single v. double pole thermostats. I'm using a definition from a Cadet heating @ http://cadetheat.com/blog/faq-single-v-double-pole/.

Double pole stats have a true off setting. Single pole thermostats don't.

I've seen restatements of that definition on other sites and it seemed to be true for Honeywell thermostats as well. The manufacturer statements would seem to be definitive. If they are not, I'd want to know why.

  • I just typed “double pole programmable thermostat” and then I also tried “2 pole programmable thermostat” into google, can you elaborate on why your having issues, it certainly doesn’t seem to be a troubling search.
    – Tyson
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 1:43
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    Also 120v and 2 pole don’t make sense in the same sentence. 120v only needs single pole, 2pole is for 240v.
    – Tyson
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 1:45
  • Is a 24V thermostat with a transformer and relay on the table? Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 1:54
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    You say "With 1, the "off setting" is really a very-lower power setting." How so?
    – glglgl
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 8:02
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    Single pole stats don't because they don't need to. Just buy one of these and call it good: amazon.com/gp/product/B0028JJLSS/…
    – ArchonOSX
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 19:52

6 Answers 6


Single pole stats don't because they don't need to. Just buy one of these and call it good: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0028JJLSS/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Good luck!


The problem with starting from a fallacy is that it leads no-where useful.

The difference between 1 vs. 2 poles involves whether or not the thermostat can truly, completely cut power or not. With 2 poles, all power to the heater can be cut. With 1, the "off setting" is really a very-lower power setting.

Patently false. Incorrect, wrong, and ignorant. A single pole switch. relay, or thermostat will cut all power to a 120V or 240V heater - the reason we don't use single poles for 240V heaters in the USA/Canada power system is only for an extra degree of safety, not because any power magically makes it through an open switch. If you use a single pole switch on a 240V heater in our system, the "switched off" heater would be at 120V relative to ground - it would still be firmly off, not dissipating any power, as no current is flowing, but it would present a slightly higher shock potential, or a much higher shock potential if someone were to open up its connections (believing it to be "off" at the thermostat) without shutting off the breaker for the circuit.

The reason you cannot find the item you seek is that your starting assumptions are incorrect, and there is no need for, and thus no market for, a 120V two-pole thermostat. Properly connected, the hot line is switched, and the neutral is not, and when the switch is open the entire heater is at approximately 0 volts with respect to ground, and thus there is no safety advantage to using a two-pole switch on a 120V heater.

This makes me think of James Thurber's Grandmother who was sure that electricity was leaking out of switched-on sockets with no bulbs in them...

  • 2
    Hey hey, let's be nice. Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 3:55
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    What harper said. It's not that I'm starting w/a fallacy, per se, but with the definitions on the manufacturer's website. Perhaps you could direct your "enthusiasm" to them?
    – Astara
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 8:33

A 120V heater runs on two conductors: hot and neutral. (I'm ignoring the grounding wire which is there for safety, not operation of the heater.) The heater is switched on and off by disconnecting the hot conductor. We call this a single-pole switch. A 120V single-pole thermostat is just a single-pole switch that is controlled based on the ambient temperature. Once the hot conductor is disconnected no power will flow through the heater since the neutral conductor is connected to ground at the service panel.

A 240V heater also runs on two conductors but both are hot. Naively we could disconnect either conductor and the heater would no longer draw power. However, each conductor is 120V from neutral ground. Even if there is no electrical fault the metal frame of the heater can pick up a charge (capacitively) and create an electrical shock hazard. So we disconnect both hot conductors with a 2-pole switch (or thermostat).

The number of poles reflects the number of hot conductors and therefore you won't find a 120V two-pole switch unless by two-pole we mean a switch that disconnected two hot conductors at the same time (DPST).

  • Your answer makes sense in light of my previous knowledge. The difference I saw was for manual controls that used an inline, off-low-med-high type control vs. a need for a digital, programmable thermostat to have its own power that controlled a 2nd circuit (to be on/off). Is still the case I'm not finding 120V dig+prog thermostat controlling 2nd power circuit as I see for 240V control circuits.
    – Astara
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 8:30

I'm going to overlook a few misconceptions and get right to your question.

120V thermostats are rare ducks because 120V heating is a weak idea. It takes a lot - a LOT - of electricity to make a useful amount of heat. It isn't worth it to strain a 120V/20A circuit at 2000W (which will barely heat a single room if even) when a 240V/15A can handle that same power with ease. when you're up over 2kw, 240V is just the smart way to go.

You can use mechanical 240V thermostats with 120V just by wiring both poles in series. That won't work with electronic 'stats, as they need a way to power themselves and they are "geared" to poach power off the 240V.

Your best option is probably a $12 transformer and $9 relay which would let you use any of thousands of 24V C-wire-powered 'stats including the Nest.

  • yeah, this heater is more supplementary. Also, I live about 3 blocks from pacific ocean in CA. In the 25+ years I've lived here, it's not hit freezing. There is even a difference between official recorded temps down town and @ my house -- usually 10℉ cooler in summer besides being slight warmer in winter; so higher power wasn't considered a requirement (though may have to go w/240 just to get thermostat I want; not yet sure...*sigh*
    – Astara
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 8:37
  • @Astara given the difficulty of going with a 240 thermostat I would just go 24V and be done with it. A little bit of learning curve but then you can use literally any 'stat. Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 16:00
  • My goal was to use a 120V heater & thermostat w/thermostat being digital & programmable. If I'd used a 240V heater, then finding a 240V (dig+prog) thermostat seems to be much easier.
    – Astara
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 16:09
  • When I say 24V I actually mean twenty-four volts. This is a totally different system than anything we've been talking about, and may be new to you. Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 16:12

More about Cadet's page, which applies to Cadet thermostats, and also IME Honeywell.

The first pole is temperature-based. There is no way to turn this pole off. If ambient temp falls below the setpoint, it will turn on.

The optional second pole is only an on/off switch. It is only "off" if you turn it all the way to the left past the detent. It does not turn off the other pole.

All heaters have 2 wires. Current flows in loops, so block either wire and current can't flow. These thermostats operate on the principle that if you sever either pole, you stop current. However a pole can still have voltage (electrical pressure) on it, and that is what zaps you.

Neutral is designed to be harmless and it is a waste of time to switch it. Only 120V heaters have neutral.

With 120V on a 2-pole old mechanical 'stat, do not switch the neutral and do loop the hot through both poles. This won't work on a digital 'stat.

  • You think their "2-pole thermostat" is a 1-pole thermostat in series with an 1-pole cut-off switch?
    – Stanwood
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 0:18

I disagree with Cadet's explanation, and would like to ask them how electricity flows through the device when you only have one wire attached to it... single pole and double pole mean one "switch" or two "switches" inside the device. One pole means one wire is switched, and two pole means two wires are switched. Most light switches in a house are single pole, and you only disconnect the hot wire, yet no power flows to the light. How can they maintain that single pole switches in the off state are just "low power" modes.

What nobody has explained so far, is that with a single pole 240V thermostat, one leg is disconnected, while the other is always connected. 240V systems are 120V above and below neutral. Negative voltage and positive voltage are still a voltage difference, and both will zap you. No electricity will flow with one leg disconnected, but if you were to work on the heater relying only on it being "switched off" at the single pole thermostat and touched a neutral or ground wire in your house, you would get hit by the other leg which is still hot.

The double pole means that when it is off, both legs of the 240V are disconnected instead of just one. In both cases the power flow is zero if the thermostat is off.

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