I'm upgrading a thermostat, and the installation isn't quite as simple as I'd hoped. In this COVID era, I think I'd like to avoid having an electrician inside my home...

Some facts:

  • the circuit breaker box has 2 switches that are "tied" together. I think this means 240V.
  • the existing thermostat controls 2 baseboard heaters (one is longer than the other by ~30%)
  • inside the gang box, there are 3 cables, each with white, black, and ground wires.
  • the 3 ground wires are all twisted together
  • one of the cables coming in to the gang box (the middle one) looks different, it has yellow casing, and its wires are smaller gauge

The thermostat I'm replacing has 4 inputs: T1 and T2 (termed Black/Line) and L1 and L2 (termed Red/Load). I attached pictures of the existing thermostat (I haven't changed anything), but tracing the lines is a bit hard so here I'm writing it out too. These are currently connected by:

  • L1/Black/Line is connected to the top and middle blacks
  • L2/Black/Line is connected to the top and middle whites
  • T1/Red/Load is connected to the bottom black
  • T2/Red/Load is connected to the bottom white

So which one is the supply? The middle one perhaps because it's conspicuously different? The bottom one because it's connected differently?

The installation instructions for my new thermostat say:

Note: The supply and load wires are not interchangeable. If you are unsure which of the two wires is the supply or load wire, simply try one configuration.

Does that advice still apply when there are 3? I suppose I could pick 2 cables to figure it out and then add the 3rd.

I'm reluctant to turn the breaker back on and test voltages, but I do have a voltmeter and I think I could be careful enough to use it (but which pairs should I check?)

EDIT: I mixed up my L and T, now fixed. That is, it looks like two line wires are combined to create 240v and somehow one load wire is used for both heaters? Not sure if that makes sense or if I'm still mixing something up.

pic 1 pic 2 pic 3

  • You said double pole, what wattages are the heaters , size of the double pole breaker? Size of the wires I see yellow nmb or Romex so the breaker should be limited to 20 amps, next where do you live? – Ed Beal Dec 15 '20 at 18:09

When you see 2 wires connected to supply/LINE side, it simply means that one of them is supply from the panel, and the other is supply going onward to somewhere else. They are both supply, and it doesn't matter which is which.

You need to connect them both to supply/LINE, or to be more precise, connect them to each other, and then, connect a pigtail to your device's Supply input.

  • I injured my index finger so I waited for it to heal a bit before trying this installation, but this worked. – amos Dec 20 '20 at 20:59

Supply == Line == T1, T2 old stat (if you typed correctly), L1, L2 New stat you show a picture of.

Load == Load == L1, L2 old stat (if you typed correctly), T1, T2 New stat

If there's nothing else on this circuit, line is the single wire, load is the two wires, one to each heater.

If there are other things on the circuit, could be different - line could be going on to somewhere else, and the single cable might have a junction to feed the second heater not in this box.

  • I'm sorry, I mixed up my description. You can see from my first picture that Red/Load/T1/T2 are connected to the singles, while Black/Line/L1/L2 are connected to the pairs. – amos Nov 30 '20 at 3:02
  • That is, it looks like the white/black wiring means 120v and they're being combined in the nut to create 240? And somehow the single load goes to both heaters? – amos Nov 30 '20 at 3:03
  • @amos -- no, a 240V-only circuit will be white/black because there's no need for neutral, just 2 hots and a ground, and red/black NM isn't a thing in the US (apparently Canadians have/use it, though) – ThreePhaseEel Nov 30 '20 at 4:42
  • it looks like two of the cables are line and one is load. this is in the US. – amos Nov 30 '20 at 11:45

I can't tell how the existing stat is wired nor whether you updated your description but assuming this is correct:

L1/Black/Line is connected to the bottom black

L2/Black/Line is connected to the bottom white

T1/Red/Load is connected to the top and middle blacks

T2/Red/Load is connected to the top and middle whites

Then it SOUNDS like the bottom black and white are the supply line and the top and middle are the 2 heaters. If you disconnect everything and measure resistance between the 3 pairs of wires you would get infinite on the supply, (assuming the breaker is off) and a low resistance on the 2 loads. It may be your old stat was wired "backwards"

But - something about this looks suspicious. If it was me I would leave it hanging out and power it up then use my meter to measure voltages on the stat wiring in the wirenuts when the heaters were on and off. Also I would look for the power rating plate for each heater it should be in the front at the bottom and visible, you may have to get on the floor and look to find it. It's possible for a very short baseboard heater to be 120v although unusual. But most important is that the combined power rating of both baseboard heaters is under that 16A rating on the new stat.

Take some voltage readings and let us know what you find. Be careful working with live wiring, wear electricians gloves.

  • Unfortunately, I did mix up my description again (and it is now updated). The pictures are all of the existing setup. It does look like line on the (old) stat is connected to two cables (e.g., the black stat wires have tags saying "CONNECT THIS WIRE TO LINE" and it's connected to two blacks and the other to two whites). – amos Nov 30 '20 at 11:49
  • 1
    I didn't notice the labels on the baseboard before because they're painted over (looks like overspray??). They're quite hard to read, but I'm fairly confident they're both 240v. – amos Nov 30 '20 at 12:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.