4 Steps in Choosing the Appropriate Potentiometer for Your Application

PotentiometerA potentiometer or pot is a resistor that OEMs and design engineers use to change the resistance over a specific array of values. Increasing or decreasing the value controls the amount of current flowing in a circuit.

Potentiometers are what establish the levels of output in many electrical devices. For instance, in a loudspeaker, a potentiometer helps adjust the volume. In a television set, it helps control the brightness of the screen.

Regardless of the application, choosing the right potentiometer is easy if you follow these steps:

Step 1: Select the Package and Size

First, choose the right potentiometer package and size. This is important to make sure the resistor fits in your circuit and that you can easily reach it for adjustments.

Step 2: Pick the Right Range

A potentiometer that only covers a range of zero ohms to 100 ohms will do you no good if you use it to operate up to 1,000 ohms. In the same way, if you need to make adjustments of 10 ohms, it will be difficult to adjust if you are using a range of 1,000 ohms.

As you probably already know, most potentiometers start with 0 ohms, so focus your selection on the higher end of the range.

Step 3: Know the Power Rating

Check the power rating, and make sure your potentiometer is rated according to your circuit’s current and voltage. According to the experts at SpectraSymbol.com, if you find the right potentiometer for a bass guitar amplifier, for example, make sure it can handle the current flowing through it.

Step 4: Choose the Appropriate Tolerance

Much like all the other types of resistors, potentiometers will vary from their design by a given tolerance. If you’re dealing with a bass guitar amplifier, this won’t matter much and is actually no big deal. If you’re controlling a more refined signal, on the other hand, such as a thermostat, then choosing the right tolerance matters a lot.

Whether you use it for medical, automotive, or electronic applications, make sure to select the right potentiometer to get the maximum results for your project.

3 Comments

  1. Potentiometers are everywhere. I’ve been reading articles about this for awhile (I’m slowly becoming an electronics enthusiast) and I figured that if we don’t have them, we only have two options for our electronics: on and off.

  2. hi! this is a great read. I’d like to ask, what happens if you don’t choose the appropriate tolerance for your pot? specifically for refined signals? thanks, appreciate the help

  3. Since my hobby is robotics, most of this is basic knowledge to me anyway. I’m throwing in one more tip though: don’t make the rookie mistake of buying based only on price. While some cheap potentiometers are reliable, you have to really shop around to find the ones with the best value.

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