One of the more popular pages on this site is the instructional on how to build your own temperature controller using a relay type device like the STC-1000 or the Inkbird ITC-1000. The final bulid is used to controll temperature, measured from a probe, by way of turning on/off plugged appliances (for heating or cooling). I know those who brew their own beer use them to control temps during fermentation, or in ‘kegerator’s’ and ‘keezers’. People who cook using the Sous Vide method can also use a DIY temperature controller to maintain cooking water temperature.
I have always been a big advocate for use of a temperature controller for aquariums; it creates a higher level of control and safety than relying on the internal thermostat built into aquarium heaters. The temperature controller can also energize a fan or chiller to keep water temperatures from elevating too high.
For whatever use, going the DIY route has been a great low cost alternative to higher priced specialty equipment. I have used our DIY temperature controller for a few years now and it has never let us down. The temperature in our Spec V aquarium never varies by more than a degree celcius. The only downside to suggesting this installation is I understand, even with detailled instructions, not everyone will want to or be capable of building the device. It involves some fabrication, wiring, and patience to complete. However, there is now a very exciting alternative to having to build and wire your own temperature controller.
Inkbird ITC-308 Heating and Cooling Temperature Controller
I was contacted by a representative of Inkbird recently and they offered to send me one of their new products to test and review, the Inkbird ITC-308. I’m so glad they did, because it is perfect for the use that I recommend (aquarist) and will also work great for the other aformentioned hobbies and uses. Almost anyone that is looking to make a DIY temperature controller can look at this device instead to meet their needs.
I will follow up with a full review in the near future that details all of the ins and outs of operation and that gives my opinions of strengths and weaknesses. I have been using it for a few weeks and I can already recommend this device.
It really does everything that my DIY device does. The only items of significant difference are as follows:
- Unlike the STC-1000 that my DIY temperature controller is based on, it can be programmed to operate in farenheit instead of celcius (with some limitations that I will discuss in the full review).
- It is generally much smaller than the enclosure of a DIY build.
- The plugs for heating/cooling are located on a separate ‘dongle’ instead of right on the enclosure.
- The temperature sensor is different. It is stainless steel instead of plastic coated like the probe that came with my STC-1000.
- It features a high and low alarm, where the unit will beep (as a warning) if it exceeds programmed temperatures. These high and low limits are separate from your setpoints for cooling/heating
- It features separate ‘drift’ values for cooling and heating. On the STC-1000 type devices, the drift above or below setpoint (to enable cooling or heating) matches.
Programming the unit is a bit more involved because of the added features, but I had it figured out fairly quickly. I will pass on some tips in the full review to help speed up understanding for new owners.
Final (Preliminary) Thoughts:
For those that like the challenge of DIY, the ITC-308 won’t be that big of a draw. However, I suspect most people will prefer to purchase the ITC-308 being a ready to use product.
The ITC-308 sells for around $38 on Amazon. I thought this was a bit high, until I realized that the cost of my DIY, when taking into account all the components, cost almost exactly the same. Given the time and effort I put into the DIY version, the new ready to use product is hightly preferable.
I’m still testing into the start of cooling season; a full review will be posted in the near future.