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What's the Difference between Potentiometers and Rheostats?

Supplier: Australian Resistors
15 September, 2015

The simple answer is not much, it really depends on the power required in an application.

Fundamentally there is little difference betweenpotentiometers and rheostats. They both share the following characteristics:

  1. Variable and continuous adjustment of a specified resistance value
  2. Adjustment via a rotary shaft
  3. Are mounted (generally) via a bush mounting system
  4. Have similar temperature derating curves
  5. Both offer solder or quick connect termination options
  6. Both have a specified angle of rotation
  7. Both have a wiper in rotational contact with a resistance element

Low power applications generally call for a potentiometer whereas a high power applications use a rheostat.

Our AW series potentiometer are power rated to 3 watts whereas our APR series rheostats are available up to a 500 watt power rating.

If you need to choose a potentiometer or rheostat for your electrical application talk to us for more information.