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These days, many modern household appliances, such as furnaces and hot water heaters, come equipped with safety features, such as limit switches, to prevent serious damage in case they malfunction or break.
The term limit switch most commonly refers to a device or a sensor that is designed to limit or stop the performance (or over-performance) of an appliance or a machine. When triggered, a limit switch will prevent or limit further operation, typically as a safety measure. Around the home, limit switches are usually found in water heater thermostats or as a furnace high limit switch. Outside of typical household uses, limit switches have many designs and applications.
High limit switches on hot water heaters and furnaces are designed to trip if the temperature gets too hot. Often times, if this happens, the limit switch will need to be reset: