A Beginner's Guide to Reading a Thermostat

Person adjusting thermostat for Atlanta summer

It can be difficult to read a thermostat, especially if you're not familiar with the symbols and numbers. This guide will give you an overview of what those symbols mean and how they relate to your home's heating and cooling system. Read on for more information about how to read a thermostat!

Reading the Temperature Display

The temperature display is broken up into two parts. The top number shows the current "set" temperature, or what your thermostat has been set to by you or someone else (such as an automatic setting). The bottom number indicates the actual room's ambient air temperature. To change your heating and cooling settings, use the arrows on the display.

Understanding the Fan Setting

The fan setting indicates how your heating or cooling system is distributing the heat in your home. If you see an "O" on the display, it means that the air is being distributed passively—that is, naturally through vents in rooms throughout your house. The O will disappear when you turn off Fan Mode (a good way to save energy).

Using the Timer Setting

The timer setting allows you to automatically set your heating or cooling system on a schedule. If you press the up arrow, it will cycle through various time increments starting at either half an hour (for heat) or three hours (for cool). The down arrow can be used for fine adjustments if needed. Once you have chosen the right time increment, press the down arrow to move through all of your settings.

Once you are satisfied with your choices, use the up or down arrows to choose "ON" and then hit enter. You can set as many timers as needed—simply repeat this process for each one! Your heating system will start working in accordance with your schedule.

Reading Your Humidity Level

An easy-to-read thermostat may or may not include this reading, since not every homeowner uses it. The humidity level is represented in your thermostat by a set of bars. A full bar means that the room has reached optimum humidity levels and no further cooling is necessary. The more empty bars you see, the less humid it currently feels to be inside—over time, these will fill up as needed until they reach an optimal balance again.

Still not sure about how to use a digital thermostat? Let us help. Just call the Moncrief Heating and Air Conditioning office, and we will walk you through your system. We're your HVAC experts in Atlanta, Roswell, and Sandy Springs.

Want more information about caring for your furnace? Read: How to Test Your Heating System.