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Picture this : you get home from work and you’re ready to just sit down and relax in the cool comfort of your air-conditioned home. As you arrive, you head to the thermostat to adjust the temperature to your desired setting only to be greeted by an unfamiliar sight: a blank screen.

At first, it might take you a moment to realize your thermostat is blank because it’s not a feature or issue we encounter every day. Then, the realization sets in. How will you control your air conditioner now? Is your thermostat broken beyond repair? Don’t panic. Thermostats can experience many common issues, and issues like a blank screen are rarely related to the main operational components of your system.

Before you call for a repair, it’s worth trying to follow some basic troubleshooting steps yourself. In some cases, you can fix a minor thermostat issue on your own. In other cases,, you will at least know you have ruled out all the usual suspects, enabling a qualified repair provider to pinpoint the true problem much faster.

While there are many different thermostat makes and models on the market, most still experience many of the same failure states. With that in mind, here’s what you should try first.

Check the batteries in your thermostat

thermostat is blankEven though we rarely think about working with this component of the device, t’s true that most thermostats need batteries to stay powered. Though they are often wired into your home’s electrical system so they can interact with your AC unit, the screen and buttons attached to thermostats are usually battery-powered. When was the last time you changed these batteries out? If the answer is “never” or “I can’t remember,” this is usually the best place to begin. Swapping out the batteries for a fresh pair can sometimes restore your screen and give you access back to your cooling capabilities.

If you have a manual on hand, check it for instructions. Otherwise, you can try searching for your thermostat’s manufacturer online. In most models, replacing the batteries is simple and involves pulling gently on the unit until it separates from its wall-mounted portion. Once detached, you can handle the device to take out the old batteries and put in fresh ones—most will use standard AA or AAA batteries. Carefully replace the thermostat on the wall. If nothing changes, the batteries were not the issue.

Look at your circuit breaker for a problem

Your next destination will be a stop at the fuse box. Sometimes the circuit the thermostat is on will trip due to an unrelated power problem or because of a surge. Examine your breaker box and carefully look for any tripped switches. If you know which one your thermostat is on, check it immediately. You may even want to try cycling the breaker switch off and then on again.

Afterwards, check to see if your thermostat is blank. If not, the problem is solved. If you still see a blank screen, or if you did not find a tripped breaker, keep troubleshooting.

Think about your AC’s recent behavior

In some cases, a blank screen could be indicative of an issue with the system. Has your air conditioner behaved strangely in recent days? Continuous cycling on and off beyond normal operation, for example, can indicate a problem such as a clogged drain pipe or an overflowing condensate pan. Either of these problems could trip internal safety switches designed to prevent damage. When this happens, it could turn off your thermostat.

If you’ve tried other remedies and reached this point without a solution or clarity, it’s time to turn to a professional. The problem may be in the wiring that runs to the thermostat itself.—The issue will require a deeper and more experienced examination.

Find out how old your thermostat is

It doesn’t happen often, but it’s not impossible for a unit to simply fail due to old age and natural wear and tear. Do you know the age of your thermostat? If it’s a decade old or older, chances are its components are nearing the end of their lifespan. This is especially true if you have a very old thermostat which may still use mechanical or mercury-based switches. If no other obvious problems have presented themselves in your examinations, you may have to assume the unit has quit working altogether.

Thermostat is still blank? Call for professional help

With luck, all you’ll need to do is pop in a fresh set of batteries and go back to what you planned on doing. If your thermostat is blank even after troubleshooting and trying to remedy things yourself, request service from a professional.

Often, thermostat issues are a quick fix; if repairing a small problem leads to the discovery of a bigger issue, having a professional on hand will ensure you have options for how to proceed. You may also want to ask about the possibility of upgrading your thermostat—doing so can actually save you money through better efficiency.

Valley Comfort conducts Air Conditioning Installation & Repair Services in the following communities: Santa Rosa, Napa, Rohnert Park, Healdsburg, St Helena, Calistoga and Windsor