I live in GA - I have no A/C
June 16, 2010 4:02 PM   Subscribe

All 3 of the thermostats in my home read "Low Battery" with an * and my a/c isn't working. My landlord says that I need to replace the batteries. That seems unlikely to me. Also hard.

My townhome has zoned heating and air and all 3 floors have 3 thermostats which power 2 furnace/ac units (I don't fully understand how). For some time now, all 3 thermostats have been reading "Low Battery" and not running the program - you have to operate them manually. My landlord says they were all installed at the same time and probably the batteries in all 3 need to be changed. That seems unlikely to me and also it just seems very unclear to me how exactly one goes about changing the batteries. (They're all White-Rodgers -- dunno the model). Today the display on all 3 also has an * and the a/c doesn't work at all. A minor inconvenience has become a frigging emergency. I'll call my landlord, of course, and I've done some research online to no avail, but I'm putting this out to my hive mind friends in hopes that all this really means is that I need to reset some switch on the a/c units - or alternately actually change the batteries on all 3 units and one of you guys knows how to do that :)

Thanks for any advice. Words on a first grade reading level would be best used here - my knowledge is, well, none.
posted by katyjack to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
White-Rodgers Installation and Operating Instructions for all models. There are pictures. You will need Adobe Reader or something similar to be able to open the .pdf files.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:09 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Photos of one of the thermostats would be really helpful...
posted by mr_roboto at 4:09 PM on June 16, 2010

You pop the cover off and replace the 9-volt. It's dead simple.
posted by GuyZero at 4:12 PM on June 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

On my thermostat, you just pull off the cover and replace the double A. Very easy.

I was flummoxed too the first time my thermostat ran out of batteries ... it never occurred to me to wonder how digital thermostats stayed on, and I guess I assumed they were all hard-wired. They probably all ran out at once because the landlord or prior occupants replaced all the batteries at once.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:15 PM on June 16, 2010

I think all electric thermostats I've ever seen have two parts: a wall mount and the thermostat body. You can easily separate the two by pulling them apart. The wall mounting should be fairly secure, so all you should need to do is firmly grasp the body of the thermostat and pull it straight off (read: out from) the wall. Then, you should see the AA batteries, or whatever the batteries are.

I know it's unfamiliar, and probably intimidating, but I think you should be able to get it without difficulty.
posted by Alt F4 at 4:16 PM on June 16, 2010

If you can tell an AA apart from a 9-volt you can do this job.
posted by GuyZero at 4:25 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you can tell an AA apart from a 9-volt you can do this job.

If you can't tell the difference, you can still do this job! Just take the old batteries out, take them to the store, and get new ones. Anyone at the counter can help you get the right ones.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:29 PM on June 16, 2010

If you think that this isn't what's happening, it probably wouldn't hurt to replace the battery on just one and see if that makes the problem go away. Note that for some models you might need to hit the 'reset' button after changing the battery.
posted by Dolohov at 5:01 PM on June 16, 2010

I work for an HVAC company, and you would be amazing at the number of calls we get for something simple like this. People just can't believe that the thermostat could cause something to not work, and they'll insist we come out to check their units. We even charge them for this kind of thing because it's common sense and we tell them to check it first thing before sending anyone out. People get so offended and think I'm insulting them when I ask them to check it!

Just do yourself a favor: change the batteries, press the reset button, and give it a good 30 minutes to restart. Hopefully that'll resolve your problem!
posted by Lizsterr at 6:09 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have to do this on my thermostat every couple years. It messes up the custom programming I use if I take more than 30 seconds to do it but otherwise it's not a hassle at all...it really may be this simple and it can't hurt to try. Once my thermostat died completely, and heat in that zone of the house stopped working entirely (the furnace was fine), so it is not unreasonable to think that if you are totally out of juice in the thermostat your A/C would stop working.

Gently pull around the edges and see if there's a cover that slides or comes off entirely, or if the unit can be bumped up and off whatever is hanging it on the wall so you can access a battery unit if it's in the back. From there, it should be obvious, and you may be able to fix it with some AAs or 9V or ____. Trying it and seeing if you can do it may save your landlord from being annoyed with you; he's not going to want to call a HVAC guy unless you have tried, and may want to make you pay for the HVAC visit if the guy comes out and it's the batteries after all.
posted by charmedimsure at 7:00 PM on June 16, 2010

Morbid fascination here. Since the units are telling you to replace the battery, and the landlord gives a plausible reason why, how precisely have you decided everyone is wrong? I won't even broach the subject of why buying a couple of batteries and giving it a go is somehow beyond the pale. I'm just curious as to how someone who confesses no knowledge is so sure that the obvious solution is wrong.
posted by kjs3 at 7:48 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

This is a lot like changing the battery in your smoke detector, there's no danger you are going to shock yourself with electricity (unless you suck on the battery and even then you probably wont feel anything from an AA).

If you still just don't want to deal with this, you're in a townhouse, yes? Pop by a neighbors and ask them if they know how to change the battery on the thermostat: there's a good chance they have exactly the same wall unit as in your place.
posted by jamaro at 9:54 PM on June 16, 2010

@kjs3, I lived in houses and dorms and apartments with either old-style thermostats with the windy spring (no power) or that were hardwired into the electrical (no battery), so the first time my thermostat ran out of batteries (in my first home), I a) assumed it was something catastrophic because NOTHING that had gone wrong in the house had cost under a thousand dollars due to poor maintenance by prior owners and b) thought the HVAC guy was kidding about there being a battery, because the very idea that you'd stick a battery in a thermostat stuck me as totally preposterous, since I'd gone 25 years without seeing such a thing ever.

Luckily I followed the HVAC guy's instructions even though I thought he was messing with me, and I was like, "I'll be darned! There's a battery in here!" But I really did think he was kidding.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:17 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hope you got it. Do you live in downtown Atlanta, would you like me to swing by after work?
posted by stormygrey at 10:39 AM on June 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the advice/reassurance. It turns out that the units use AAA batteries. My hesitation was because I couldn't easily get the covers off by pulling on them and while I didn't have any experience with changing the batteries in thermostats, I do have some sad experience in pulling the cover off things that shouldn't have had the cover pulled off. However, once I stuck a knife under the little opening the cover popped off and everything is hunky dory. Like @Eyebrows McGee, most of my home repairs have been of the "Oh My God!" variety so I tend to go immediately to the worst case situation.
posted by katyjack at 6:09 PM on June 17, 2010

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