Thermostat Wire Colors CodeThermostat Wire Colors Code – Always follow the thermostat manufacturers instructions whenever changing the thermostat. Always turn the power off at the air handler and the condenser and make sure there is no voltage at the transformer before proceeding. The thermostat wire colors below are the most likely colors used for most installations however your thermostat wire colors may be different than what is indicated here. There is no official standard for thermostat wire colors. Thermostat wiring colors are not standardized but these are the most wiring methods used based on my years of experience in the HVAC field where I successfully wired a lot of thermostats. For instructions on how to wire a thermostat please see our how to wire a thermostat page.

Thermostat Wire Colors Code – High Performance HVAC Tstat Terminal Designations

Thermostat Wiring and Wire Color Chart – Thermostat Wire Colors Code
Tstat Terminal Designation Color of Wire and Termination
R – The R terminal is the power. This comes from the transformer usually located in the air handler for split systems but you may find the transformer in the condensing unit. For this reason, it is a good idea to kill the power at the condenser and the air handler before changing or working on the wiring at the tstat. If you have a package unit then the transformer is in the package unit. Red for the R terminal. *Although be aware that this may have changed especially if the person who wired the thermostat didn’t use conventional color coding.
RC – The RC terminal is designated for the power for cooling. Some HVAC systems use two transformers. A transformer for cooling and a transformer for heating. In this case the power from the transformer in the air conditioning system would go to the thermostat terminal. It should be noted that a jumper can be installed between RC and RH for a heating and cooling system equipped with a single transformer. Red for RC terminal. *Although be aware that this may have changed especially if the person who wired the thermostat didn’t use conventional color coding.
RH – The RH terminal is designated for the power for heating. See RC above for an explanation. It should be noted that a jumper can be installed between RC and RH for a heating and cooling system equipped with a single transformer. Red for RH terminal. *Although be aware that this may have changed especially if the person who wired the thermostat didn’t use conventional color coding.
Y – This is the terminal for cooling or air conditioning and goes to the compressor relay. Typically a thermostat wire pull is made to the air handler on split systems and then this wire is spliced for the separate wire pull which is made to the condenser. Some manufacturers put a terminal board strip near the control board in the air handler so a splice is not needed. Yellow for Y Terminal. *Although be aware that this may have changed especially if the person who wired the thermostat didn’t use conventional color coding.
Y2 – This is the terminal for cooling second stage if your system is so equipped. Many systems only have a single compressor but if you have two compressors which should only operate off of one thermostat then you need the Y2 thermostat terminal for second stage cooling. *The most common color I’ve seen used for this terminal and wire designation is light blue but this varies and is completely up to the installer what color to use.
W – This is the terminal for heating. This wire should go directly to the heating source whether it be a gas or oil furnace, electric furnace, or boiler or auxiliary heating for a heat pump. White for W Terminal. *Although be aware that this may have changed especially if the person who wired the thermostat didn’t use conventional color coding.
W2 – This is the terminal used for second stage heat. There are gas furnaces with low fire and high fire and some depend on control from a two-stage heating thermostat with a W2 terminal. Heat Pumps use staging for auxiliary heat and need a W2 terminal. *The most common color I’ve seen used for this terminal and wire designation is brown but this varies and is completely up to the installer what color to use.
G – This is the terminal used for the fan relay to energize the indoor blower fan. On a split system the blower fan is in the air handler while with a package unit the blower fan is in the outdoor package unit. Green for G Terminal. *Although be aware that this may have changed especially if the person who wired the thermostat didn’t use conventional color coding.
C – This is the terminal which originates from the transformer and is necessary to complete the 24 volts power circuit in the thermostat but only if the thermostat consumes electricity for power. Many digital thermostats require 24 volts for power so the common wire is necessary. C stands for common and there is no universal color used for this terminal although black is the most common color I’ve seen.
O or B – These terminals are for heat pumps and the B tstat terminal is used on for Rheem or Ruud and any manufacturer that energizes the reversing valve in heating mode for the heat pump. Most other manufacturers of heat pumps will utilize the reversing valve for cooling and the O thermostat terminal will be utilized for this purpose. This wire goes to outside heat pump condenser where the reversing valve is located. Orange for O and Dark Blue for B depending on the installer of the heat pump and the manufacturer. If you have a Trane, Carrier, Goodman, Lennox, Ducane, Heil, Fedders, Amana, Janitrol, or any other manufacturer other than Rheem or Ruud you will be utilizing the orange wire for reversing valve. Rheem and Ruud will usually utilize the blue wire for reversing valve.
E – This terminal is for heat pumps and stands for Emergency Heating. If for whatever reason the heat pump condenser fails and it is necessary to run the heat there is an option on heat pump thermostats for emergency heating. Basically this simply utilizes the back-up heat source many heat pumps have to heat the home without sending a signal to the condenser to run for heat. E – There is no universal color used for this  terminal designation but this should be wired directly to the heating relay or the E terminal on a terminal strip board in the air handler or package unit if you have a heat pump package unit.
X or Aux – This terminal is for back-up on a heat pump and allows for auxiliary heating from the back-up heat source usually located in the air handler. X or Aux – There is no universal color used for this terminal designation but this should be wired directly to the heating relay or the Aux terminal on a terminal strip board in the air handler or package unit if you have a heat pump package unit.
S1 & S2 or Outdoor 1 and Outdoor 2 – Some tstats have this terminal and it used for an outdoor temperature sensor. The wire uses for this should be special shielded wire and completely separate form the other thermostat wires. Using shielded wire prevents electromagnetic forces generated from other wires from interfering with the signal inside the shielded wire. A remote temperature sensor is a solid state device and the signal needed to get an accurate temperature is sensitive to electromagnetic forces from other wiring inside the structure.

Thermostat Wire Colors Code

Additional thermostat wire color code resources can be found here.

High Performance HVAC

Thermostat Wire Colors Code