What Do The Aircon Symbols Mean?

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Updated May 15, 2023

Many of the best air conditioners have technological settings that allow a user to optimize for comfort and efficiency. But as the options and settings continuously change, it can be hard to know what they mean. Air conditioner remote controls and units have symbols that mean different things. A snowflake is for cooling, a sun is for heating, and a fan means the fan mode. “+” and “-” signs change the temperature. Timer, sleep mode, dehumidification mode, and air purification are other symbols. Some also have symbols for swing, airflow direction, turbo mode to cool quickly, and eco mode to save energy.

For a thorough analysis of one of these options, you can read our article explaining the air conditioner auto mode


  • The different settings/symbols on your AC unit achieve many tasks that can save you money and increase the longevity of your air conditioning unit.
  • AUTO and ECO are great energy-saving modes available on most modern air conditioners.
  • The SELF-CLEAN mode eliminates moisture inside of the machine and protects from the growth of mold, mildew, or rust.

The Meaning of AC Symbols

Whether you have a window, portable unit, or central AC, each type of air conditioner has many settings choices. These settings range from energy efficiency to higher air quality to machine maintenance. For more info on A/C beginner education, check out what is a good SEER rating for an air conditioner and what does BTU mean for an A/C.

Insider Tip

The more you use your air conditioner, the better the chance of moisture within the unit causing damage or erosion. So the more you use your unit, the more you should use the DRY or SELF-CLEAN function.

To get better acquainted with an essential piece of your AC, ‌check out our article explaining what air conditioner filters do. For more maintenance articles, read how to change the power cord on a window A/C unit, how to winterize an air conditioner, and how to fix a portable air conditioner.


COOL mode does exactly what it says: it cools. It’s usually represented by a snowflake symbol, and when you select this mode, it puts the air conditioner’s compressor into motion. The compressor is the part that pushes the air-cooled using a refrigerant. 

FAN Mode

FAN mode doesn’t use any cooling elements and is usually represented by a whirling air or fan symbol. This setting simply circulates air around a room instead of using the coolant/compressor system. But for top-rated tower air conditioners, mostly use a fan system.


COOL mode consumes the most energy, so it will have the biggest impact on your energy bills.

AUTO Mode 

If you haven’t used AUTO mode yet, now is the time to try. This setting, symbolized by three or four arrows connected into a square or triangle, increases indoor comfort by automatically sensing the programmed ambient temperature and drastically reducing energy consumption. In addition, it cycles the fan and compressor by switching them on and off whenever the desired temperature gets too low or high and keeps it right at the perfect balance.


SELF-CLEAN (or AUTO CLEAN or DRY mode) is a setting that eliminates moisture inside the air conditioning unit. This setting helps prevent any mold or fungus from growing inside the machine and helps prevent rust. The symbol most commonly associated with this setting is a water droplet or just the text “Self-Clean.” For those looking for the best portable AC for an RV, this setting is a must-have to ensure your air conditioning unit will last.

ECO Mode

The eco mode is often symbolized by a leaf, tree, or recycling symbol. Similar to the AUTO mode, this controls the compressor cycle. However, where the AUTO mode optimizes to a specific temperature, the ECO mode optimizes energy consumption efficiency. ECO mode slows the compressor down and sometimes allows the unit to let the indoor temperature go above the set temperature. You can find ECO mode on the unit featured in our Koldfront PAC1402W Portable Air Conditioner review.

STAT: ECO mode powers down the air conditioner compressor to about 70% strength. (source)


What to do if Your AC Remote is Lost or Broken?

One way to get a replacement remote is by phoning the manufacturer and asking for a replacement. Also, if you have a modern air conditioner, you can install a smart thermostat and use your phone as the AC remote.

What does the sun symbol on an air conditioner do?

The sun symbol represents the HEAT mode. HEAT mode reverses the airflow process, so hot air is pumped into the room instead of cold air.

Why should you service your car’s AC?

Making sure the refrigerant is charged does two things: it boosts the effectiveness of your AC system and decreases overall fuel consumption.

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