How to Convert Time into Your Local Time Using UTC Hour Offset Numbers

Time and dates, especailly server time stamps, are sometimes written with strange + and – signs next to a UTC abbreviation. Well, the UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time, the time standard of the 25 worldwide time zones.

These numbers are not there to confuse you, they are there to help. Using these numbers, which are called UTC Offset numbers, you can convert any time to your local time. You can essentially figure out what time it is in your time zone, just by using these handy offsets.

Steps to Convert Local Time from UTC Offsets

Take these simple steps to change any time into your local time using the UTC offset.

  1. Find your local time zone offset number. For instance, EST (eastern time) is -5, since it is 5 hours behind UTC.
  2. Account for daylight savings time (UTC does not change for daylight savings). If it is daylight savings time, and you add an hour for daylight savings time, add an hour to the offset number. -5 becomes -4 because (-5 + 1 = -4). Because you set the clocks an hour ahead for daylight savings time, your time is one less hour offset from UTC.
  3. Calculate the difference between your local time zone offset and the time zone offset you want to convert. Remember you are adding positive and negative numbers. Example: Converting 12:01 UTC +2 to your time zone, UTC -4. Calculation: +2 – (-4) = 6. The difference is 6 hours between your time zone (UTC -5) and UTC +2.
  4. Add or subtract the difference in #3 to the time in the time zone you wanted to convert using your -/+ symbol. If your time zone is -UTC, and the other is +UTC, subtract the difference. If your time zone was +UTC and the other was -UTC add the difference. In the example the time was 12:01+UTC and your time zone is -UTC, so it is 12:01 – 6 = 6:01 AM.
  5. Convert to military time if necessary. 6:01 Am would simply be 0600. However if your answer were 2:00 PM, change it to 1400.

You can do the military time conversion before your calculation and simply skip the conversion into 12-hr format. If the time is 1400 UTC + 2. Find the difference in your time zone and the converting time zone. I.E. +2 – (-4) = 6. Change the 6 to 0600 hours, and subtract: 1400 – 0600 = 0800 hours.

When adding or subtracting  negative numbers always pay attention to the real values. Remember that adding a negative is really subtracting that value from it.

10 – (-4) = 14, not 6. Because you are taking away a negative. Removing a negative is really adding that value.

By the same math, -4 + 10 = 6, not 14 because you are adding 10 to a negative, or adding to a deficit. -4 + 10 is really the same as saying 10 – 4.

Hint: Think of the numbers on a scale with 0 in the middle and negative numbers ascending to the left.

-12  -11  -10  -9  -8  -7  -6  -5  -4  -3  -2  -1  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

Learn more about the UTC time zone.