Air conditioners are typically the biggest users of power in the home, so it is no surprise that many people shut off their system to save electricity. However, there is a lot of confusion about whether or not this is actually a good idea. Is it a better idea to leave your AC on or off when you leave home? Here’s what you need to know.
Does It Use Less Money to Turn Your AC Off?
First of all, it is important to dispel the myth that your AC will have to work so hard to cool your home back down that it ends up costing more to shut down your air conditioning. That simply is not how AC systems work. Your AC runs at the same speed regardless of what temperature it is. To cool your home down more, it simply runs a little longer.
This means that if you left your AC on all day, it would switch on and off frequently to maintain a cool temperature. Meanwhile, if you only turn it on in the evening, it will run steadily for a few hours instead of switching on and off several times. Ultimately, all the time spent turning on and off adds up. Your AC will actually run longer overall if it is left on all day instead of being shut off. If you turn it off for part of the day, it runs less and results in more energy savings for you.
In almost all cases, it will save you money to shut off your AC while you are away from home. However, some cities charge more for electricity used during peak hours which is usually between about 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. If you live in an area with this sort of payment plan, it may cost more to cool your home down in the evening than keep it cool during the day. The savings typically outweigh the higher costs of nighttime cooling, but every power company is different. You will need to check your local electricity rates before assuming you will get big savings.
Is It Bad for Your System to Shut Off the AC?
Another thing people worry about is the safety of their equipment. Some people have heard that forcing your system to run continuously in the evening is bad. Supposedly, making your air conditioning run for too long will burn out your system and cause it to break down sooner. This is technically true, but only if your air conditioning was running literally nonstop. Having your AC run for a couple of hours to cool down your home in the evenings will not put enough strain on your system to blow out a compressor.
In fact, some experts believe that turning off your AC during the day can actually be good for the system. Since it runs less time overall, you are putting less wear and tear on your system. Furthermore, most ACs are fairly stable when they are running at full speed. Breakdowns are more likely to happen when the machine is shutting off or turning on since this involves a lot of small parts suddenly being put into motion or halted. By running your AC more consistently in the evening, you can prevent short-cycling that could cause problems with your machine.
Reasons Not to Shut Off Your Air Conditioning
So if it saves money and does not hurt your system, why would anyone keep their AC running during the day? The unfortunate reality is that this AC schedule simply does not fit most people’s needs and schedules. If you have a typical nine-to-five job, shutting off your AC means it is not running during the hottest part of the day. In Florida, that means you could easily end up coming home to a house in the 90s. It could then take three to five hours to get the home cooled down to a comfortable temperature, by which time you would already be in bed.
In addition to cooling down the home, ACs also remove humidity. If your air conditioner is not running for hours, your home can become extremely humid. This is bad for both home furnishings and the house itself. Mold and mildew are more likely to grow, and wood or paper can warp. Any delicate electronics may get damaged. Another potential problem is that the extra high inside temperatures caused by shutting off your AC can be dangerous to other living beings. If you have a pet or a lot of houseplants, it is not a good idea to turn off your air conditioning.
Turn AC Up—Not Off
How can you save money without making your home horrifically uncomfortable? For most homeowners, the best compromise is turning their thermostat up instead of shutting it off completely. When you leave for work, turn your thermostat to somewhere between 75 and 85 degrees. This makes your AC run far less, so you still save money. However, it will switch on every now and then, so your home doesn’t reach extra high temperatures. Then when you come home, you can drop it back down to your preferred temperature fairly quickly.
Just a 1-degree difference in thermostat settings increases your AC efficiency by around one to 5%. This translates to impressive savings. The exact amount you save will depend on your current energy rates, the type of system you have, and the temperature setting you choose. Homeowners who bump up their thermostats by 7 to 10 degrees for just eight hours each day can reduce their cooling costs by roughly 10%.
Get More Savings With a Programmable Thermostat
It is possible to save money by frequently adjusting a traditional thermostat. However, it can be a little time consuming to mess with it each time you leave and enter your home. A better option for many homeowners is a programmable thermostat. These thermostats can either learn your schedule automatically, or you can set it to turn to a different temperature at each time. This can save around 10% to 15% on your monthly cooling bill. A programmable thermostat provides enough savings to pay for itself within a couple of years.
In addition to being convenient, programmable thermostats are also great because they handle the temperature switches for you. After keeping the temperature in the 80s all day, a programmable thermostat can start running a few hours before you are scheduled to come home from work. This means that when you actually get home, it feels great. Programmable thermostats can also slightly increase temperature after you fall asleep, so you get more savings in the evening too.
McGowan’s Heating & Air Conditioning is here to help make sure your air conditioner runs as efficiently as possible. We can answer all your questions about how to set your thermostat, and our technicians can assist you with regular maintenance. Northeastern Florida residents can count on us for all sorts of AC and heating repairs, installations, and maintenance. Call us today to schedule an appointment.