Many homeowners turn their air conditioner off during the day to conserve energy and save money on their electricity bill, but at the end of the billing period they see no return for their efforts. This discrepancy is the result of a common misconception many people share about their thermostats. This misconception happens when a homeowner comes home to a hot house after a hard day of work and immediately turns their thermostat down well beyond their desired temperature. They do this in a bid to cool their home faster, but instead they’re wasting the energy savings they’ve accumulated during the day.
In reality, your air conditioner can only cool your home so fast. Your A/C unit works at a set cooling and heating pace no matter how low you set the temperature of your home. Once your A/C unit turns on, air collects in the return and goes through the unit. The stagnant air in your home is cooled by set increments as it is conditioned, and this cooling cycle continues until the air in your home matches your thermostat setting. The unit will skip right past your desired temperature if you set it lower, and the constantly shifting temperature will make you more uncomfortable than if you had left it alone.
Even worse, setting your thermostat lower than your desired temperature will put stress on your air conditioner. This is especially true if the temperature difference between the inside of your home and the outside is very high. This stress from extended cooling can cause your A/C unit to use even more energy than it would normally, further negating efforts you may be making to conserve energy. Prolonged cooling periods will also increase the wear of your system, shortening its lifespan and putting the machinery in danger of damage.
Instead of turning your thermostat all the way down to cool your home, try turning on the ceiling fan. Ceilings fans aid your A/C unit by moving stagnant air, and can create a wind chill effect that will cool you down while your unit works. You should also regularly change your air filter and keep up with system maintenance. Having your air conditioner properly checked once a year can ensure it’s working at its highest efficiency. Simple maintenance can also prevent costly repairs down the road.
If you’re having serious problems cooling your home, don’t rely on your air conditioner alone. Go a step further and look at the insulation around places where cold air can escape. Windows, doors and attic spaces are often under-insulated, and should be fixed.
During the summer, a comfortable temperature for most homeowners is between 79 and 74 degrees, depending on the home and the factors mentioned above. With all this in mind, remember nothing is more important and more often overlooked than setting the thermostat to the desired temperature, not below it.