Summer is here and you are trying to find out how to use the air conditioner economically in order to save some money to spend it elsewhere?
I’m an electrical engineer and a certified energy manager, and I’m writing this article in order to help you use your air conditioner efficiently and wisely, so that you save some money to spend it on yourself and on your loved ones instead of giving it to the utility company.
1 – Keep Temperature As High & Comfortable As Possible
The lower the temperature you set your AC to cool the air at, the more electric energy it will consume.
And sometimes, if you set it too low, like 64°F (18°C), while the temperature outside is too high, lets say 104°F (40°C), it might never be able to bring down the temperature indoors into the desired value, especially when you have poor insulation and many windows, which makes the air conditioner work all the time at full capacity and never stop.
You don’t need to have the temperature at such a low level in order to feel comfortable.
To use the air conditioner economically, try to keep the setting as high, yet comfortable, as possible.
That’s the best temperature for AC to save money while used for cooling.
As per Energy.gov, you could save up to 10% a year on the air cooling bill just by turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from the normal setting you are used to setting it at.
In general, the ideal ac temperature to save electricity while cooling could be anywhere between 75-80°F (24-26°C).
Going lower than that value will considerably increase the electric AC bill without giving you noticeable difference in comfort.
And when you turn on the AC, don’t set the temperature too low thinking that this will make it run faster, it won’t.
All it does is that it keeps running longer at full speed trying to get the low setting you gave it.
Just set it on the optimal temperature level mentioned above and it will do its job in getting the air to that level as fast as possible.
One additional note is not to confuse the thermostat and keep changing the setting.
Just choose one temperature that is comfortable and leave it there for the day, and maybe a different temperature (higher) at evening, and keep it there.
2 – Choose The Right Thermostat Location
Placing the thermostat in the wrong place can cause it to get an inaccurate reading of the temperature, and thus, keep the AC working for longer time thinking that the room temperature hasn’t gone down to the desired level yet.
For example, if you put the thermostat too close to a television or any appliance that gives heat, an unusually warm wall, close to a window, or somewhere subject to the radiation from a lighting unit, or even subject to a direct sunlight, then even when the temperature in the room reaches the desired value, the thermostat will still think that it hasn’t, and it will keep running the AC at full capacity trying to get lower.
To ensure using the air conditioner effectively, try to avoid placing the thermostat in a place where there’s a heat source, and definitely, don’t place it outside the zone you are trying to cool down, like placing it in the corridor for example.
3 – Use a Smart Programmable Thermostat
This is another effective way for economical use of the AC for cooling.
Smart thermostats can be programmed so that they would turn on and off the air conditioner at specific times and temperature degrees as you set them in advance.
This is great, because you can schedule your AC to work during the hours when someone is in the place they are in, and turn it off when nobody is expected to be there, instead of forgetting them on.
Add to that, you can schedule your AC to work at different temperature settings based on the hours of the day, and based on the season, as explained in the previous tip above.
Add to that, some smart thermostats can be accessed through a WiFi connection, so that you control them remotely through your mobile phone when you go out and forget to turn them off.
For normal AC split units that don’t come with a separate thermostat, you may use the timer in the remote control to schedule it to turn off at a certain hour in order to not to forget it on when nobody needs it.
4 – Do Regular AC Maintenance & Cleaning
Regular maintenance and cleaning is necessary for using the air conditioner efficiently.
Unclean filters, dusty vents, and evaporator/condenser coils can significantly decrease the efficiency of the air conditioner, and thus, causing it to work at full capacity for longer hours that it is necessary in order to give you the desired temperature.
And the same applies for insulated AC gas pipes and ducts cracks in the ducts when they are used.
Try to inspect and clean the different parts of the air conditioner on regular basis as per the manufacturer recommendation.
Typically, for the general maintenance of the AC, you better call a specialized technician to inspect the whole system twice a year.
And for the cleaning, especially for filters that might need to be replaced, it might be required every three months, and sometimes, more frequently, depending on how fast they get dusty, which depends on the area where they are installed.
5 – Turn it off a While before Leaving
The cool air will remain there for a while even after you turn off the AC unit.
You don’t need to wait to the last minute before leaving the place in order to turn it off.
Try to switch it off, whether manually or through the programmable thermostat, fifteen to twenty minutes before leaving, and you should still enjoy the cool air during that time.
6 – Cool Only The Places In Use
You don’t need to turn on the air conditioners in the whole place in order to feel comfortable, just turn on the unit in the room you are occupying.
And in case of a central AC system, there should be the zone cooling feature that allows you to turn on enough of the system to cool down a certain zone and use the dampers inside the ducts in order to direct the air flow into that zone.
7 – Separate & Insulate Rooms/Zones Well
Just as you need to cool down the rooms in use, you also need to keep the cold air in those rooms in order to run and use the air conditioner as effectively as possible.
If you let the cool air to escape to other spaces, or if you let the hot air to creep in, then the air conditioner will work longer than needed at full capacity in order to maintain the desired temperature.
Some of the tips that help you separate the cooled areas and maintain the cool air are:
- Keep the doors closed, using door sweeps, and using automatic door closer or air curtains when there’s frequent use of the door by many people.
- Keep windows closed, use awnings to prevent direct sun rays from entering and heating the air inside, or close shutters or blinds when available, or use UV window film to reflect the most of the direct sunlight.
- Make a cool roof with the proper method depending on the roof type.
- Inspect and fix the insulation at the windows and doors, and in the walls between the different rooms, and between the inside and the outside of the whole place.
- Plant trees when possible around the place to provide shade from the direct sunlight that heats up the air through windows, or heats up the walls themselves.
8 – Use The Air Conditioner Only When it’s Really Necessary
For most of the days, even during summer, it is only necessary to use the air conditioner for cooling for few hours a day, and for the rest of the day or at night, you can live comfortably even when it is turned off.
Try to be more conscious and see when you can just turn it off and either enjoy the already cool air that will stay for a while, especially as the temperature outside drops down.
And maybe, you may just need to open the windows, after turning the AC off, and allow the air to move inside the place and give you a comfortable feeling.
And if you are leaving the place for one hour or two, then turn it off during these hours.
It is not more efficient to leave the air conditioning on when the area it is cooling is not in use, and definitely, it is not cheaper to leave air conditioner on all day.
9 – Use Fan & Dehumidifier Modes
Sometimes, the air temperature is fine, but you don’t feel comfortable for a different reason other than the heat.
It is possible that all what you need is to circulate the air a little bit, and to do so, you can either use a separate fan, or switch the AC to the fan mode that comes with almost all air conditioners, and that should consume a lot less energy than using the cooling mode all the time.
And when it comes to places with high humidity, then that could be the reason of making you feel hot even if the temperature is already low.
In that case, you don’t need to cool down the air further in order to feel comfortable, but rather, to bring the humidity level down.
To do so, you need to either use a separate dehumidifier, or to switch the AC to the dehumidifier mode in order to lower down the humidity level.
And at relatively dry and hot areas with humidity around 70% and below 75%, you might consider using an evaporative cooler instead of the AC and it should give you cool air at less energy consumption.
10 – Install Proper AC Size
Normally, AC units work at the highest efficiency when they operate at their rated or nominal values.
Over-sizing AC units can cause them to run at a much lower capacity than the rated capacity, and thus, at a lower efficiency.
This is because there are energy losses that will be consumed anyway, and the amount of these losses are related to the size of the unit, and will be consumed regardless if you operate it at full or half capacity.
This is why they are called no-load losses.
To minimize these losses, pick the right size of the AC unit or system based on the area, occupation, and the insulation so you use ac with less power consumption.
Don’t install a 1.5-ton air conditioner where a 1-ton unit is enough.
And when it comes to using 110V or 220V AC units, there’s no difference in efficiency. You need to pick the voltage rating based on your utility company’s voltage.
11 – Use Energy Star or Solar AC Units
If you are using an old AC unit that has low efficiency, or if you are installing an air conditioner for the first time, you better get an efficient AC unit that would save you money on the long run while giving the same level of cooling.
For picking and using efficient AC units, try to get units with the Energy Star label that is give only to appliances that consider the most recent efficiency guidelines and best practices.
And maybe, you can get AC units that work on solar energy using PV solar panels, or hybrid ones that can work using both, electricity from the grid and from the solar energy panels.
Make sure first to choose the right size based on the previous tip above on choosing air conditioner size to run at highest efficiency.
12 – Give Shade for External Unit
The external unit of the air conditioning system (compressor) works on cooling down the refrigerant inside the gas pipes, which then travels to the internal unit in order to cool down the air inside.
And if the compressor is subject to the direct sunlight for long hours, then its job will get more difficult, and it will not be able to bring down the refrigerant temperature as low as possible compared to when it is not subject to direct sunlight, and it will take longer time to cool down the air inside.
This means that it will consume much more energy and will increase the AC electric bill.
To prevent this, try to install the compressor at a point where it is not subject to direct sunlight during the hot hours of the day.
And if it was already installed in a sunny spot, then consider installing something that would provide it with shade.
13 – Avoid Heat Generating Appliances
To use the air conditioner economically, you better first eliminate, or at least reduce, all the heat sources that contribute to the hot air in the rooms being cooled.
Otherwise, it would be like trying to fill in a water tank when there’s a hole that keeps spilling the water out.
Try to reduce the use of appliances that generate heat in the same zone being cooled.
For example, rely on the natural light instead of using many lighting units that emit heat, and replace the incandescent light bulbs with LED lights that have higher efficiency and emit much less heat.
And for the appliances that you can operate anytime, such as the iron, wash machine, dishwasher, …etc., try to postpone using them until evening hours when you don’t need to keep the AC on and you can just open the windows.
And for cooking, which is a major source of heat, you may consider getting solar cooker that you can use outside in the backyard.
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Conclusion – Best Way to Use The AC Effectively?
There you go.
These were 13 ways for using the air conditioner effectively and save money.
See which of these ways can be used in your case in order to save electricity with the air conditioner and try to take advantage of it.
And while almost all of these ways are directly related to the air conditioning system, but there are many other tips that don’t necessarily depend on operating the AC itself, but they could be related to the user behavior and the area, which I detailed in this list of 23 ways to save on the AC bill.
If you still need help, or if you have any question about any of the 13 ways for using air conditioner economically that I mentioned here, please, tell me in the comments section below, and I will do my best to come back to you asap