Well, it’s that time year again for most of us to turn off the heat and turn on the air conditioner. For those of us in the midwest, we don’t get the benefit of having open windows and allowing nature to keep us cool. We go straight from winter to summer, sometimes in just a few days. This drastic change in temperature can result in either dealing with the heat or having your electric bill rise beyond feasible levels. Yet, have no fear, there is a way to stay comfortable while saving energy and I’m going to provide you with the information needed to make this possible
How to Determine the Best Settings for Your Air Conditioner
More people fight over the thermostat (as an adult with children I can attest to this) than the remote, and these fights become more aggressive during periods of extreme heat. These arguments aren’t just about comfort, they’re about money as well because every time someone lowers that thermostat when the weather is hot, it raises your electric bill quite a bit, especially if you don’t have the most energy efficient central air conditioner. At this point, you must be asking “what’s the ideal setting for my central air conditioner?”
Well, as we previously stated, that depends on whether you care more about keeping cool as a cucumber or keeping your utility bill as low as possible. Thankfully, there’s a happy medium that’s equally beneficially that I’m going to explain. We’ve got to add, if your energy provider has any type of cost savings program, such as “budget billing” or savings for using less energy during “peak times”, it’s best to take advantage of these programs. Now, that I’ve mentioned that, let’s get started on how to find that medium to keep everyone happy before verbal arguments turn to fistfights.
According to Energy Star, for optimal cooling and energy efficiency, the coolest you should attempt to keep your house at is 78° F, and that’s only when you’re at home and awake. You may be thinking 78º is not very cool, but keep an open mind. Consider the outside temperature: how nice 78º feels compared to those 90º + days with 100 percent humidity… and imagine you only had some fans and the windows open… Doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? A programmable thermostat will make it easy to match your cooling needs to a schedule that best suits you, but obviously make the adjustments manually if you don’t have a programmable thermostat. Though we must say they are definitely worth the investment as they continue to get less expensive every year and if no one is home most of the day, they easily pay for themselves with the energy savings. Try these setpoints as a guideline for optimal energy conservation:
- 78° F when you’re home and staying.
- 85° F when you’re at work or away.
- 82° F when you’re sleeping – idea – sleep with a sheet as a blanket
- Turn it completely off if you’re not going to be home for an extended period.
More heat tolerant people should attempt to experiment with the temperature, raising it one degree at a time to see how it affects their comfort levels and energy costs. You’ll save three percent on your air conditioning costs for every degree you raise the temperature. That means three percent for every degree higher than the previous setting which is a savings of $3 on every $100 and believe me, that adds up! If you aren’t comfortable at 78° F, lower the temperature a degree at a time. One degree at a time may sound like it will be unnoticeable, but trust me and give it a try. A ceiling or box fan causes a wind chill effect that enhances the cooling process, assisting you in feeling more comfortable at higher temperatures as long as the humidity isn’t too high. Humidity is the main cause for feeling uncomfortable and if you didn’t know, your air conditioner removes humidity so even having it set higher is still beneficial for removing humidity.
Before you go out and buy a new A/C, make sure to inform yourself about the most reliable central air conditioning systems. You’ll be thankful when your neighbors A/C goes out in midst of summer because they just wanted to hurry and have one put in and your A/C is running great for years. Find a suitable thermostat for your central-air system as it’s a key component in helping you save you money.
More Cool Ideas
Obviously, if you live in an area with more moderate temperatures, you may not need your central air conditioning to run all day and night. If this is your case (be thankful for your wise decision as the rest of us sweat it out) simply take advantage of cooler night temperatures by keeping your windows open overnight. Close them on hotter days and keep your shades and curtains closed when it’s sunny outside to prevent the sunlight from heating the inside of your home. If you need the AC on when you get home, you can program it to go on before you arrive or turn it on with a smartphone app. This is yet another advantage and reason to invest in a programmable thermostat
Window air conditioners. Yes, they still exist and are used, as not everyone can afford a central cooling system or the costs to have the system put in place, usually in older homes, and it outweighs the costs of the remodel and cost of the cooling system at one time. It’s very difficult to reach the perfect temperature, especially in each room, when you have a window air conditioner. Because the thermostat is included in the unit itself, it registers the temperature in that room and may not provide a consistent temperature throughout the space you want to cool, depending on how large and open it is. That means getting the right comfort level is more trial and error. Start with it set at 78 degrees and see how you feel. If you have a window unit in your bedroom, turn it on 30 minutes or so before you go to bed so you’re not cooling an empty room. If your window unit is equipped with an “econ” mode, be sure to take advantage of it as it will turn the unit on and off as the thermostat reaches the desired temperature. Box fans are another plus for those with window units as well, as they can aid in spreading the cool air to other rooms without a window unit.
There are ways to beat the heat. No matter what type of air conditioning you have, it’s easier to keep the temperature at a comfortable level (there’s no need to make ice from your cooling system, you just need to be comfortable) if you can prevent heat from getting into your home. The main sources of unnecessary heat entering your home are heat that seeps in from the outdoors, explain this to children who enjoy running in and out of the home every few minutes, heat that emits from your appliances and incandescent light bulbs, and heat from sunlight shining through the windows which is why we recommended keeping that light out as much as possible.
During a heat wave, avoid using your oven, washer, dryer, and dishwasher during the hottest part of the day and be sure you use the exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom when you’re cooking or taking a shower to remove heat as quickly as possible. Cook outside on your grill, if you have one, as much as you can or eat foods that don’t require the oven. Sandwiches and salads are great foods for the summer!
In conclusion, don’t get all worked up and start arguments over the thermostat when you’re already heated. Invest in a programmable thermostat, with which you can lock the temperature setting ahead of time, so you need not worry about it being changed while you’re away. Furthermore, it’s usually a good idea to invest in some box fans and ceiling fans. Take the small measures mentioned, such as closing your shades, minimizing appliance usage, etc. to keep your home cool. This has an additional benefit of letting your cooling system save some energy. Taking these small steps will not only avoid unnecessary arguments, but will also keep you cool, conserve energy, and save you money.