Air conditioners are a big purchase – they’re not cheap and we rely on them so much during summer. We all want to make sure we get the most out of an appliance like this, so I’ve put together this tips list on how to use an air conditioner as efficiently as possible.
To get the most from an air conditioner, cool the space as much as you can in the morning then rely on the AC to maintain temperature. Check it regularly, and favor long slow cooling over changing a furnace into a fridge.
By making sure we’re efficient in using an air conditioner, we can reduce our bill and enjoy the maximum amount of cooling. Not to mention avoiding overloading the appliance – which will extend its healthy lifespan. If you’re reading because you’re tired of listening to an old AC rattling and whirring away, I’ve also written to great guides to quiet air conditioners. Check out this one for quiet portable air conditioners, or this other one for quiet window air conditioners.
How to Get The Most Out of Your AC – 21 Tips
Since 21 is quite a big number – I’ve split our tips into two categories. The first is everything to do with the air conditioner itself, and the second is a few extra tips and tricks you can do around the home to help keep the workload on your air conditioner down.
Air Conditioner Tips
- Pre-program before you’re home. If you’re lucky enough to have an AC with a programmable timer, use it! Don’t arrive home and whack the poor machine on full blast. Instead, let it switch itself on 30 minutes before you’re home, and slowly cool down your whole space. Air conditioners work best when continuously for long periods, rather than trying to blast-cool a whole room.
- Set your thermostat high. This sounds counter-intuitive, I know. What I mean is, try to find the highest temperature that will still let you feel cool. For every temperature degree you need to drop, your air conditioner works harder and harder. For example, if you want to cool the room down by 10 degrees, the ac has to work more than double as hard than dropping it by 5 degrees. Also, AC’s are intended to only drop the temperature by about 15-25 degrees Fahrenheit (about 8-12C). Keep this in mind in summer – as demanding more than this is where you really start to overwork an AC.
- Throw some shade. Keep the air conditioner out of the sun! This is like putting in an oven and asking it to cool the house. It will work double as hard. If it’s a window a/c – bear in mind what windows are going to be getting the most sunlight.
- Keep it free. For the AC to work properly, make sure it’s got plenty of free space around it. If it’s a window ac stuck behind your drapes, or a portable ac stuck behind a couch, it may just cool down that tiny area and think the job is done! Make sure it’s in touch with the wider air of the whole space you want to cool.
- Make sure all air pipes are clear. If you’re questioning the AC’s efficiency, it’s always worth a double check to make sure all the intake and outtake pipes are free of blockages. It’s also worth making sure that the air intake isn’t above another vent that could have hot air coming out of it and going into the air conditioner!
- Change your filters. This is pretty standard, but it’s always worth a reminder to change your filters around once a month when you’re using an air conditioner frequently. You don’t end up with a build up of air conditioner mold!
- While you’re at it – also make sure the coils of the air conditioner are clean. Any dirt will insulate the coils, making it harder for the appliance to cool down the air. All it takes is a quick scrub down and it’ll be like giving your air conditioner a breath of fresh air. These are just on the back of any standard air conditioner. This also applies to the compressor unit if you have a full home system. Not quite sure how to do it? Learn how in under 2 minutes with this quick video:
- Keep it on Low. Air conditioners work best when on for a longer period of time. If you’re just heading out for 30 minutes – an hour, just leave it maintining a temperature on low power. This should actually save you energy opposed to letting the room heat up and needing to cool it down again.
- Give it a fan-hand. If you’ve got a larger space, or want to encourage the cooling in another room, it’s completely fine to help out an air conditioner by placing a fan next to it. It’ll help move the cold air throughout a larger space for more targetted cooling over a larger area.
- If your AC has slowly been getting worse, think about a service. A leak in the system of an air conditioner is like a puncture on a bike. You may not notice it right away, but pretty soon you’re not going to be going anywhere. If the cooling power is suddenly dropping off, it may be worth taking it in for a service to have a full check. Especially if it’s not ‘that’ old! An HVAC technician will tell you do this once a year, but if you’re not noticing any issues then every 2nd or 3rd spring may be just fine.
- In an emergency, reach for the ice. It may sound elementary, but a bucket of ice sitting under a window or portable a/c can make a difference. Especially if you’re just starting to cool the room down from warm – a generous bucket of ice can provide an extra boost and take some of the load off of the air conditioner.
Tips for the Home
Getting the most out of your air conditioner can simply mean not relying on it for all of your cooling. There are a fair few things you can do around the house to help it out. By taking lightning the workload of the appliance, an air conditioner will cool quicker, and last longer.
Note – I’ve actually written a HUGE 73 tips post on how to keep cool without an air conditioner at all. If the heat is really beating down, check it out here. It’s completely free 🙂
- Rise and shine – make that fresh air mine! First thing in the morning, open up your windows and let that cool morning air flush out your whole home. It’s the best chance to naturally cool your home all day. Once things start heating up, that’s when to close them and let the air conditioner keep things cool, rather than make things cool.
- Limit Hot Appliances. Though you may not feel it, using a dishwasher or doing laundry creates a lot of heat and hot water. This all adds up, especially during the afternoon – and it rests with your air conditioner to deal with it. Try to limit any hot appliance use to the mornings or evenings if they must be done.
- Turn off electronics. Just like the above, all electronics produce heat in some way. While some are barely noticable, others – like chargers, computers, and screens – will have an effect over time. I’m not saying go full cave-man, just only power on what you’re using.
- Take cooler showers. You may be doing this anyway, but if anyone must have a hot shower – be wary. Not only because of the temperature, but the steam makes for a bunch of extra humidity. And guess which appliance needs to process that!
- Adjust your thermostat. If you’re using a smart thermostat, bear in mind the tips on heat settings above. Consider varying it with the seasons, and allow for a few degrees of extra warmth in the summer. It’ll still be much cooler than outside, but will save your system so much work by avoiding those extra few degrees.
- Don’t let the sun in. When it comes to keeping a room cool – there’s a basic rule. If the sun’s shining it, close the curtains. If it’s just shade, you can keep them open. Basically, if direct sunlight is coming through the glass and into the room, it’s going to be heating things up. Whenever you spot direct sunlight coming in, blocking it will keep things cooler.
- Be mindful of vents. If you’re lucky enough to have vents in your home, always make sure to have the ones going to cooler rooms (ie the basement) wide open. And close shut vents to any hotter rooms. One air conditioner is typically meant for one room, not the whole house!
- Check for drafts/leaks. Drafts and air leaks are kind of like vents… just surprise unwanted ones! Drafty doors and window seals can mean a ton of precious air-conditioned air being lost, and replaced with heat. If you want a way to check, light a candle and hold it near any suspected airway. If it starts to flicker, you may want to get the sealant ready.
- Focus the cooling. When things are really hot, your best bet is to focus cooling one specific space. Choose a room, close all the doors and seal it as best you can. Follow all the tips in this guide, but only apply it to a smaller area. It’ll take the load off of your ac, and make you way more comfortable.
- Consider a home energy audit. If you really want to roll your sleeves up, the Natural Resources Defense Council have a fantastic article on how to ‘audit’ the energy in your home. It’s a great guide to make sure you’re getting the most out of all your energy, and all your appliances. It’s a full guide, but worth a look.
I hope the tips here have given you a few ideas on how to help out an air conditioner. As we’ve seen – there’s more to it than just checking and servicing it as an appliance. By helping out your air conditioner you’ll be getting the most out of it, and saving yourself tons in electric bills and repair costs in the future.
If you’re want a huge list of cooling tips like this one, check out my full run-down of 73 ways to keep cool without an air conditioner. You’re guaranteed to come away with a few ‘aha!’ things to try at home.
Or, if you’re considering shopping for a new air conditioner, I’ve put together two guides I’m proud of. The first is for quiet portable air conditioners, and the second is for quiet window air conditioners. Both guides are focused entirely on QUIET models. (Or should I say quiet…!). Because I hate loud, noisy ac’s, and I’m sure you do too!
Have a great day!