Air conditioning is one of those inventions that are so wonderful we couldn’t imagine life without them. Before air conditioning, people did all sorts of wacky stuff to stay cool. In fact, air conditioning completely changed the way that houses and buildings were built! A/C tends to fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” category, but when vacation time hits, many people start to wonder what they should do with their air conditioners while they’re gone. Do you turn them all the way off? Do you just turn them down? This all depends on the kind of air conditioner you have, and your thermostat. We’ll cover everything so you know exactly what to do with your air conditioner while you’re vacationing.
Keep your A/C on during vacation
In short, no, you shouldn’t turn off your air conditioner when you’re on vacation. There are many reasons for this, and we will go over them all in this article. But for a quick summary, you should set your air conditioner either 6º above what you usually have it at, or no higher than 86º, or 80º if you have a pet. Let’s go over why that is:
Your air conditioner keeps your house dehumidified
When air conditioners were invented back in 1902, their purpose was to keep the humidity low at a New York paper plant. The cooling was just a side effect. The amount of water that air can hold is directly related to its temperature. The warmer the air, the more water it can suck up. In short, a hot house is a humid house, too.
Of course, humidity is uncomfortable, but that doesn’t matter while you’re away. But as awful as humidity is for us, it’s even worse for your house. Humidity causes your paint or wallpaper to peel; your window frames, floorboards, and door frames to warp; and in the worst cases it can cause mold, algae, and other nasties to start growing on your wall. Keeping your air conditioner on during vacation will prevent these things from happening.
However, your air conditioner uses a lot of energy to keep you cool
Everybody knows that it’s expensive to run their air conditioner, but few people know just how expensive. Of course, the actual price of your air conditioner depends on your specific unit, the size of your home, the cost of your energy, and your climate, but all across America, air conditioners are the biggest energy suckers of them all. Air conditioners can cost as much as $2 per hour to run! That’s a lot of money wasted if you’re on vacation.
Your air conditioner uses about 5% more energy for every degree cooler it makes your home. The opposite is true as well: for every degree you raise your air conditioner, it uses 5% less energy. So, it makes perfect sense why people would assume it’s best to just turn off their air conditioners while they’re gone. However, there are a few reasons why that isn’t the case:
Your fridge has to work harder
The hotter your house is, the harder your fridge has to work. While this does cause your energy bill to rise slightly, it isn’t likely to break the bank. The real kicker is that those weeks of extra-hard work will shear a good chunk off your fridge’s lifespan. Since a new fridge is a multi-thousand dollar purchase, you probably don’t want to rush it into the grave.
Your savings get lost in the extra cooling your air conditioner has to do when you get home
A lot of the energy you save by turning off the air conditioner during vacation will be eaten back up when your air conditioner has to bring the temperature all the way down to where you usually have it set.
Your air conditioner might not be running at peak efficiency
We’re not talking about SEER or Energy Star ratings here, we’re talking about the loss in efficiency that every air conditioner experiences the longer it goes without maintenance. We find that vacation is a time that gets people thinking about how exactly their air conditioners interact with their energy bills, and that it is one of the best times to talk about maintenance.
Regular maintenance is the single most important factor in a long life and continued efficiency for your air conditioner, but it’s something many people skip. Avoiding maintenance is never a good idea, because for every year your air conditioner isn’t maintained, it has to work harder to achieve the same level of cooling. This amounts to a 5% increase in its energy usage every year, and those costs add up.
Also, many air conditioner manufacturers specify that their warranties are only valid if regular maintenance has been performed on the unit by a trained professional. So, if your air conditioner breaks down within the warranty period but you haven’t had it serviced, you’re out of luck.
The HVAC Company for all your vacation needs
At Steve’s Heating and Cooling, we know how important your air conditioning is. We hope these tips gave you a better idea of how your air conditioner works and how best to take care of it. If you’re worried about how your air conditioner is performing, or if you want to get everything in tip-top shape before vacation, give us a call or request a free quote today.