During the summer the biggest fear of all when it comes to paying our monthly bills is the cost of our electric bills. At the time of this writing this article, many regions of the United States are engulfed in a serious heat wave. The bottom line is, we can’t live without air conditioning during the hottest times of the year.
This has forced many of us to become “thermostat conscious”. Some people even become obsessed at manually controlling their thermostats in an attempt to keep their electric bills from rising too high. But eventually, as soon as the temperature outside rises higher than 90 degrees, we immediately crank down the thermostat to cool our homes.
One theory to keeping our energy usage reasonable is to cool down the house, turn off the air conditioner and then turn it back on again later once things start to get a little bit uncomfortable. But is that really a reasonable approach? Most likely, you will get tired of doing this after a few days. But consider the reason for taking this approach in the first place.
The assumption is that turning your air conditioner on and off saves electricity. If you think about it, turning anything off will save electricity — that is a given. But what about turning the air conditioner on and off?
It’s important at this point to understand how your air conditioner really works. No matter what temperature your thermostat is set at, your air conditioning unit won’t work any harder for lower temps or less harder at higher temps.
The thermostat simply regulates when to turn on the air conditioning unit (and when to turn it back off). For example, if you have the thermostat set to 78, once the room reaches that temperature, the unit will kick on. After the room is cooled to the set temp, the unit shuts off. In other words, the thermostat controls the rate at which the air conditioning unit turns on and off.
Now let’s go back to the theory of manually turning off the thermostat. Remember that the theory is that once we get comfortable with the temperature in our home, we turn the unit back off again. The question is, what is the definition of comfortable? How long will you let the unit run before turning it off again? How low do you have the thermostat set?
Based on your personal definition of “comfort”, you may actually use MORE energy trying to cool your home after leaving the a/c off for a significant period of time. And let’s be honest. How long can you keep up with that process?
The point is, there are too many factors to determine if you can really save money by turning the air conditioning unit on and off. The best advice we could give is to set the thermostat at a higher setting and let it cycle itself on and off during the day. As mentioned earlier, the thermostat basically controls the rate to which the a/c unit turns on and off.
If you have the thermostat set at, say, 68, it will run much longer (possibly all day) because the room will never get below that temp. But if you have it set to 78, the a/c will cycle off more during the day which, in turn, will save you more money. In fact, reports have shown that for every degree you raise your thermostat, you save 3% off your electric bill.
The other thing we want to mention is that when your home is going to be empty for a few hours (for example during the day when you’re at work), it is a good idea to turn the unit completely off.