Space cooling is the No. 1 energy consumer in your home, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In fact, it towers over lighting, water heating and space heating to take 13 percent of your average electric bill. So, it’s no wonder the thermostat is constantly contested among couples, families and roommates. It’s always comfort versus cost.
What are your tricks to keep the home cool without spiking the bill? Some people turn off their A/C completely while at work; others find a higher-but-tolerable temperature to maintain for the day. To know the best strategy for your home, you need to understand how your system works and where all that energy is going, then you can keep it cool without emptying your bank account.
How Does an HVAC System Work?
The HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) is much more than just a fan, and uses several components to evenly distribute cold air throughout your home. You can see how the complete HVAC system works in this infographic, but it comes down to three important pieces — compressor, filter and electrical elements.
The compressor is what sends cold liquid through coils that cool the air blowing into your home. The filter keeps dust and other microbes out of your air ducts. Electrical elements include the thermostat and other controls, which maintain temperature in the home.
Energy Myths Debunked
There’s a lot of bad science out there regarding cooling your home, what works, what doesn’t and what actually saves energy. Let’s lay waste to the myths once and for all:
Myth: Cranking the A/C cools a home faster.
Your air conditioning unit is either on or it’s off, but it doesn’t have a hyper mode. Setting it to 66 degrees will not force it to reach 72 any faster than just setting it to 72 and leaving it alone, but it could cost you big if you forget to change the settings as it gets cooler.
Myth: Leaving a fan on while away keeps a room cool.
Fans cool people, not rooms. Leaving them on while away is just a waste of money.
Myth: It’s cheaper to leave the A/C on while away than to completely turn it off.
Even if you leave the unit at a higher temperature, like 80 degrees, it still consumes more energy to maintain than to power back up once you’re home. So you’ll save on your bill if you power down during work, nights out or vacations.
Power Down & Keep Cool
“I want to save money but I don’t want to come home to a hot house.” This is a fair argument against powering down your A/C during work hours, but there’s an affordable way around that deterrent. Smart thermostats like Nest learn your comings and goings so it can power down while you’re away and power on in time for you to come home to a cool, comfortable home.
The unit connects to your smartphone so it can use its location services to know when you’re home and away. You can also use the Nest app to turn on your A/C manually if you’re heading home at an unusual time. This is a great workaround to power down your cooling when away from home without having to “wait it out” in a hot house or apartment.