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Is It Better to Turn Your Air Conditioner on For Spot Cooling or Keep It Running All the Time?


Should you keep your AC running, or only turn on your air conditioner when it feels hot? Here’s what the HVAC pros say.

 Having an air conditioner can feel like a lifesaver in the summer months — especially somewhere like Fayetteville or Raleigh, NC, where we are located. But installing an AC unit is only half the battle: To make the most of it, you need to know how to use it well. One of the most common questions we get from our customers is: Should you turn on your air conditioner only when it feels hot, or is it more efficient to keep it running at a moderate temperature all the time? Here’s what the HVAC heating and cooling pros say about how often (and when) to turn on your air conditioner.

turning on air conditioning at thermostat

When To Turn On Your Air Conditioner For Maximum Efficiency

Every time your air conditioner is running, it is using energy. That’s an unavoidable fact about using AC in your home. But how efficiently it works will vary due to a variety of different settings, features, and situations — we’ll cover those a little later on in the article.

Here are the brass tacks: Your air conditioner is the most efficient when it’s running at maximum “speed” for a longer period of time, rather than short cycles in and out of “maintenance” temperatures. Although it may seem like your AC will have to work “too hard” to cool down a hot space, that’s actually when it’s most efficient. If your air conditioner is kicking on for brief periods to run at low speed and correct minor temperature fluctuations, it’s not working very efficiently. And there’s just no reason to run an inefficient air conditioner when you aren’t there to enjoy the climate.

So, the long and short of it is that it’s more energy-efficient to turn on your air conditioner when you arrive home, or before you need to use the space. It’s less energy-efficient to run the air conditioner all day.

Ways To Make Turning On Your AC Much More Energy-Efficient

There are other ways you can make sure your air conditioner is running at maximum efficiency every time you turn it on. First, ensure that you’ve taken the right steps to ensure your AC is in fighting shape before the start of the season. We’ve compiled a checklist of things to do before using your AC for the first time each year; you can read that here.

It’s also helpful to use a fan in conjunction with your AC. The air conditioner will cool the air, and the fan will quickly distribute it throughout the space. Of course, we recommend only using the fan when you’re actually in the room!

The actual air conditioning unit is important, too. A high-efficiency model, like an ENERGY STAR rated AC or an AC with a high SEER rating, will earn top marks on your monthly energy consumption (and bill).

Without a doubt, investing in a smart thermostat, like a Nest product, is one of the best ways to make using your air conditioner energy-efficient. You can create a schedule that works around you; for example, you can program the thermostat to turn on one hour before you arrive home from work each day. This will help it run at optimal capacity and ensure that you arrive home to a cool, comfortable house. When you sync your smartphone with the thermostat, it allows you to make changes and adjustments to the program — even if you aren’t near the actual unit.

There’s one more way you can make sure you’re being a smart energy consumer when you turn on your air conditioner, and that’s to set it at a moderate temperature. There’s no need to set the AC to freezer-level temperatures, when using a high-efficiency model, ensuring that your ducts, filters, and vents are clean, and combining its use with a fan, will do a fine job of keeping you cool and comfy. If your air conditioner is running inefficiently, or not adequately cooling the space, no amount of finagling with the thermostat will fix the problem. Invest in the best air conditioner unit, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of a great AC for years to come.

Need help troubleshooting an issue with your AC unit in the Raleigh or Fayetteville areas? Give Blanton’s a call at (910) 822-2866!

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