The War on the Thermostat
These words for a Coloradoan can come with a certain amount of trepidation. Just last week, we hovered awfully close to the 100 °F as our high temperature.
(Though I say we passed the 100 °F mark because in my car, whom I’ve lovingly named Gwen, she said that it was 104 °F. And I trust Gwen…)
But with temperatures like these, I’m always thankful for two more words that relieve the trepidation of “Mid July,” and that is “Air Conditioning.”
Air Conditioning can really be a blessing. Otherwise, the alternative is to sit in your own sweat, drinking a glass of tea that is sweating on you, as you watch the other people in your house/apartment sweat, and you keep staring at the bathroom door anticipating the hour you will take a shower to wash away your sweat.
(Truly, air conditioning is a blessing. Some would say it’s the greatest invention ever behind indoor plumbing and ice cream. (Some meaning me.))
But as much as air conditioning is a blessing, there are some common problems that come with it. In the case that you live with a husband/wife/child/roommate/friend/pet, we all have our opinions on how to run the air conditioning.
It seems the members in a household are never of the same mind and a war on the thermostat can get heated (pun intended), but is usually passive aggressive. One person will start the day simply turning the air conditioner on, then a few hours later they feel warm and see that the thermostat was turned up to 80 °F. After turning it back down to a desired temperature, later, you find it at a now 70 °F. Feeling that temperature is wasteful, you bring it up and officially declare war on the thermostat and routinely double check and “fix” the temperature every time you walk by. Then, at the end of the day, after turning the air conditioning off and opening the windows, you walk by and find the air conditioner somehow turned on again with all the windows open! The war on the thermostat usually continues like this until someone is caught “fixing” the temperature and a heated (pun intended again) argument results in the loudest opinion winning.
(Yes I’ve been here before.)
Now I’m the person under the camp that wants to run the air conditioner but have an electrical bill that I won’t be ashamed of.
If you are like me, here are some few effective air conditioner facts (or ammo) that will help reduce your electrical bill that you can present during your war on the thermostat.
Ammo #1) The thermostat is most effective at 78 °F.
Most experts will say the ideal temperature for the thermostat will be 78 °F. For every degree that you raise the thermostat temperature, you can save energy costs around 10%. The U.S. Department of Energy says the closer to the outside temperature the air conditioner runs at, the more efficient it will be. They’ve decided 78 °F is the highest, most comfortable temperature to run at.
Ammo #2) It’s better to cool the house down all at once after you get home than leave it running when you’re not home.
Air conditioners run most effectively when the run at full speed. They are able to better dehumidify your house when they run at full speed. So when you leave the house, turn off the air conditioner and fans to save on costs. Turning them on when you get home only takes a few minutes to cool the house down. Or get a programmable thermostat where you can program it to cool the house down minutes before you typically get home.
Ammo #3) Ceiling fans will make you feel cooler.
Use a ceiling fan with your air conditioner. Ceiling fans don’t cool a room down but creates a wind chill effect for a person. Moving air along your skin will help you feel cooler. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, when you use a ceiling fan, you can raise the thermostat by 4 degrees without losing your comfort level.
Ammo #4) Create a draft at night.
Most experts will say run the air conditioner at a higher temperature when you’re sleeping so that its runs most efficiently. But in Colorado, our summer nights cool down enough where you can open the windows and keep the house/apartment cool. The best way to keep the place cool is by creating a draft. The best way to create a draft is not to open your windows all the way but by cracking them open. It’s also best to open your windows on opposite sides of the house/apartment. Experiment with how much you open your windows to create the best draft.
Or use a box fan on one end of your house and open the windows on the other end to cool a house down. In a house with multiple stories, put a box fan in a window on the top floor and open the windows down on the lower floors to create the best draft. Remember, cold air sinks. Windows/box fans/ceiling fans are always more cost effective than an air conditioner.
Ammo #5) Close the blinds during the day.
Direct sunlight into a room can increase the temperature of a room drastically, increasing the amount of work of the air conditioner. Think of your car when it sits in the summer sun. It’s hot. Your air conditioner is trying to cool off something similar, constantly. Blocking the amount of sunlight coming in will make the air conditioner work less. Planting trees and buses to help shade your house during the summer also helps.
Other tips to think about are:
o Keep lights/ovens/stoves/things that emit some heat off as much as possible.
o Don’t place a TV set or a lamp near a thermometer as it will read a higher temperature.
o Use a digital thermometer to keep the temperature constant and accurate.
o Get your air conditioner serviced regularly.
o Clean your air conditioner and filters regularly.
o Keep debris away from the air conditioner as much as possible.
The U.S. Department of Energy has a good infographic (I do love pictures) on how to save energy on home cooling for further reading. Department of Energy Infographic
Now for those that are energy conscious, you can use these tips to help you win the war on the thermostat without sacrificing your comfort.
But don’t literally go to war with your spouse/child/parent/friend/roommate. Have a discussion about how you would like to use your air conditioner and use the facts above to make smart, informed decisions.
Let me know if you have other tips you have used before to keep the house cool without sacrificing your piggy bank to the electrical company!!