The Best Way to Run an Air Conditioner

Even if you’ve replaced your old central air or room air conditioner with a brand new model with an SEER 13 energy rating, there are ways you can ensure that it works as efficiently now — and in future — as the day it was installed. How you operate your air conditioner may be as important as its size and Energy Star rating.

The Best Way to Run an Air Conditioner

Keep It On

Don’t set the thermostat down low when you turn the unit on or make constant adjustments. It will take the house the same time to cool down to your desired temperature. Constant changes not only cause more energy use by fans, but lead to fluctuating temperatures. When the temperature rises, set your “AC” to the warmest temperature you can live with — and leave it there The U.S. Department of Energy recommends keeping indoor temperature as close to outdoor temperature as you can stand for the best efficiency and most comfortable conditions.

Give It Help

Give your AC a rest during periods you’ll be away. Turn it off, or set it high, at 85 degrees Fahrenheit so the house doesn’t get so hot that it takes hours to cool down. When nights are cool, open windows to ventilate your house at night, particularly if you live in a climate with low humidity. Rather than running the fan in your air conditioner to circulate cool air, invest in a box fan to move air between rooms and improve ventilation and leave the air conditioner fan on the “auto” setting. An inexpensive circulating fan will move the air through your rooms more efficiently and save wear and tear on the pricey blower fan that you depend on to move air for both the AC and the furnace.

Improve Its Accuracy

Consider replacing your thermostat if you have the kind with the lever that you move behind a temperature scale for your central air unit. A digital thermostat with a day and night programming capability can save energy by cutting back on cooling when it’s not needed — such as while you’re sleeping, out of the house at work and school and off to the cabin for the weekend — without having to remember to change it manually. Another way to improve accuracy is to keep lights and other heat-producing appliances well away so their heat does not trigger the thermostat.

Keep It Clean

Never run an air conditioner with a dirty filter or litter in the aluminum blades that protect the condenser coils in the outdoor unit or behind the front panel of a window unit. Obstructing either limits the movement of air that is essential to your air conditioner. The less freely air circulates around the condenser and compressor coils, the harder the blower and fan have to work to send cool air into the building’s interior and vent hot air away from it. Vacuum or replace filters and clean delicate aluminum blades with a soft brush.