Maximizing energy efficiency: Smart practices for air conditioner operation

By implementing energy-efficient practices, you can use your air conditioner without constant concern about the magnitude of your monthly electricity expenses.

Making your air conditioner operate more efficiently doesn’t always require complex solutions. In fact, simple adjustments can go a long way in maximizing energy efficiency, such as:

1. Setting optimal temperatures

Optimizing temperatures through smart control practices, especially with air conditioners, not only ensures a comfortable environment but also minimizes energy consumption and associated costs.

During the warmer months, set the thermostat to a moderate and comfortable temperature. The recommended range is typically around 78°F (25-26°C) when cooling.

Each degree lower than this can lead to increased energy usage, as the air conditioner has to work harder to maintain a cooler temperature.

2. Turning off lights and appliances

A very simple yet effective practice that contributes to overall energy conservation is turning off the lights and appliances when you are not using them.

This principle extends to various aspects of household energy use, including the operation of air conditioners.

Instead of traditional incandescent bulbs, opt for energy-efficient LED ones, like these SYLVANIA Eco LED light bulbs.

This 9-watt LED bulb is an efficient replacement for standard 60-watt incandescent bulbs, emitting 750 lumens of daylight. With a lifespan of up to 7 years, it’s a long-lasting and energy-saving option.

Another smart move is incorporating motion sensors or investing in smart lighting systems. These technologies automatically turn off the lights if there is no one in the room, helping to eliminate unnecessary energy usage.

Also, a small effort that adds up to significant energy savings over time is to cultivate a habit of turning off lights manually when leaving a room.

When it comes to appliances, being mindful of “phantom loads” or stand-by power consumption is crucial, as many appliances continue to draw a small amount of stand-by power even when they are switched off.

Most phantom loads will increase the appliance’s energy consumption a few watt-hours, so make sure to unplug chargers, electronics, and small appliances when they’re not in use.

To streamline this process, power strips can be employed for clusters of devices, allowing for the simultaneous disconnection of multiple items with ease.

For those considering new appliances, opting for ones with the ENERGY STAR label is a wise choice.

ENERGY STAR appliances are designed to meet strict energy efficiency guidelines, helping you save on energy costs while also contributing to environmental conservation.

Read more: Choosing the air conditioner that saves electricity

3. Smart technology

To further enhance energy efficiency and leveraging innovative solutions, consider using a programmable thermostat. These devices learn your preferences over time and adjust the temperature accordingly.

These smart systems allow you to monitor and control your home’s temperature remotely using a smartphone app.

Additionally, they can be programmed to automatically raise or lower the temperature when you’re away, ensuring energy is not wasted on cooling or heating an empty space.

This ENERGY STAR-certified Emerson Sensi smart thermostat offers approximately 23% HVAC energy savings through features such as flexible scheduling, remote access, and usage reports.

Some thermostats are “that smart,” that they “sense” with their sensors if a window/door is open, and alert the air conditioner to switch to an energy-saving mode that turns back the temperature (up in the summer, down in the winter).

You can further integrate temperature sensors into your smart home system to enhance efficiency.

These sensors can communicate with your curtains or blinds, adjusting them based on the current indoor and outdoor temperatures.

4. Seal and insulate

Seal leaks

Begin by identifying and sealing any air leaks in your home. Check windows, doors, and any gaps or cracks in walls where conditioned air can escape and outdoor air can infiltrate.

Proper weatherstripping and caulking can go a long way in preventing unnecessary energy loss.

This Magzo weather stripping door seal offers a versatile solution, serving multiple purposes such as weatherproofing, soundproofing, dust protection, and heat insulation.

To effectively prevent the formation of cracks and gaps or to seal the already formed ones due to exposure to heat, sunlight, and extreme cold, you can use this GE window and door sealant, formulated with 100% silicone, offering thorough protection against weather and water.

Insulate attic and walls

Insulate your attic to prevent heat gain during hot weather and heat loss in colder months. Proper wall insulation also helps create a thermal barrier, ensuring that conditioned air stays inside.

Insulate ductwork

Insulating and sealing ductwork prevents air from escaping before it reaches its intended destination, allowing the system to cool your home more effectively.

5. Close curtains and blinds

Creating a comprehensive strategy that combines the use of curtains and blinds with smart technologies and good insulation practices can not only optimize the performance of your air conditioner, but also contribute to reducing your overall energy consumption and lowering your utility bills.

Block out direct sunlight

Sunlight streaming through windows can significantly heat up a room, causing the air conditioner to work harder to maintain the set temperature.

By closing curtains or blinds during the hottest parts of the day, you can block out direct sunlight and reduce the need for excessive cooling.

Use reflective or insulating materials

Choosing curtains or blinds made from reflective or insulating materials can enhance their energy-saving properties.

Reflective materials bounce sunlight back outside, while insulating materials help maintain a stable indoor temperature by preventing heat transfer.

You can also use a reflective window tint to reflect some of the heat outside, keeping interiors cool in summer and retaining warmth in winter, leading to reduced energy bills, like this KESPEN window tinting film.

Adjust curtains based on time of day

Pay attention to the time of day and the position of the sun. During peak daylight hours, close curtains on windows that receive direct sunlight.

In the evening, when outdoor temperatures drop, you can open the curtains to allow natural ventilation and reduce reliance on air conditioning.

6. Ventilation

Natural ventilation, such as opening windows during cooler evenings, can help maintain a comfortable indoor environment without relying solely on the air conditioner.

This allows fresh air to circulate through your home, reducing the need for constant AC operation.

7. Use fans

Consider complementary solutions, such as the strategic use of fans. One key tactic is to use ceiling fans in conjunction with air conditioners.

Ceiling fans can help distribute cool air more effectively throughout a room, creating wind chill and cool down people. This enables you to set the thermostat a few degrees higher without sacrificing comfort.

Running ceiling fans consumes significantly less energy than operating an air conditioner at a lower temperature, leading to energy savings.

Also, do not forget to turn off the fans when leaving a room. Fans are designed to cool people, not spaces, so running them when no one is in the room would be unnecessary and a waste of electricity.

For those with programmable thermostats, integrating fan control settings can enhance efficiency further. These settings can automatically adjust fan operation based on the cooling needs of the space, optimizing energy use.

8. Limit heat sources

Appliance placement

Be strategic about where you place heat-generating appliances. Do not place electronic devices, lamps, or other heat-emitting items near the thermostat.

These appliances can trick the thermostat into thinking the space is warmer than it actually is, leading to unnecessary cooling.

Efficient lighting

Choose energy-efficient lighting options, such as LED bulbs, which emit less heat than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Cooking considerations

When cooking, use your stove, oven, or other heat-producing appliances during the cooler parts of the day or evenings.

Consider alternative cooking methods like microwaving or using a slow cooker, which generate less heat than traditional cooking appliances.

9. Location planning

During the installation of the outdoor unit, choose a location that receives minimal direct sunlight. If possible, position it on the north or east side of the building, where it is less likely to be exposed to the intense afternoon sun.

Trees, shrubs, or tall fences offer an effective natural shade, reducing the load on the air conditioner. However, ensure that these elements do not obstruct the airflow around the unit.

10. Shade outdoor units

Providing shade to the outdoor unit of an air conditioner is a smart practice as well. Exposure to direct sunlight can cause the unit to work harder, leading to increased energy consumption.

By strategically placing the outdoor unit in a shaded area or installing shading structures, you can mitigate the impact of solar heat on the system.

Consider installing shading structures specifically designed for outdoor units. Awnings, pergolas, or louvered panels can effectively shield the unit from direct sunlight while allowing for proper ventilation.

You can ensure the safeguarding of your outdoor equipment with the use of an air conditioner cover, like this AC awning, which will provide protection against sunlight, harmful ultraviolet rays, rain, snow, dust, and debris.

11. Use “fan-only” mode

The “fan-only” mode is a feature found in many modern air conditioning systems that allows the unit to circulate air without the cooling function.

Operating the fan alone consumes significantly less energy compared to running the entire air conditioning system.

When the weather is mild, and you don’t necessarily need the cooling effect of the air conditioner, switching to the “fan-only” mode can help maintain comfortable airflow.

This is especially effective when you just want to keep the air circulating in a room, preventing it from becoming stagnant.

By using the “fan-only” mode during cooler parts of the day or evening, you can reduce the overall workload on the air conditioner.

12. Upgrade to energy-efficient models

Maximizing energy efficiency involves not only smart practices, but also a strategic consideration of upgrading to energy-efficient models.

Modern air conditioners feature advanced energy-efficient technologies, like variable speed compressors and smart thermostats, providing precise control over cooling settings.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is a metric that measures the efficiency of air conditioners. Upgrading to a unit with a higher SEER rating signifies improved energy efficiency.

Modern units with higher SEER ratings not only cool spaces effectively but also do so with reduced electricity consumption, translating into long-term energy savings.

The age of an air conditioning unit is a critical determinant for replacement, as with increasing age, it becomes more susceptible to wear and tear, leading to a decline in performance efficiency.

Energy Star recommends replacing your air conditioner if it’s over 10 years old, as units approaching or exceeding this age may be more economically replaced than continually repaired.

Also read: When is it time to replace your air conditioner?

13. Strategic planting

By carefully planning and placing vegetation around your property, you can create a more comfortable and energy-efficient environment.

Planting trees outside windows can help block sunlight and reduce the overall heat gain in your home.

During the summer, these trees block the sun’s rays, reducing the need for air conditioning. Position these trees on the west and east sides of your home to shield against the low-angle afternoon and morning sun.

In colder climates, where heating is a primary concern, strategically planting evergreen trees or shrubs to act as windbreaks can reduce heat loss from your home.

By blocking cold winds, you create a buffer that minimizes the workload on your heating system.

This, in turn, helps maintain a more consistent indoor temperature, reducing the need for frequent adjustments to your air conditioning settings.

However, do not forget to keep the plants, trees, and shrubs well-maintained through regular pruning.

This not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of your landscape but also prevents overgrowth that could obstruct airflow around your air conditioning unit.

Adequate clearance allows the system to operate efficiently without unnecessary strain.

14. Regularly inspect ductwork

The efficiency of an air conditioning system is not solely dependent on the unit itself but also on the condition and integrity of the ductwork that distributes the cooled air throughout your home or building.

Over time, ducts can develop leaks or gaps, allowing conditioned air to escape. Regular inspections help identify these leaks, and prompt sealing ensures that the cool air is directed precisely where it’s needed.

Check for any obstructions or blockages in the ductwork that might impede the smooth flow of air.

Blocked or restricted ducts force the system to work harder, reducing efficiency and potentially causing unnecessary wear and tear on the air conditioner.

15. Regular maintenance

Adopting smart practices for air conditioner maintenance can not only prolong the lifespan of the unit but also ensure that it operates at its peak efficiency, thereby reducing energy consumption.

Here are some essential tips for maintaining energy efficiency in your air conditioning system:

Clean or replace filters

Dust and debris accumulation in air filters can obstruct airflow, forcing the air conditioner to work harder to maintain the desired temperature.

Inspect and clean coils

Regularly inspect and clean the evaporator and condenser coils, dust and dirt accumulate over time, affecting heat exchange efficiency.

Keep surrounding areas clear

Ensure that the area around the outdoor condenser unit is clear of debris, vegetation, or any obstructions. Good airflow around the unit allows it to dissipate heat more effectively, improving its overall efficiency.

16. Schedule Professional Maintenance

Opting for routine professional maintenance ensures that a qualified technician can inspect, tune up, and address promptly any potential issues, preventing major problems and keeping the unit running smoothly.

ENERGY STAR experts recommend to ensure your AC’s longevity by scheduling annual pre-season check-ups with a professional contractor for routine maintenance.

HVAC technicians assess components like filters, coils, and refrigerant levels to ensure optimal performance.

They replace air filters for improved airflow, check refrigerant levels and inspect for any refrigerant leaks, address issues like leaky ducts or thermostat calibration.

Additionally, HVAC technicians offer insights into energy-efficient upgrades, contributing to both cost savings and environmental sustainability.

Investing in these inspections not only prolongs the lifespan of your system but also ensures it operates efficiently for a greener, more economical home cooling solution.

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