Should I Turn My AC On and Off?

Should I Turn My AC On and Off?
Electricity is expensive, and air conditioning is a significant contributor to home energy costs. If you live in a hot or humid area, air conditioning might represent a substantial annual expense. Learning to increase your AC efficiency levels can save you money while keeping your home comfortable. In this guide, we'll discuss best practices for using your air conditioner. We'll also discuss the different types of air conditioners and their various levels of efficiency. If you're looking to improve your temperature-control efficiency, you might consider a variable-speed unit. The most efficient air conditioners on the market use variable-speed technology. This technology also enhances comfort, air quality and long-term operation. Read on to learn about variable-speed air conditioners and other ways to upgrade your home's climate control.

How Expensive Is Air Conditioning?

Keeping your home cool and comfortable is a significant homeowner expense, especially for those who live in the hottest or most humid areas. Air conditioning makes up an average 12% of home energy costs, but as much as 27% in regions that experience triple-digit temperatures. This energy use adds up — average households spent almost $2,000 on energy costs in 2015, and energy prices have only inflated since then. Whether you use a central system or a portable AC unit, cooling a home can cost a lot. Energy is expensive — efficient air conditioning can save you money.

Turning your air conditioner on and off can affect your AC efficiency.

Does Leaving Your Unit Running All the Time Decrease AC Efficiency?

Some homeowners leave their air conditioning on all day, even when they're not home. When climate control is not necessary — while you're at work or on vacation, for instance — you might consider turning your air conditioner off. Why spend money cooling your home if no one is using it? You can save money by turning off your air conditioner when you don't plan to use it for extended periods. Of course, if you have pets, temperature control might still be necessary when you're not at home. Or, if you live somewhere with sweltering weather, extreme temperatures might damage items in your home. Repeatedly switching your air conditioner on and off can also lead to some crucial efficiency issues. When you turn the unit back on, it must consume additional energy to compensate for a dramatic temperature change. Another concern is that your air conditioner cannot circulate air or moisture while it's off. Limited circulation can lead to poor indoor air quality. For these reasons, you might consider replacing your air conditioner with a variable-speed unit.

What Is a Variable-Speed AC Unit?

One of the best ways to improve your home cooling efficiency is to use a variable-speed unit. Traditional, single-speed systems can only operate at either "on" or "off," always at full blast when on. They result in wasted energy when temperature demands are moderate. Running your air conditioner at full blast all day can waste energy, but so can turning it on and off. Variable-speed technology offers a solution to this issue. Variable-speed technology helps conserve energy. It adjusts output based on temperature demands, rather than continually operating at full blast. Using a variable-speed air conditioner allows you to control indoor air temperatures without fluctuation. It also keeps the air moving for better, safer air quality. Understanding the difference between a fixed and variable-speed air conditioner will help you make the right choice for your home. Differences between single-speed and variable-speed air compressor

What's the Difference Between a Single-Speed vs. Variable-Speed Air Compressor?

As mentioned above, some air conditioners use more efficient technology than others. Air conditioners fall into one of three categories — fixed-speed single-stage, fixed-speed two-stage or variable-speed. It's crucial to understand the differences between these categories, as each is more efficient than the last. If your air conditioner uses a lot of energy to operate, consider the type of compressor it has.

1. Fixed-Speed Single-Stage Air Compressor

Air conditioners with fixed-speed operation can be either single-stage or two-stage. The traditional standard for air conditioners is single-stage. A single-stage air conditioner has only one stage, which is "on." It kicks in when indoor temperatures exceed the thermostat setting. Once it achieves the set temperature, it turns back off. It continues this process throughout the day, turning itself on and off depending on the thermostat temperature. Fixed-speed, single-stage air conditioners always operate at full blast while they're running.

2. Fixed-Speed Two-Stage Air Compressor

Other fixed-speed air conditioners are two-stage. A two-stage or dual-stage compressor has fixed speed and varying output levels. Its stages are either high or low. It runs at 100% capacity when necessary, but can also run at a lower level to conserve energy. A two-stage air conditioner is more efficient than a single-stage one, since it uses less energy when possible.

3. Fixed-Speed vs. Variable-Speed Air Compressor

Whether single or dual-stage, a fixed-speed air conditioner blasts cold air when needed, turning off otherwise. A variable-speed AC compressor is different — it operates at low capacities, running for much longer cycles than fixed-speed units. Variable-speed compressors blow a smooth, continuous stream of air and rarely shut off.

Is Variable-Speed Air Conditioning More Efficient?

Variable-speed air conditioners are the most efficient option. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, switching to a variable-speed compressor helps reduce energy loss in ventilation systems. It takes a lot of energy for an air conditioning system to start — in hot, humid weather, fixed-speed air conditioners tend to turn on and off often. This short-cycling takes a great deal of energy. A fixed-speed compressor is playing a constant game of catch-up, kicking on when the temperature is too high. Running at full blast also requires a lot of energy, and single-stage air conditioners always run at 100% capacity. A variable-speed system uses a lot less energy to keep your home cool. It continually operates at low capacity. Variable-speed air conditioners rarely use the two functions that require the most energy — starting and running at full blast. Because it runs a steady stream of air, it also keeps temperatures more consistent. It does not wait for temperatures to climb above the thermostat setting, as traditional systems do. As a result, homeowners are less likely to adjust the thermostat lower, consuming more energy.

Are Variable-Speed Air Conditioners Worth It?

You might consider upgrading to a variable-speed air conditioner. Since these units use cutting-edge technology, they can have a higher initial cost. In some cases, you might be able to retrofit a variable-speed drive into your existing unit, but replacement is generally the better option. Despite its upfront costs, a variable-speed AC will pay for itself over time, since it's a much more efficient system. Think about switching to a variable-speed unit if:
  • Your current air conditioner is older or reaching the end of its life.
  • You're experiencing high electricity bills during warmer seasons.
  • You're seeking ways to improve your home's comfort and eliminate hot or cold spots.
  • You'd prefer a quieter, less disruptive air conditioning system.
  • You want to improve your indoor air quality.
Variable-speed air conditioning units help conserve energy, reducing electricity bills. They also provide other advantages. Though they may have higher costs than fixed-speed units, many homeowners find the investment worthwhile.  

What other benefits are there to keeping my AC on?

Are There Other Benefits to Keeping the AC on With a Variable-Speed AC?

In addition to their energy efficiency, variable-speed AC units offer homeowners many other advantages. With their constant stream of low-powered air, they work quite differently than other air conditioners. Here are some of the reasons you might prefer a variable-speed unit.

Quieter Operation

Fixed-speed systems cause quite a bit of noise in the process of turning on and off and running at full blast. Since they operate at lower capacities and blow air continuously, variable-speed units are less disruptive than traditional systems. If you're looking for a quieter home cooling system, a variable-speed AC is your ideal solution. It'll produce much lower decibels than fixed-speed systems.

Reduced Humidity

Another major factor to consider is air circulation. Air cycling is more constant with a variable-speed unit. Traditional systems only move air while on, and they're constantly turning on and off. When off, they allow stagnant air and humidity to build up. Humidity is often the main culprit of warm-weather discomfort — a higher humidity index makes you feel hotter. As a result, you might find yourself reaching for the thermostat, setting lower temperatures to keep the air running. Doing so can drive up your utility bills. It can also make your home feel too cold, as the air is always at full blast when on. A variable-speed system's constant stream of air helps reduce humidity levels. The circulating air will not have the chance to grow stagnant or build up water molecules. Since humidity filtration makes a room feel cooler, you'll be comfortable at higher temperatures and less likely to adjust the thermostat. That's another way variable-speed systems help you save on your utility bills.

Better Air Quality

Consistent airflow also results in better filtration. With the air in constant circulation, your air filters can catch more contaminants, improving your indoor air quality for a safer, more comfortable home. Reduced humidity can also decrease the odds of mold problems in kitchens and bathrooms. Better indoor air quality can make your home safer and promote your family's health. Indoor air contaminants can cause short-term and long-term effects, from mild allergy symptoms to severe respiratory conditions. If you're looking for ways to improve your indoor air quality and reduce contaminants, a variable-speed air conditioner is a great option. It'll help minimize the buildup of mold, bacteria, dust and other airborne pollutants.

Temperature Consistency

You might also consider a variable-speed system for better temperature consistency. With a fixed-speed air conditioner, full-power blasts of cold air can result in cold and warm zones. A steady stream of low-capacity air helps keep temperatures consistent throughout the home and all day long. It minimizes temperature swings and cold spots. This temperature consistency can make your home much more comfortable.

Longer Life

Since a variable-speed system runs at a lower capacity and requires fewer startups, it may last longer than a traditional system. Though it runs more often than a fixed-speed system, it uses less energy to do so.

Are There Alternatives to Variable-Speed Air Conditioning?

A variable-speed air conditioner is the most efficient option, with plenty of benefits to consider. However, it can be a considerable investment and might not be compatible with older homes. For instance, if your ducts lack adequate insulation, the constant air stream from a variable-speed unit can cause condensation. Whatever the reason, you might need to consider alternative options. Here are some other ways to improve your home's cooling efficiency.

Use a Two-Stage or Multi-Stage Unit

As mentioned above, fixed-speed units are more efficient if they have dual output levels. A two-stage or multi-stage fixed-speed AC is a good compromise between a single-stage and variable-speed air conditioner. You might find a dual-stage unit more affordable or better suited to your home. If you're looking to improve your temperature-control efficiency, a dual-stage air conditioner is a solid choice. It will also promote better temperature consistency and comfort than a single-stage system.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Another option is to upgrade your thermostat. With a programmable thermostat, you can schedule your heating and cooling needs for the day. For example, if your house is vacant most of the day, you can program your thermostat to reach your ideal temperature before you get home in the evening. That way, you won't need to remember to turn off the system to conserve energy while you and your family are gone. You also don't need to leave the air running on high all day to feel comfortable when you get home. Most programmable thermostats are a universal option — they're compatible with a wide variety of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. So, even if you live in an older home with an antiquated HVAC system, you shouldn't have any trouble installing a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat will have a user-friendly touch panel. If you connect it to your Wi-Fi, you can use a smartphone app to adjust your home's temperature on the go. A programmable thermostat offers improved comfort and efficiency without having to upgrade your entire HVAC system. It's a great option if you're looking for a smaller-scale alteration. Any homeowner with a traditional thermostat would benefit from an upgrade.

Decide on an Air Conditioning Unit to Increase Your Efficiency Today

Improving temperature-control efficiency can cause a substantial reduction in your monthly bills. The most efficient air conditioning systems on the market use variable-speed technology. A variable-speed air conditioner can decrease energy consumption, making your home more comfortable and temperature consistent. If you're looking for a way to improve your home's air conditioning, consider a variable-speed system. Other options include a dual-stage system or a programmable thermostat. To learn more about quality air conditioning products, explore our resources. At Ingrams Water and Air Equipment, we provide high-quality HVAC solutions to meet a variety of home heating and cooling needs. Start your search for the perfect air conditioning system for your home today.
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