Sean Cate
Sean Cate
July 6, 2024 ·  3 min read

Should You Turn Off Your AC When You’re Not at Home? An HVAC Specialist Settles The Debate.

The debate over whether to turn off your AC when leaving the house has been ongoing for years. With energy bills soaring, understanding the best practices for AC usage can significantly impact your savings and comfort. Here are seven key insights from HVAC specialists to help settle this debate.

Humidity Control

foggy wet window
Credit: Pixabay

In hot and humid climates, maintaining a slightly higher temperature while away is crucial for controlling indoor humidity. Turning off the AC completely can lead to increased humidity, resulting in potential mold growth and damage to household items.1 This is especially important in regions like Florida, where humidity levels can soar.

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Use of Programmable Thermostats

house thermostat
Credit: Pexels

Investing in a programmable or smart thermostat can greatly enhance energy efficiency. These devices allow you to set schedules for temperature adjustments based on your daily routine. For instance, you can set the thermostat to cool the house just before you arrive home, ensuring comfort without wasting energy throughout the day.2

So, Turn it Off or Keep it On?

home AC units
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HVAC specialist Angel from Dymond AC suggests that turning the system off when leaving home is not the best strategy. He explains that allowing the house to heat up means the AC will need to work longer and harder to cool it down again, using more energy in the process.3 Instead, he recommends raising the thermostat by a few degrees when leaving and returning it to the preferred temperature upon return.

Energy Efficiency Tips

AC blowing
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It is more energy-efficient to keep the AC on but set it a few degrees higher while you are away. This approach prevents the AC from having to run for extended periods to cool down a hot house upon your return. Keeping the AC at a higher temperature also reduces humidity levels, which can prevent mold growth and protect electronics and wood from damage.

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Short-Term vs. Long-Term Absences

Car AC unit
Credit: Pexels

For short absences, such as going to work for the day, it is better to keep the AC on but at a higher temperature. For longer absences, like vacations, turning off the AC might be more beneficial, provided you have a programmable thermostat to cool the house before your return. This strategy balances energy savings with maintaining a comfortable indoor environment.

The Myth of “Working Harder”

Funny sweaty chubby bearded man in swimsuit sitting at home, suffering from crazy summer heat, wiping sweat off forehead, holding electric fan, wishing for heatwave to stop and fresh breeze to blow
Source: Shutterstock

A common misconception is that the AC works harder to cool a hot house. In reality, the unit runs at the same speed but stays on longer. The key is to avoid extreme temperature changes that can increase energy consumption and reduce comfort. By setting the thermostat higher when away, you reduce the load on the AC without compromising efficiency.

Maximizing AC Efficiency

handyman with tools near AC
Credit: Pixabay

Incorporating smart home technology and regular maintenance can optimize AC performance. Changing lightbulbs, unplugging unused appliances, and weatherizing your home are simple steps to reduce energy bills. Additionally, ensuring your AC has clean filters and coils can improve airflow and efficiency, further cutting down on energy use.

Conclusion

Home AC Unit
Credit: Pexels

The consensus among HVAC experts is clear: keep the AC on but at a higher temperature when you’re not home. This approach prevents excessive energy use and maintains indoor comfort and humidity control. Investing in smart thermostats and regular maintenance can further enhance your AC’s efficiency, ensuring you stay cool without breaking the bank.

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Sources

  1. Should You Turn Your AC Up When You’re Not Home?How Stuff Works. Alia Hoyt. April 16, 2024.
  2. Is It Bad to Keep Turning Your AC On and Off?Bill Howe. Bill Howe. 2023
  3. HVAC specialist settles debate over whether to turn off AC when not at home: ‘It’s going to make your air conditioner … use up more electricity’.” MSN.  Jennifer Kodros. June 2024.