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Set Your AC and Leave It Alone!

When the temperature outside is less than enjoyable, we retreat indoors and set our climate controls to comfortable. But when it’s too hot indoors, many of us will crank the air conditioner down to an intolerably cold level in order to cool off the house faster. Don’t do this. Whether you’re trying to cool your home quickly in the summer or heat it up in the winter, don’t set the thermostat too far away from the temperature you want. It won’t help and it will waste energy in the long run. Let’s take a look at why.

How Forced Air Systems Work

Most central heating and air systems use a forced air system. By cooling or heating the air in a chamber and using a fan to circulate that air into the room the entire home is thermally regulated. Most of these systems are what’s known as single-stage forced air systems.

With a single-stage system, your HVAC unit pumps refrigerant through the evaporator coils at a set rate and your blower fan cycles air at a set rate. These speeds are not adjustable and do not changed based on relative temperature (or how far from “comfortable” your home currently is). When you’re trying to speed up cooling your home, setting the thermostat to 10 degrees cooler than your desired level only creates a condition where you home might cool more than is needed, until you feel cold and decide to turn the temperature back up.

Multi-stage systems are a little better, since they’re more efficient. In a multistage system, the forced air fan has two separate settings. When the thermostat detects a significant different between household temperature and desired temperature, it operates at full power, cooling off the home as fast as possible. Once it reaches the desired temperature, it uses a lower-power mode to help regulate that temperature. This second stage cooling is used for only minor changes of a degree or two and keeps your home as close as possible to your setting without excessive on and off cycles. Again, setting the thermostat to a lower level will not speed up this process since the fan and cooling unit have a set limit that they operate at.

The best way to promote cooling in your home is to set the thermostat at the level you want and forget it’s there. So what can you do to speed up cooling for your home? Many of your options are simply good ways to save energy and promote a cool home without the use of AC at all:

  • Use shades and curtains to limit solar heating
  • Grow trees that can add shade to the roof
  • Seal ventilation leaks
  • Repair drafts and cracks in doors and windows
  • Replace your air filter and keep vents and inside doors open
  • Use fans in the home to promote air circulation