Whether you spend the weekend at the beach or take a few weeks to tour the country, you prepare for the trip. Although you see to your pets and plants, you may forget your air conditioner, yet it also needs special attention while you’re away to maximize energy efficiency and make your home comfortable when you return. These vacation AC tips will lighten the load on your system without costing you comfort.
Your air conditioner’s primary job is to keep you feeling cool, but if you aren’t home, it generally doesn’t need to maintain the 72 to 78 degrees you probably find comfortable. If you have a house-sitter or have delicate items that could be damaged by higher temperatures and humidity, such as a wine collection or delicate artwork, it may be worth it to keep your air conditioner at its accustomed temperature, especially if you have a short trip planned. Otherwise, turning up the thermostat makes sense.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnergyStar program, every degree you lower your home’s ambient temperature below 78 degrees costs you as much as 5 percent of your total cooling costs. Setting your thermostat at a higher temperature saves money, and when you’re elsewhere enjoying your vacation, you don’t need maximum cool. The EPA recommends setting your system’s thermostat at 85 degrees when the home isn’t in use, including during vacations. That’s a useful guideline but Weather Masters has put together a few tips to follow as well.
For Weekend Trips
A long weekend is a great time to save money on your utility bills, but not at the expense of comfort when you return. Your ideal compromise between energy efficiency and comfort when you come home is probably somewhere between the recommended 85 degrees and your usual thermostat setting. If you normally like to turn the thermostat down to the low 70s, bump it to 80 when you leave. For those who are fine with 75 degrees or above, the EPA’s recommendation will work well for you.
Depending on the size of your home, keeping the air conditioning on at a higher setting may be more efficient than turning it off for the weekend. Your air conditioner relies on recirculated air to maintain comfortable temperatures. When you turn it on after leaving it off for the weekend, your system must work overtime to cool air that has grown stale and hot. A large, well-insulated home with shuttered or curtained windows will lose its cool air gradually, but a smaller house with less protection from the sun loses its cool quickly and could take days to feel comfortable again.
For Longer Vacations
When you’re taking a longer trip, it might be tempting to save more by turning your AC off entirely. However, the extreme temperatures that can occur in a home with no air conditioning may damage your belongings. High heat is deadly to wooden furniture, wallpaper and sensitive electronics. People who lived in the Phoenix Valley before the invention of air conditioning had high ceilings and kept their windows open constantly; your home will be tightly sealed while you’re on your trip and can build up tremendous heat. When it’s 90 degrees outside, the interior of your home can easily reach triple digits within a week.
The 85 degrees the EPA suggests might be fine in an arid climate, but if you live in the AZ Desert, you know that extreme high temperatures are an issue and during the Monsoon season there is also the humidity to contend with. You won’t notice if your home gets warm while you’re gone, but if the damp air allows mold and mildew to grow, you won’t be able to miss it. A weekend away won’t be enough to give mold a head start, but if you plan to be out of the house for a week or longer, mold growth could become an issue. The EPA’s recommendation to maintain an 85-degree temperature in your home is generally enough to inhibit mold growth and keep the air in your home relatively dry. If you have a dehumidifier, you can adjust it as well, especially if you have a programmable thermostat that allows you to control humidity as well as temperature.
Vacation AC Tips and Checklist
When you’re making your vacation plans, add your air conditioner to the list of things that need attention before you go. By taking care of your air conditioner before you go, you make sure it runs smoothly while you’re away so you can come home to comfort instead of a hot home – or worse, a big repair bill.
- Change your system’s filters. Dirty filters lower the system’s efficiency.
- Turn your thermostat up to 80 degrees or higher.
- Clean the system’s condenser coils outside and evaporator coils inside to ensure greater efficiency. If you aren’t sure how to clean the coils, call a specialist such as the certified technician at Weather Masters.
- Close all blinds and curtains. Putting as many layers between the sun and your home’s inside air will help keep your home cooler.
Other Energy-Saving Tips
Make your air conditioner’s vacation more relaxing by reducing some of the load it normally carries. You may not realize it, but many items in your home generate heat even when they aren’t in use. Unplugging electronics and appliances helps your house stay cooler. If you’re going to be away for some time, empty and disconnect your refrigerator; it produces significant heat that makes your AC work harder.