4 Common AC Myths and Misconceptions That Are Costing You Time and Energy
There’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there about air conditioning. We hear stuff all the time that doesn’t sound quite right or make sense, and sometimes we hear the same thing over and over. You’d think that in the age of the internet, most people would be able to look up something they hear and see if it’s true or not. But I’ve found that the internet is actually making it worse in some cases — more than a few myths have been started and spread by “armchair technicians” who wouldn’t know a condensate drain from a condenser coil. That got me thinking about some of the most common misconceptions I hear from homeowners about their HVAC systems and heating and cooling their homes. Understanding the reality behind some of the most common AC myths is a good way to get to know your HVAC system a little better (and a great reminder that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet).
Myth #1: Leaving Fans on Cools the Room
This is a common misconception about how fans work, and it’s easy to see why people have trouble understanding this. When you stand in front of a fan, you feel cool; therefore, reason stands that leaving the fan on will cool the room even when you’re not in it.
But the thing is that when you stand in front of a fan, you feel cool. That’s because the fan moves air over your skin, and as a warm-blooded mammal, your body temperature drops a bit. The air helps your sweat evaporate, and the sweat evaporation process cools your body, making you feel nice and cool. But the fan isn’t really doing anything except moving air around — that’s why your AC unit cools the air first and then uses fans to push that air around the house. Fans themselves don’t cool the air, and so they don’t actually cool your house down.
That means that leaving the fan on when you’re not in the room doesn’t do any good. Save yourself some money and electricity, and turn the fan off when you leave the room.
Myth #2: Turning the Thermostat Lower Makes the AC Work Faster
It’s a natural inclination to crank the AC to the max to get the house cooled as fast as possible. But there’s no point in setting the AC any lower than you really want it. An AC is not like a car’s gas pedal — it can’t work any harder or faster. It has two settings: on and off. When the AC is on, it cools the home until the thermostat reaches the designated temperature. Then the AC turns off. Running your AC all day means you’ll run it more often and longer than you probably should if you’re not in the home. It can also mean you’ll be due for more frequent maintenance and repairs than you otherwise would be.
Myth #3: It’s Cheaper to Leave on the AC All Day
We’ve sold a lot of programmable thermostats to people who believed this myth. The idea is (1) that leaving your AC on keeps the house at a stable, lower temperature, and (2) that it’s cheaper to keep the house at a stable temperature all day than to cool it from a higher temperature when you come home from work.
Like the last myth, this myth demonstrates a basic misconception about how your AC works. You don’t pay more if the AC has to cool a house from one temperature or the other — you just pay a certain amount every minute that the AC runs. And obviously, if you run your AC all day, that’s more minutes you’ll have to pay for than if you just bring the temperature down at the end of the day.
Programmable thermostats are the best of both worlds. These nifty devices allow you to set times for the AC to run, and some even let you control your thermostat from your smartphone. Many folks program theirs to come on half an hour before they get home so the house is nice and cool when they get there, but the system didn’t have to run all day to achieve that.
Myth #4: An Energy-Efficient AC Will Save Me Money
“Okay,” we hear you say, “surely this isn’t a myth. Companies wouldn’t be allowed to advertise energy-efficient systems if they didn’t lower my utility bill.” But what you need to understand is that your AC performance — and thus your utility bill — is a complicated sum of many factors. Imagine putting a brand new V8 engine into a truck that needs serious transmission and electrical work. You might get a performance boost from the engine, but the rest of the truck isn’t able to keep up with that V8. Your AC system is the same way: you need to have a house that can take advantage of an energy-efficient system before you install one.
We always recommend getting one of our free assessments before doing new system installations. Instead of dropping a few grand on a new AC, you might see better improvement with some attic insulation. And you won’t know that until a professional can take a look and make some suggestions. Home upgrades are usually cheaper than a new system, and then you don’t have to worry about burning out a brand new system because it has to work overtime to compensate for an inefficient home.
Understand HVAC Myths to Save Money and Energy
I hope these myths have been debunked to your satisfaction, and I also hope you’ll call us the next time you hear something that doesn’t seem right about your HVAC or plumbing. Ultimately, we want to take care of our clients and arm them with the best information possible so they can make good decisions for their home and their family. We also want to know what bad advice or rumors are spreading so we can be ready the next time we hear one! Get a hold of us via telephone, email, or get your questions answered instantly with our chat function — we’d love to show you why we’re known as the “No Surprise Guys!”