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Save Power: AC on Low, or AC Off?

People switch between keeping the air conditioner on all day at low temperatures and turning it on only when they are home, but running it high. But the air conditioner does more than just blow cool air on you. It also has an effect on the environment.

So which is better? Which method has a better effect on the home and environment? Books and reports have been written to answer this seemingly benign question. Scientists devote themselves to fields of research that study just this topic.

AC systems have been available to consumers for 50 years. In that half-century, people have become accustomed to the comfortable environment they provide. An addiction to cold air has been created.

ACs are important. The heat wave that hit in 2003 killed more than 30,000 people. Since then, governments have put special measures in place in an attempt to prevent such natural disasters. But in their haste to save human lives, have they endangered the environment?

Keeping the AC on when you leave the house is not like forgetting to turn off the lights. It has a much greater and more measurable impact on the planet. It requires electricity to run an air conditioner, and electricity usually comes from coal-fueled power plants. This means that if you want your home or vehicle to stay cool, it’s going to cost a lot of coal.

There is a dangerous balance to AC use: the more an AC is used, the more greenhouse gases are released. When an air conditioner is on, it releases carbon into the air, which in turn contributes to global warming. In an effort to cool ourselves, we are heating the world.

Although the best way to use an air conditioner is to not use it (use ceiling fans, bed fans, keep the windows open in the morning), there are ways to minimize its effect on the environment. Turn the AC off when you are not home and when you’re sleeping. Also, keep it off on cool summer days. Just because it’s “summer” doesn’t mean it’s hot. Make sure that the unit is the appropriate size for the living space. It also helps to clean the filter and coils.

So which method is better? It’s always better to turn off an appliance or machine when it is not being used. Even at low levels, it is still accommodating someone that isn’t there.