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Your Air Conditioning Myths, Debunked

March 21, 2018

by Ambi Climate

March 21, 2018

by Ambi Climate

* This post was updated in March 2018
People are always seeking ways to use energy more efficiently with the intent of saving money on utilities and minimizing their carbon footprint. But along the way, certain ideas have emerged about how people think they ought to use their air conditioner, versus how the air conditioner actually works. These are the main AC myths many of us fall susceptible to!

Myth #1: Using a low set-point temperature will decrease humidity similar to Dry Mode

Air conditioners consume energy at a rate that is based on outdoor temperature and relative humidity. However, the way AC remotes are designed often cause us to fixate on the temperature and “Power” buttons alone, ignoring other modes.

Since we are very sensitive to humidity and respond to moisture-heavy environments by sweating, we end up feeling even hotter. Sometimes it is more beneficial to use our AC on “Dry Mode” – an AC function that could be more energy efficient at extracting humidity from the room, when conditions are humid but not too hot – as it is essentially a weaker version of “Cool Mode”.

Using Dry Mode will cause the fan in your AC to operate at a slower speed, resulting in a cooler evaporator coil that condenses water vapor as the AC blows out the dry air through the appliance. This mode won’t completely dehumidify your home but it will reduce moisture and will also use less energy than the full “Power” or “Cool” modes. Since so many people struggle with figuring Dry Mode out, here’s a breakdown of exactly how it can save energy!

Myth #2: Setting your AC to a lower temperature will cool the room faster and more efficiently

With the exception of inverter ACs, conventional units can only turn the compressor ‘on’ or ‘off’. So whether you set your AC for 23°C or 19°C, your AC will not work any faster to reach the lower temperature. A lower set-point temperature will eventually use more energy – and if you forget to re-adjust it, your AC will over-cool and be less efficient.

The smaller the difference between outdoor and indoor temperatures, the lower your overall energy bill will be. Here are a few tips on efficiently using your AC.

Myth #3: Keeping your air conditioner on all day will save more energy than turning it on/off

Some people believe that it’s more effective to leave your AC running all day, even when no one is around. Your AC consumes less power when completely turned off, as opposed to operating all day – even at a higher temperature.

So in reality, it’s more efficient to turn your AC off when it is not needed. It will also run more efficiently when operating at full speed for shorter periods of time than when maintaining a constant temperature.

Myth #4: Temperature is the only thing that controls your comfort

According to ASHRAE, there are 6 factors which affect your thermal comfort – while your air conditioner only takes temperature into account! Things like radiant sunlight, the amount of clothing you wear or humidity are crucial elements of how comfortable you may feel.

Thermal Comfort Factors.jpg

Because air conditioners only take temperature into account, forgoing all these other factors, we end up always feeling too cold, too hot or just plain uneasy. Since your air conditioner is limited as to what it can sense, only being able to release air in a certain preset temperature, it’s unable to act upon these different factors, consider them and optimize your environment.

To bridge this huge comfort gap, a great solution could be a Smart remote controller! Devices such as these would have multiple sensors and make use of a sea of online data to correctly analyze and improve your surroundings; sensors and data could include internal humidity, sunlight and tracking of our metabolic cycle (time of day), among others, thus providing a whole new level of accuracy, automation and control.

Some Smart Controllers will even make use of AI and Machine Learning to further learn about your preferences to auto-adjust your AC based on your needs and produce personalized comfort.

Myth #5: Air conditioners generate or create fresh air

Contrary to popular belief, air conditioners do not create, let in, or generate fresh air. What they essentially do is refrigerate the air within a room.

Here’s how a conventional AC unit works: your AC forces refrigerant to evaporate and condense into a gas within the system of coils. As this liquid compound converts into a gas, it becomes colder. The refrigerants convert from liquid back to gas in a continuous cycle through a compressor. Meanwhile, a fan located within the AC unit moves warm air from your room over the coils filled with cold refrigerant and chills it.

This process of conversion generates heat, which is pushed outdoors by another set of condenser coils and a fan. While air conditioning may feel like new or fresh air is being produced in your room, in reality you are merely feeling refrigerated indoor air.

If that was confusing, this diagram might help:

AC Myths Blog Post Graphic rework_OP-01.png

Myth #6: Unless there’s a problem, you don’t need to regularly check your AC

As long as your AC turns on and circulates cool air within your home, it may be easy to forget that these appliances need some routine maintenance. Remember to periodically clean your AC and filters to ensure efficient performance. The difference in energy consumption between a dirty filter and a clean one can be up to ~5% so make sure to be on top of things!


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COMMENTS

  1. Amazing Post.It truly overwhelms me what a small number of individuals actually preform support on their air conditioning unit or contract an expert to deal with it. Thanks for sharing this information

  2. Great post, i have faced the issue in noise with my windows ac. Is i can anything to fix it

  3. Basio says:

    Very useful ! Thank you.

    One note: some ACs do mix in fresh air. Even some window units have a vent (sometimes user-operable) for mixing in some fresh air from outside.

    Similarly, some of the split units allow adding on a fresh air mix intake to the indoor unit, which of course requires running vent ducts (intake and exhaust) to the outside world.

  4. I like that you mentioned how leaving the ac on all day isn’t the most efficient way to keep the house cool. My wife and I argue about this all the time. Hopefully she will read this and understand the ways.

  5. I like how you pointed out that putting your AC m to a lower temperature won’t cool down things more quickly, as it will use more energy and be less efficient. It’s been a really hot summer this year, so I’ve been wondering how to get my AC to work best. I’ll share these helpful myths and facts with my family, so we can take good care of our system.

  6. Chad says:

    Does a window AC unit actually work better when it has water in the pan, or is it better to keep it well drained? Sometimes I do spray the hose onto the radiator on really hot days, so I understand how the water can help dissipate heat. However, this is not a swamp cooler nor does it have any sort of water pump inside to spray water. It feels to me like a myth when they say it works better with water condensed in the pan.

    • Ambi Climate says:

      Hi Chad,

      You should always make sure your drain pan is well drained and isn’t overflowing or clogged from being extracted through the connected pipe. The only role of the pan is to catch the water condensed from the humidity in your home, and it is a temporary place. Otherwise it can damage your system and cause leaking or other malfunctions.

  7. Anna Stenseth says:

    I would like to know how you figure keeping the room cool with the ac left on is more efficient than turning it off while you are gone and then it having to work doubly hard to cool the room down again when you get home?

    • Ambi Climate says:

      Leaving the AC on all day incurs unnecessarily high electric bills and a LOT of waste if no one is home. When you return home and turn it on it will not work “double as hard” as it will gradually take away moisture from the air and cool the room – this will depend on the temperature and/or mode you set your AC to. If you always use your AC on a low set-point temperature of 17-18 it will constantly work too hard and waste energy – but that’s another problem. By setting your AC to a more balanced set-point temperature it will allow for a streamlined usage – yes, the room may take some time to cool off again, but your AC will work just the same.

  8. Helen says:

    Does running ducted airconditioning into two rooms cost more? Is 16 degrees more efficient that 18?

    • Ambi Climate says:

      A ducted AC would normally use more power but it’s hard to say for sure – it really depends on the type of system and to which split AC system you compare it to. In terms of set-point temperature, both 16 and 18 are very low and would incur higher electricity charges as well as unnecessarily over-cool your home. Keeping the AC on one temperature isn’t as efficient as readjusting it to match the environment, which would ultimately reach a higher temperature point and continue adjusting as you go. This is what our product does for you!

  9. Daniel says:

    Hi there! I’m aware that a inverter AC allows a constant temperature, but is the single speed AC typical 2C-3C temperature fluctuation really noticeable while sleeping? Thanks.

    • Ambi Climate says:

      Hi Daniel,

      Since the actual temperature in a room, as well as how you feel, is based on a number of factors and not just what your AC is set to, the conditions may and will most likely fluctuate greatly throughout the night. For instance, you may set your AC to 21 degrees, which would be comfortable at one point – but throughout the night your body temperature drops or the outdoor conditions may change and affect your bedroom, which could cause those 21 degrees to feel colder than they actually are; this is what we call apparent temperature!
      Hope this answers your questions and let us know if you want to know anything else.

  10. Sam says:

    If I leave the AC on in Fan mode and install an electrostatic filter, will the Air Conditioner do the job of an Air Purifier?

    • Ambi Climate says:

      Hi Sam!
      Using an electrostatic filter will indeed help with cleaning the air, but it’s limited since it works on static electricity – it can only filter so much. Thus, it cannot replace a proper air purifier. If you’re looking for complete protection, we suggest to invest in a standalone air purifier.

  11. Kim Stone says:

    I like that you recommend looking at the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure that your unit will be able to survive the potentially harsh winter climate. It could be good to know this information before you install any AC unit so you’ll know if you need to hire an installation service to put in or take out your unit during the winter. Looking at the owner’s manual or even talking to your installer could be a good idea to get that kind of information.

  12. Great article, it helped much to me.

    I wonder, an inverter AC, that’s why people called it is an inverter air conditioner. thank you.

    • Ambi Climate says:

      Hi! Glad to hear 🙂

      • Rishi says:

        My query about dehumidification ability of an inverter AC still remains unaddressed… 😐

        • Ambi Climate says:

          Hi Rishi,
          An Inverter AC will indeed perform well to dehumidify if set to the correct mode for a specific scenario – this could be dry mode/fan mode/cool mode, but this greatly depends on numerous factors, as well as the specific AC model. We are not entirely sure what happens to the coil at any given moment for any given AC unit, so I can only suggest discussing this with an engineer or looking into studies on the topic. We’ve had users with great success of reaching comfort as well as saving energy with both types of AC units. We’re also going to publish a new post this week which will deal with fan mode & dry mode as this is a common question we see!

  13. Rishi says:

    Thank you for your reply and associated information about compressor types and evaporator coils!
    You mention “the air won’t cool down as much when it goes through the AC”. That was exactly my doubt. If an inverter run compressor AC won’t cool down the air ‘as much’, it implies that the evaporator coil temperature wouldn’t be ‘as low’. That means the coil itself would continue to work at a higher temperature than what it had been before attaining the user defined temperature setpoint. Now will the AC be able to continue to dehumidify, or to be more precise, to be able to condense and extract moisture out from this air passing through it while running at fractional capacity? (Possibly not.)
    In that case, if I stay in a coastal, highly humid region beside the sea with mildly high temperatures, and my prime utility for my AC would be dehumidification, I would rather be better off with a conventional on/off cycling unit.
    Please comment.
    Kind regards.

  14. Rishi says:

    In case of Inverter AC systems, as the compressor motor of the inverter air conditioner does not turn on and off all the time, but keeps working at low power, what happens to the evaporator coil temperature when the preset temperature is attained? Can an inverter AC continue to dehumidify a room as quickly and effectively like a normal (on/off cycling) AC?

  15. Maja Jurović says:

    Great article. I have a question – I live in Europe, where winter often brings a big problem – condensation. I have the rather good heating system (gas boiler with 5 radiators), but because of PVC windows lot of humidity stays in the apartment. I have found that my air condition (inverter, Panasonic CS-E12CKP) can do a great job reducing the humidity when set in dry mode. Question – how can I calculate the power consumption of my AC? Note that there is no use in opening windows since outside air is often more humid than inside.

    • Ambi Climate says:

      Hi Maja,
      Unfortunately the traditional AC makes it hard to monitor and control our AC usage and energy consumption. This is the problem we’re also trying to help with by creating Ambi Climate. Dry mode will indeed help with condensation, humidity and the resulting damage these two may cause to your home – with Ambi Climate you can see all the hours you’ve used your AC, different modes and temperatures (Ambi will set itself to provide the environment that you set through our Smart Modes) and ultimately, after some months, you’ll be able to compare this to your energy bills and see the changes and differences.

  16. Great article for homeowners… It really blows me away how few people personally preform maintenance on their AC unit or hire a professional to take care of it. Glad to see #4 in there!

  17. Thanks for helping me understand more about air conditioning units. I appreciate that this article mentions that ti’s still important to do maintenance checks on an AC system, and to clean it every now and them to make sure it’s running efficiently. Definitely sounds worthwhile to learn more about the different ways someone can clean their unit, and how periodically they should do so.

    • Ambi Climate says:

      Hi Taylor,

      We’re glad you found this post useful and educational – that’s our aim! AC cleaning methods is definitely something worth talking about, and we might whip up a short post about it. Thanks for the idea! Regarding how often you should clean your AC filters, around every 6 months, and maybe more often if your home is very dusty or when the AC is on for longer (such as summer).

  18. Peter says:

    Does turning an AirCon to a low temp on a Low setting use more electricity as opposed to a med temp on a low setting? (Air Con has 3 settings low,med, high with temp setting)

    • Ambi Climate says:

      Hi Peter,
      Sorry to have missed your comment! A lower temperature used continuously over-time will use up more energy – using the same temperature without any adjustment to consider the room’s conditions is the reason; the AC works hard to cool. using a slightly higher temperature, as well as smartly adjusting the AC to match the environment and optimize it, will eventually lead to energy savings.

  19. Cameron says:

    I was just given a portable ac unit that has cool and dry mode. I do not live in a very humid climate. Does dry mode actually cool the room down? My instruction manual says if I use in dry mode I shouldn’t install the exhaust hose to the window. If I use in cool mode does it also dehumidify? In cool mode do I need to worry about the drainage hose and water coming out of it?

    Thank you.

  20. Steven C Rodgers says:

    Your “Myth” #5 is answered incorrectly and #5 is not a myth but a fact. Especially with central ac units with temperature control settings. Providing that you’re referring to efficiently controlling and maintaining the comfort and temperature of the building. Which is what I would take as the intended meaning of #5. So stating that it is a myth because if you hook up a ac unit to a power source and turn it on it uses more energy than disconnecting it from power is a no brainer and no one anywhere needs that explained.

  21. Ian says:

    Does putting your A/C on economy mode actually save money?

    • Ambi Climate says:

      Hi Ian,

      While using economy mode will result in energy/money saving, since essentially it reduces your AC’s output power – it might mean the room will often feel slightly warmer. So, if you’re not a person that normally feels very hot, this might be a great way for you to save money!

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