Summer vacation season is just around the corner, and hopefully you’re getting set to go on vacation, perhaps to Alabama’s Gulf Coast, or California, or to one of this country’s amazing National Parks. We know your HVAC system probably isn’t high on your list of priorities while you’re in the midst of vacation planning. It’s likely an even lower priority if you’re currently trying to tie up loose ends at work so you can get away for a week or two.
But you should spend a few minutes thinking about preparing your HVAC system for your vacation; a little bit of thought now can potentially reduce your utility bill and help you avoid coming home to a steaming hot house, or worse, a non-functioning unit.
Should You Turn Off Your AC While On Vacation?
There are two schools of thought here. Some say that if you’re going away for a weekend or a long weekend, the answer is “no.” The amount of energy you’ll save by turning your air conditioning off for a few days won’t outweigh the energy you’ll use getting your home back to a comfortable temperature when you return.
A good rule of thumb: on average, a correctly-sized AC unit will reduce the temperature in your house by one degree every 15-20 minutes. So if your home gets hot and steamy while you’re away, it might take as many as five hours to cool it down. Those might be an uncomfortable several hours, unless of course you have a programmable thermostat, in which case you can simply schedule your system to come back on ‘X’ number of hours before your scheduled return.
But there’s another consideration here. Generally speaking, it’s better not to have your air conditioning off for an extended period of time, as moisture can build up and parts may be more prone to going bad during long periods of inactivity. On the other hand, running your air conditioning for hours on end will stress your system, and an old or undersized unit might not be up to the task.
So while some will say that you should turn off your AC if you’re away for a week or longer, it’s probably advisable to keep the air conditioning on but to raise the temperature by, say, four degrees. So, if you normally keep your home at 71 degrees, bump up the temperature to 75 degrees.
Should You Invest in a Smart Thermostat?
An even better option is to invest in a smart thermostat, which will not only solve your vacation problem but help you save energy and money all year long. With a smart thermostat—like Honeywell’s smart thermostat—you can pre-program your system to run at select times or schedule temperature changes.
If you’re like the vast majority of Tennesseans, you probably don’t yet have a smart thermostat. As we noted in our recent post, 4 Benefits of a Wi-Fi Thermostat, only about 25 percent of Tennessee households have either a smart or programmable thermostat, as compared to the national average of nearly 40 percent.
Meanwhile, there are other things you can do to help keep your home cool while you’re away. For example, you can reduce the temperature in your house by closing all of the blinds and curtains. You’ll also want to make sure your vents are open, to help keep air flowing whenever your system is on. Finally, change the air filter before you depart, which will help protect your unit against dirt and dust while you’re away.
Of course, it you’re worried about your unit breaking down while you’re on vacation, seek the advice of a Nashville HVAC professional.
At Jewell Mechanical we offer preventative residential HVAC maintenance and an Energy Savings Agreement (ESA), which removes the guesswork by providing for two inspection and maintenance appointments per year, not to mention other benefits like discounts on repairs and priority customer status. To learn more about our residential HVAC maintenance program contact us online or call us at (615) 469-5965.
One final bit of advice: Fluctuations in the electrical current can cause irreparable damage to household items, so it’s worth protecting your HVAC system, computers, televisions and appliances with a surge protector. Better yet, unplug your computers, televisions, microwave and the like while you’re away, to avoid damage from, say, a power surge caused by a lightning strike.
Then all you’ll need to worry about is enjoying your vacation!