Should You Turn Off Your Air Conditioner While on Vacation?

With the end of summer approaching and Labor Day right around the corner, vacation plans are in full swing. And often a hotly debated topic before hitting the road for your end-of-summer hoorah is whether you should turn off the air conditioner. And if you leave it on, what AC temperature should you set while on vacation? Our plumbing and HVAC services manager Joe Nguyen says if your primary goal is saving energy and money, then yes, turn off the AC (unless you’re leaving pets behind). But according to Nguyen, there’s more to it than that.

Vacation Length

If you’re making a quick weekend getaway, turning the AC off won’t realize big energy or cost savings. After all, the system will have to work harder to reach the desired temperature once you return. For longer vacations, consider the following.

Temperature and Humidity

When the temperature is mild, turning off your air conditioner isn’t a problem. However, high temperatures and humidity levels can quickly heat a home, causing other cooling appliances (refrigerator, freezer, etc.) to work overtime. And a malfunctioning refrigerator will cost more than leaving your air running.

Vacation Temperature Recommendation

Nguyen says the widely held recommendation is to just turn the air conditioner temperature up rather than powering it down. He recommends setting the thermostat between 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, using a programmable thermostat with WiFi capability, set the thermostat to cool the house to a comfortable temperature prior to your arrival home.

Nest thermostat on wall

Photo via Nest

Home Vacation Prep Tips

Now that the air conditioner dilemma is sorted out, protect your home appliances with these tips:

  • Close the curtains and blinds. This will keep your home cooler, giving your appliances a break!
  • Turn off the water to your home and home appliances. No one wants to come home to a leak or flood!
  • Put your refrigerator in vacation mode if you have that option.
  • Crack open the dishwasher and washing machine doors to air them out.
  • Turn your water heater down to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Last but not least, enjoy your vacation!

Do you turn off your AC before leaving on vacation? Why or why not?

5 Tips for Keeping a Cool Refrigerator this Summer

You owe your refrigerator major props for keeping your food from spoiling and always having a cold one (beer, water, lemonade – whatever your preference) waiting for you at the end of a long day. To show your appreciation, take these steps to help your refrigerator keep its cool during the dog days of summer. Your energy bill will thank you.

1. Check the Seal

Make sure your refrigerator seal (gasket) is airtight. An easy way to do this is with the dollar bill test. Close a dollar bill (or just a sheet of paper if you don’t carry cash) in the fridge door. If the door holds the dollar securely in place, then the seal is tight. If the dollars falls out or can be removed easily, the seal is too loose.

Before replacing the gasket, look for any obstructions that may be causing the faulty seal. If that doesn’t do the trick, repair your refrigerator seal with Vaseline by applying a thin layer on the part of the seal that connects to your fridge or freezer.

2. Clean the Coils

Dust and dirt accumulates on your fridge coils over time, and rather quickly if you live with shedding pets. New refrigerators have self-cleaning condensers, but for older fridges, you need to remove the dirt yourself. You might have a vacuum attachment that will work on the coils, but if not, purchase a coil brush. Then clean your coils; your fridge will breathe a sigh of relief!

3. Stock the Fridge

Thermador-traditional-kitchen-coffee-machine-refrigeration

Photo via Thermador

I know it sounds counterintuitive; more food seems like more work. But that’s not true! It actually takes more energy to cool an empty fridge. Of course you don’t want to stock more than you can eat or load it up with groceries before taking a summer vacation.

Quick tip: Fill those empty spaces with pitchers of water. Then you’ll always have a cold, refreshing drink when you need it!

4. Set the Temperature

Make sure your fridge and freezer are set to the correct temperature – cool enough to keep your food safe, but not working harder than needed. The recommended temperature for a refrigerator ranges from 35 to 38 degrees. The ideal freezer temperature is between 0 and 5 degrees.

5. Change the Filter

Your filtered water won’t be very clean if it’s pulled through a dirty “filter.” Your fridge might have an indicator that tells you when to change the filter. Either way, your refrigerator water filter should be changed about twice a year (follow manufacturer guidelines for frequency). Change the filter if it’s time. Not only will you benefit from cleaner water, your ice maker will run more efficiently.

Featured image via Beko

What tips do you have to help your refrigerator keep its cool? Share them in the comments!

Save Energy While Running AC

You need an air conditioning unit to save your own energy, but how do you save consumable energy?

Heat burns us out. We have to stay cool to maintain physical and mental health, but it’s hard to be comfortable when you’re stressing about energy usage.

Warners’ Stellian is an expert in heating and cooling, and we know some tricks to prevent energy bills from racking up. Now, we’re going to share them with you.

airplane cropped.png

Before the season starts

First of all, have your unit inspected and ensure it gets its maintenance each year. If it needs cleaning out, it will work 10 times harder to produce normal results. This is especially important if you live around trees.

You should also check your ducts to be sure the areas they cool are well insulated.

While your AC unit is running

Sunlight gives direct heat when it beats in through the windows. Keep the drapes closed so the AC can do its job. This also encourages you to go outside more! Andy Lindus, COO of Lindus Construction also cautions not to skimp on the quality of your windows.  “Triple pane windows that are specifically designed for the extreme Minnesota temperature swings can help prevent your HVAC system from failing prematurely due to overexertion.”

Misplacement of furniture can block the pathways for which cool air travels through. Rearrange your furniture so that it’s not in the way of any vents.

Remember that electric lights create heat. Try to keep them off unless they are needed. Another suggestion would be to switch to LED lights. 

Don’t underestimate fans. Fans will support your unit and help regulate air so it fills the room better. Fans do produce a cooling effect as well, so they can make an impact when your unit is running low or turned off.

Learn to use the “sleep mode” properly. Some of us get hot in our sleep, but your unit should be turned down at some point to prevent overuse. It’s best to adjust to a cycle where the unit runs low when there’s no natural sunlight. If you currently don’t have this feature, you can contact your energy company to install a saver switch that will cycle your unit.

Need help with your A/C? Fill out this short form to set up an appointment today.

Featured image: Electrolux

Dryers Become the Next Energy Star

energystarsappliancesThe Environmental  Protection Agency announced this spring the first-ever Energy Star dryer label.

I know what you’re thinking:

“Wait, you mean there wasn’t an Energy Star label for dryers before?”

I know, right? However, the popular thinking was that dryers couldn’t vary much among each other in energy use therefore, there was no reason to call them out.

But about three years ago, the EPA began to take steps to expand the program and reported on ways that clothes dryer efficiency could be improved.

Energy Star Dryers

The new label will recognize highly efficient gas and electric dryers that use about 20% less energy than required by 2015 federal standards.

Over 80% of U.S. homes have a clothes dryer, and these appliances account for approximately 6 percent of residential electricity consumption.

So far, one brand has already jumped on the new category. Whirlpool announced an Energy Star rated Duet steam dryer.

Whirlpool brand Duet® model WED87HED steam dryer

Whirlpool brand Duet® model WED87HED steam dryer

Many of today’s dryers already use temperature or moisture sensors to shut off the dryer once clothes are dry and cease using energy past its usefulness. Dryer models that meet the new Energy Star requirements are likely to improve upon these “auto termination cycles.”

From Energy Star:

Among the more efficient gas and electric dryers that will earn the Energy Star, consumers should expect to encounter a promising new technology. Heat pump dryers recapture the hot air used by the dryer and pump it back into the drum to dry more clothes. By re-using most of the heat, it creates a heat pump dryer that is more efficient and avoids the need for ducts leading heat out of the laundry room.

Kitchen Energy Saving Tips

Stoves, cooktops and ovens aren’t Energy Star rated, because most models use about the same amount of energy. But there are certainly ways to use less gas or electricity when cooking. Follow these tips to save energy (and as a result, money) while cooking.

Keep It Clean

Maintaining a tidy cook surface isn’t just about impressing company (or your cat).
Dirty surfaces don’t reflect heat as well as polished surfaces, thus wasting energy and potentially your time.

Size Matters

Unless you’re using an induction cooktop or range, you’re heating a lot of air while you try to heat your food. Induction cooking is 20% more efficient than electric and 70% more efficient than gas.

To mitigate energy loss, choose the appropriate sized pot or pan for the size of burner you’re cooking on (i.e. don’t put a 1-qt saucepan on a ginormous “power burner”).

Put a Lid On It

When you think about it, it makes no sense to boil water in an uncovered pot. Using a cover helps water boil faster while creating pressure and preventing evaporation.

Skip the Preheat

Unless you’re baking and require precise temperatures, you don’t need to wait till your oven reaches 350 degrees to throw your food in. Better yet, shut off your oven a few minutes early and let residual heat finish off your dish. Even better yet, make two pans to freeze leftovers and reheat in the microwave later.

Do you have any tip for saving energy in the kitchen? Share them in the comments section below!