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?

Practice Power Outage Food Safety

Power outage? Don’t get left in the dark on whether your food is safe to eat. Allow us to shed some light on the ins and outs of food safety during power outage situations.

Power Outage Preparation

An ounce of prevention is worth a fridge full of food. Be prepared for power outage emergencies with the following tips:

  • Invest in appliance thermometers for your refrigerator or freezer if they don’t come equipped with them already.
  • Keep frozen containers of ice in the freezer. Not only does this help the freezer stay cool, but in the event of a power outage, the ice will keep food colder in the freezer, refrigerator or a cooler. As an added bonus, you get cold, fresh drinking water as it melts.
  • Have coolers on hand to move perishable foods into if needed.
  • Stay stocked up on ice.

Want to be extra prepared? The Frigidaire Gallery Upright Freezer/Refrigerator allows you to switch from refrigerator to freezer as your cold storage needs changes. With ArcticLockTM  walls, food stays frozen for more than two days in power outage events.

dad and son getting food from stainless steel Frigidaire fridge

When the Power Goes Out

If you can, call the power company asking how long the power outage is expected to last. This will help you determine whether you need to take action to save your food. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed during a power outage. Anytime you open the door, you release the cold air and allow warm air to make its way in.

Freezer Tips

The recommended freezer temperature is zero degrees. According to the FDA, a full freezer will keep its temperature for 48 hours as long as the door remains closed. For a half-full freezer, cut that time in half.

Whirlpool Corp recommends using 2 pounds of dry ice in the freezer for every cubic foot of freezer space to keep the food frozen 2 to 4 days.

How do you know if the food is safe after the power comes back on? If the temperature reads 40 degrees or lower, your food should be safe. Don’t know the temperature? If food contains ice crystals, it’s safe to refreeze (although quality/flavor may be compromised).

Refrigerator Tips

The recommended refrigerator temperature ranges from 35 to 38 degrees. According to foodsafety.gov, your refrigerator contents should be safe as long as the power outage lasts no more than 4 hours. However, you must discard any perishable foods that are left in temperatures higher than 40 degrees for 2 hours or longer. If you have perishables you want to keep safe longer, move them into the freezer or a cooler with ice. If you are unsure which foods are considered perishable, consult this handy chart.

When it comes to food safety, better safe than sorry. We operate by the rule of thumb: When in doubt, throw it out!

This is an updated version of an article previously published on Jan. 5, 2011.
Images via Whirlpool

7 Appliance Myths Debunked

Appliance myths waste consumers’ time, energy and money, which is why we are here to debunk them!

1. MYTH: Cold water won’t properly wash your clothes

FACT: Modern washers are designed to clean in cold water and 90 percent of a washer’s energy goes toward the water heating. So by washing with hot water, you’re pouring money down the drain.

2. MYTH: You must rinse your dishes before they run in the dishwasher

FACT: Dishwashers and detergent clean best when starting with dirty dishes. The detergent needs food to activate. Many dishwashers use sensors to determine the “turbidity” level of the water, so if the dishwasher thinks the dishes are already clean, it will run shorter and colder.

Today, an Energy Star dishwasher uses only 4 gallons of water or less, and some estimates say you’ll use 20 gallons of water from your faucet pre-rinsing dishes. So it’s better to run the dishes through 4 times than to put them in rinsed.

3. MYTH: More soap = more clean

FACT: Just because dishwashers and washers now require less water to clean properly doesn’t mean that everyone has gotten the message to reduce our detergent use in conjunction. Too much dishwasher detergent can leave a white film on dishes.

When it comes to washers, too much laundry detergent can cause oversudsing, reducing the performance and lifespan, and leaving soap residue on your clothes.

4. MYTH: Using an old refrigerator as a second beverage refrigerator saves money

FACT: The electricity to power an old refrigerator over several years will cost more than an energy efficient replacement…and then some! Energy Star’s website cleverly offers a Refrigerator Retirement Savings calculator.

The cost to a homeowner of a 20 year old top-freezer fridge (probably 18 cu ft) would be $620 over 5 years. A new Energy Star model costs about $40/year to run vs. $125/yr. PLUS, many local utilities will actually pay you $35 or more to let them haul away your second refrigerator.

5. MYTH: Buying a more powerful A/C will cool down your space faster

FACT: The A/C will just cycle off more frequently when it reaches the temperature in the room, reducing efficiency, lifespan and causing uncomfortable temperature fluctuations. Buy a window air conditioner or room air conditioner that’s just right for your space.

6. MYTH: When the oven’s preheating chime sounds, it’s fully reached temperature

FACT: Some preheat chimes are on a timer so it shouldn’t be trusted for finicky bakers, who should test the temperature with a thermometer. For your everyday pizzas and casseroles, you’d be fine however.

7. MYTH: You don’t need to turn on your ventilation until there’s smoke

FACT: You should start running your ventilation 10 minutes before you start cooking to create an airflow and leave it running 5 minutes after you’re done for best results.

Featured image via Whirlpool

How To Clean Stove Drip Pans

Cleaning your stove top is like making the bed: even if you do it today, you’re still going to have to do it tomorrow, too.

If you have an electric coil stove you have drip pans, which – by name – catch drips. Even if you clean your range top often, it’s a mess the next time you cook. Make cleaning drip pans easier with these methods.

How To Clean Stove Drip Pans Fast

The fastest, easiest – and perhaps even most effective way to clean the surface – is with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, or a generic version of this melamine foam sponge.

It looks like an ordinary sponge, but because it’s melamine, it actually has little microscrubbers that can remove discoloration and baked on mess with minimal elbow grease.

That being said, it is abrasive in nature so it can scratch or dull surfaces if you’re not careful. Let’s save this cleaning method for Why didn’t you tell me you’re mother was visiting? times.

How To Spot Clean Stove Drip Pans

For day to day drips and stains, make sure the burner’s completely cooled and pull it up and out from the stove top. Wet the drip pan and sprinkle on a liberal amount of Bar Keeper’s Friend. Use a rag to work the cleaner into a paste and polish off the mess. Rinse and dry thoroughly before replacing the pans.

How To Deep Clean Stove Drip Pans

Pick a time when you don’t need to use your sink or stove for several hours, like right before bed or work. Again, wait until the stove is cool and remove the burners. Put each burner pan in separate gallon plastic bags. Add 1/4 cup of ammonia to each and fill the remainder with hot tap water. Close the bags and let them sit overnight (or for several hours).

Then, drain the bags and scrub off the loosened mess. Rinse well before applying any other cleaners, as ammonia can create toxic fumes when mixed. Rinse and dry thoroughly before replacing.

Bonus: Clean drip pans for your electric stove don’t just serve cosmetic purposes; keeping the surface reflective ensures the most efficient use of heat, meaning you’ll use less energy when you keep your burners and drip pans clean.

How do you keep your stove drip pans clean? Tell us in the comments!

Front Load Washer Taking Longer Than It Says

catwasher

But the washer said it would be done by meow! What’s taking so long…

Front load washers can estimate the amount of time it will take to finish the cycle, which comes in handy when deciding whether you should wait around to throw the clean clothes in the dryer or run an errand.

But what about when the washer shows the wrong time estimate? Maybe sometimes when your washing machine says it will take 40 minutes, it takes 50 minutes instead.

What Causes Washer Cycle To Take Longer?

Your clothes washer time to complete a cycle is based on the type of laundry detergent you use, the size and type of your load, which cycle you chose and temperature and pressure of your water.

So, for instance, if you use too much detergent, it will oversuds and take longer to rinse out of your clothes. (Some brands will flash “Sd” or “Sud” on the indicator when this happens. To avoid, use the recommended amount of HE detergent).

If the load is unbalanced, say, due to you only washing one item or particularly a bulky item, your washer will keep trying to rebalance itself, and that will add minutes to the process.

No brainer: larger loads will take longer to clean, especially on specialty cycles like delicate.

If you choose a sanitize or white cycle, the water will need to be hot and if the incoming water is cold – well, you get the idea.