Why Setting Your Air Conditioner Too Low Can Be Bad for Your Unit

When it’s a hot summer’s day, lots of homeowners may want to turn the thermostat way down to make it as cold as possible. However, setting your air conditioner too low isn’t good for your HVAC or your comfort levels. In fact, running your air conditioning too low puts unnecessary strain on the entire system and wastes a considerable amount of energy that you’ll still have to pay for. 

Read on to learn more about proper thermostat use from Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning, East San Diego’s trusted air conditioning repair team.

How Do Thermostats Work?

Here’s a quick primer on how thermostats work. 

All modern thermostats have temperature sensors that detect ambient temperatures. Think of the mercury on old thermostats or the electrical resistors on digital thermostats. In the same way, if an air conditioner’s thermostat detects temperatures above or below a set level, the mechanism will send a signal to turn on the cooling system.

Understandably, larger differences between the outside and inside will mean the thermostat works harder as the temperatures hit critical points more often. That’s why calibration is so important for a thermostat to prevent the mechanism from erratically turning your air conditioner on and off before it finishes a cooling cycle. Industry professionals call this short cycling, which makes light work of your system’s components to considerably shorten the HVAC’s lifespan. 

Why Is Setting Your Air Conditioner Too Low a Bad Thing?

Simply put, it’s because of the temperature differential. Most air conditioners can only lower the room temperature by 20 degrees. Any lower, and it sees diminishing returns on the energy it takes. 

So, running your air conditioner well below this 20-degree temperature differential strains your unit for no apparent benefit. Your unit will chew through more energy, incur more wear and tear, and burn out the compressor if you’re setting your air conditioner too low. The unit could easily overheat or shut down.

What Temperature Should I Set My Thermostat To?

If you’ve upgraded to a unit that no longer uses HCFC-22, you’re doing your bit for the ozone layer. However, mastering your air conditioner’s temperature settings can help you reduce your carbon footprint even further. 

During the spring and summer, an ideal temperature setting would be about 68 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s low enough to feel comfortable in hot weather but high enough to avoid strain on the system. 

Widespread research confirms that most humans don’t judge temperatures well. You might not think that 70 degrees is low enough. But in a different context, you’d soon discover that this temperature is actually too cold!

Additionally, a temperature lower than 70 degrees could cause the coils to freeze, damaging them and hindering the unit’s performance. And damaged coils can be very expensive to replace.

Keeping temperatures too low also has the following negative effects:

  • Damage certain materials, like wood furniture
  • Harm plants and pets
  • Cause discomfort for humans, which will bring on a cold or aggravate existing allergies 

Raising the Thermostat Can Also Work

Have you considered raising the thermostat setting when it’s hot outside? Heat naturally moves from hot areas to cold areas, and the bigger the temperature difference, the faster the heat moves out. When you set your thermostat really low, the heat might actually stream into your house instead of staying outside.

In contrast, setting the thermostat a little higher lowers the temperature difference to keep the room cooler for longer. When it’s 100 degrees outside, setting the thermostat to 80 degrees is better for your comfort than 70 degrees, as counterintuitive as it might sound.

More Thermostat Tips For a Comfortable, Eco-friendly Home

Low Thermostat Settings Can Damage Your Air Conditioner

If you run your unit too low, you risk burnout as the unit works too hard to keep up. Temperature inconsistencies could also lead to thermostat miscalibration. In that case, your unit will run for longer, push temperatures to the wrong level, or cycle too frequently and never reach the temperature you need.

If you suspect a damaged air conditioning unit, contact an expert like Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning right away. These experts can diagnose any problems and restore your comfort. 

Setting a Thermostat Too High Is Also Bad For Your Unit

Is it cold outside? You might be tempted to set your unit’s thermostat higher to make the home feel toasty. Most thermostats can go up to 90 degrees or higher, but you should rarely, if ever, set your AC that high! 

Like setting your thermostat too low, excessively high temperatures will use more energy than necessary and put a strain on your system. Moderation is key.

Top Professional Tips for Proper Thermostat Use

In addition to keeping the temperature at a cool 70 degrees, you might want to take note of proper thermostat settings, placement, and calibration. The tips below should help you save money and maximize your HVAC’s performance.

  • Placement. The ideal spot for thermostat placement is at least five feet off the ground on a flat wall section away from doors or windows. A nearby vent or air source may cause the thermostat to read temperatures incorrectly. 
  • Runtime. Keep the thermostat on throughout the day instead of turning it on and off. Frequent cycling uses more energy than keeping the HVAC on for an extended period. 
  • Circulation. Invest in a ceiling fan or room fan. Fans introduce wind chill that can lower apparent temperatures. That way, you can set your thermostat three to five degrees higher.
  • Technology. Invest in a programmable thermostat. Smart thermostats record temperatures and use data to optimize performance via a smartphone app. It will save you money.
  • Maintenance. Change the batteries on the thermostat at least once a year. Low batteries can interrupt thermostat functioning and make temperatures inconsistent. 

Experience Maximum Comfort in San Diego

Whether you’ve been setting your air conditioner too low or lacking routine AC maintenance, Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning has what you need. Contact us online or call 619-949-2286 today to schedule an appointment!