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Should I Turn Off My AC While On Vacation?

August 1, 2017

Cooling an empty house – either when you’re gone during the day at work, or when you’re away for an extended vacation – seems like a bad idea since it uses electricity and energy, and wastes money. So, it’s natural to assume that the best way to save money is to turn it off when not in use, right?  Not so! Here’s why:

While you’re gone, the house heats up, but it does so unevenly – with some areas or materials retaining pockets of cooler air and others having pockets of warmer air.  This can cause condensation inside the walls, around pipes and around windows, while indoor humidity rises.  In Tennessee, it’s like we always say: it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!  The increased humidity in your home attracts bugs and greatly accelerates mold growth.  Over time, this moisture and mold can damage a house, causing fowl smells, wood deterioration and warping, buckling of wallpaper, peeling paint, and can damage sensitive artwork, electronics, and bottled wine.  High humidity also greatly increases allergens in the air – bacteria, mold, fungus, and dust mites –  which get deposited in your living space.  Remember: the number one thing air conditioning provides is dehumidification!

What’s the Solution?

The best solution is to turn the air conditioning down a few degrees but not completely off when not in use.  If you’re going to be gone for less than 12 hours, we recommend turning the thermostat up by no more than 4-6 degrees.  This way, you won’t come home to a humid, stuffy house and your air conditioner will not have to work very hard to cool the house down to your “normal” setting.  On the other hand, if you’re going away on vacation for a week, we recommend turning your thermostat up by no more than about 7-10 degrees.  This will allow you to save the maximum amount on cooling without risking damage from humidity.  A good rule of thumb to keep humidity at bay is to never set your thermostat higher than 82 degrees.

Programmable Thermostats to the Rescue!

Here’s where having a programmable thermostat is ideal.  You can set it to automatically be a few degrees higher during the portions of the workday when you are away, so you won’t need to remember to do this manually each day. Most thermostats also have an “away” setting you can use while on vacation.  Don’t want to come home to a hot house?  Many smart thermostats give you the ability to reset the temperature remotely, so you can turn down the temperature a couple of hours before you return.

Other Summer Vacation Tips

Do not steam clean carpets during the summer. This will increase humidity and cause moisture to be retained in the carpet and padding (especially if you’re turning the thermostat up!), and thus increases the mold and allergen problem.  It’s best to clean carpets during the winter months, when humidity is lower, and room heat can aid in drying the carpet and pad more quickly.

Do not leave exhaust fans on while you’re on vacation.  This only serves to exhaust the already cooled air and makes your air conditioner work harder.

Remove any standing water in the house – whether from a pet’s water dish (assuming you’re not leaving your pet behind), or in saucers around plants.  Water your plants the night before and pour out any excess water just before leaving.  Many plants are able to take in moisture from the humidity in the air, and leaving standing water around only attract bugs and mold… especially if you are raising the thermostat up several degrees.

Check out our many posts for more helpful tips to get the most out of your heating and air-conditioning year round.  If you live in the Nashville and surrounding area, Interstate AC Service is here for you!  Call on us at 615-802-2665.