How to run your air conditioner without it costing you a fortune

I’ve been so thankful for our air conditioned home this weekend. Well actually, I’m grateful for our cool home throughout summer thanks to our ducted air conditioner. Brisbane has been hot and humid all weekend and the temperatures are going to be similar all week.

Our air conditioner runs 24/7 from the end of November to about the end of March.

Hence our need to install solar panels to compensate our electricity costs in the summer months.

If you don’t have panels and are trying to save money on your electricity bills, turning on the air conditioner may be a battle of comfort over your wallet. But I’m going to explain some ways on how to run your air conditioner without it costing you a fortune.

First up is maintenance. Whether you have a ducted air conditioner or split system, both require to be serviced once a year. This ensures that the air conditioner is running efficiently and can prevent problems occurring when you need to use the air conditioner. Most people don’t get their air conditioners serviced which means they may not be working as efficiently as they could be.

Our maintenance service includes checking the ducts, motor, fan, and vent. It’s best to book this service in Autumn or Spring which is the non-peak demand for air conditioning services. A service to your unit ensures it is ready for use during winter and summer.

The vent needs to be cleaned every 3 months or sooner if it's clogged with dust

The vent needs to be cleaned every 3 months or sooner if it’s clogged with dust

Once a quarter the vent needs to be hosed down to get rid of the dust and whatever gets caught in the fibres. We used to use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the dust, but this ruined the wool fibres in the vent and we ended up having to buy a new one. Once the vent is hosed, leave it outside to dry completely before putting back inside.

The second tip is temperature control. Keep the temperature at a constant 24 degrees. The cooler the temperature, the harder the air conditioner has to work to maintain a lower temperature. Also ensure that windows are covered to keep the cool air in and heat out.

Maintain the temperature to 24 degrees.

Maintain the temperature to 24 degrees.

Thirdly, my next tip is one that many Australians get wrong every time they turn their air conditioner on and I have tested this theory myself to prove that it does work.

Turn your air conditioner on in the morning BEFORE the house starts to heat up. Most people wait until they can’t bear the heat, by which time their house is like an oven and the air conditioner needs to work hard, drawing more power than normal to get the temperature down in the house. If you start the air conditioner in the morning, it won’t need to work so hard to maintain a cool temperature. In weeks like what we have recently experienced in Brisbane, I would be keeping the air conditioner on 24/7 until the weather starts to cool down. But that’s just me.

I accidentally tested this theory when I had Esther. Before children, Jacob and I would turn the air conditioner off before we left for work on a morning and then turn it back on at night when we came back from work. Our house would be so hot and stuffy when we got home from work!

When we had Esther, I had the air conditioner on all the time and rarely had it off in summer. I remember being scared about opening our electricity bill and was surprised to see that there was at least a $200 difference less on that current bill to the same period in the previous year. Our maintenance serviceman later confirmed our unit used less power if our house was already cool.

I’ve mentioned before that installing solar panels is a great way to offset electricity costs on your home. If you can’t afford solar panels, what about installing a solar paneled air conditioner? The air conditioner feeds off the panels installed on your roof which means it hardly impacts your electricity bill when you use it. It’s something to keep in mind if you are looking to install an air conditioner.

Do you use an air conditioner during summer? How do you keep your home cool during periods of intense heat?

I’m linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

  • Great advice Bec – my husband tells me the same things!! Our system always stays on 24 degrees too, and we had it on 18+ hours a day over the weekend with the crazy heat. We are planning to have solar panels installed over the next few months which will hopefully help our power bill too. Wasn’t it nice to wake up this morning to some cooler weather?!?!

    • Your husband is a wise man. 🙂 The heat on the weekend was intense and I was glad to get home to cool down. Today was much nicer. 🙂

  • I never thought to turn it in before the heat hits! Great tip!

    • I tend to watch the weather the night before to see how hot it will be so that I know to turn it on in the morning. I mainly do this in Spring and Autumn though because in Summer, it’s on 24/7

  • Lisa Berriman

    Thank you! Sending this to my hubby as we are almost in our new house which will have air conditioning!! Solar panels are being installed today so that will help but we have never had air conditioning we it is good to know how to run it well.

    • Yay for solar panels and air conditioning. I can’t live in a house now without it. 🙂

  • writeofthemiddle

    Great tips Bec and we do all of them except when my husband is home he insists on waiting until the heat is unbearable before turning on the aircon. I will show him this post so that he can see that my opinion of getting it on before it is unbearable is less of a strain on the system!! 😉

    • Yes, please do show him. So much better on the system and your bill.

  • Like you, our a/c runs almost 24/7 – Mr 20 is a shift worker and I work from home so it is essential. Our power bill last Summer was just over $1000 for 3 months, I’m sure it will be much the same this year. If I thought we were staying here longer than a year I would get solar for sure but we are thinking of moving … oh and I find setting the a/c at 26 degrees is perfect. Just the fact it takes the humidity out of the air helps I think.

    • Yes, we averaged between $800-$1000 in the summer quarters, although now not much at all because of our panels. 🙂

  • staceyshailer

    I’ve never heard of a solar panelled air con before, will have to check it out’

    • Me neither until solar panels were a big thing a couple of years ago. I’m pretty sure Daikin and Fujitsu produce solar paneled air conditioners. 🙂

  • We used to use out air con a lot in Darwin but never 24/7. I need fresh air, or I feel stifled, so we would open the house up when it was a little cooler, although unless there was a monsoon around it was never ‘cool cool.’
    I’ve used it three times since living in SA. I like our power bill much better here. 🙂

    • Fresh cool air is best, but I definitely know if I lived up North I would live in air con. Maybe my body thermostat is damaged as a result? I can’t stand being hot, but don’t mind being cold and adding extra layers to keep warm. SA can have mixed seasons. I remember one weekend in December having to rug up because the weather was freezing!

  • I try not to use my air conditioner but had to use it over the weekend. Mine desperately needs a service AND a clean. I’ve got ducted air con the the big vent is filled with dust!

    • Yes, the cleaning of the vent can be a pain in the butt to do, but I find that it stops spreading more dust around the house and I don’t need to dust as much. 🙂

  • I’m definitely doing the solar panels to run the air con / hot water when we renovate. It’s prohibitive otherwise. We never run the air con and we get by with lovely cross-breezes, verandahs and a dip in the pool. Winter is more the time I need the air-con for warmth! x

    • Yes, I think if we lived down south, our biggest bills would be in winter to warm the place up. I love breezes on verandahs and dips in the pool. So good for the body and mind. 🙂

  • Simplify.Create

    This is such a great tip. I make us sweat it out then turn it on. I guess I will stop being a cool air tight ass haha thank you!

    • Ha! Yes, put it on when it’s cool to avoid a surge in power which means more dollars on the bill. 🙂

  • This is so obvious yet I always wait until I cant bear the heat anymore before switching mine on. Hmm, having to completely re-evaluate now.

    • I know, it feels like you are doing the right thing to save money by leaving if off for as long as you can but putting the air con on when it’s cooler means it doesn’t have to draw so much energy to cool the place down. 🙂

  • TeganMC

    Awesome tips! The house that I lived in before where I live now had electricity included in the rent. My room was like an icebox for the whole summer. I’m sure the Landlord must have loved his first bill after I moved out lol!

  • That’s really great advice, Bec. So often we leave it until it’s too hot before we put ours on. I’m always conscious of keeping it on 24 though. We had our aircon running from early morning over the weekend. I was worried that was what caused the power outage the other night, but it turns out it was a random occurrence on the south side. We do need to give ours a maintenance check though.

    • The maintenance is something that gets sidelined a bit but it’s important. I was speaking to a JP last night while getting documents signed and he told me that in the 5 years they had lived in their property they didn’t get it serviced and this week had two leaks which cost well over $2000 to fix and refill. 🙁

  • Excellent tips Bec. Thank you so much for sharing !

  • Lara at This Charming Mum

    These are some great ideas. I must admit the issue of whether or not to leave ours going 24/7 has been a hot debate in our house – looks like I just lost the argument! Thanks for the tips 🙂

    • Please keep it on if you know the day is gonna be hot. Sorry if you lost your debate… but at least you will be cooler?! 🙂

  • Such great tips – I especially love the one about putting the air con on in the morning before we start slow roasting in our home-oven!

    • No one wants to slow cook in their home Sammie. 🙂