How to Live in a Perfectly Cooled World: A Guide to Air Conditioning

Did you know there’s a temperature that’s best for comfort and productivity? According to a study by Cornell University, the ideal temperature for office work is around 77°F (25°C) and according to chief of sleep medicine Ralph Downey III, the optimal temperature for getting a good night’s sleep is between 65–72°F (18–22°C). The best temperature for hanging ‘round the house, eating, playing games or watching television, according to Energy Star, is about 78°F (26°C). So, unless you want to manually adjust the temperature every three to four hours and set a whole bunch of reminders on your phone, the first step to comfortable living is installing a programmable thermostat. This gamechanger will match the temperature in your home to your routine and schedule.

A few quick tips on testing your AC:

  • Avoid having to deal with maintenance issues under sweltering heat and check your unit before summer hits.
  • When testing your AC, find a time when the weather is above 13°C (55°F), remove protective covers, turn down your thermostat by 5 degrees and let your AC run for 20 minutes. If it generates cool air without creating any bangs, squeaks or scrapes, you’re good to go. If noises occur, it’s time to call a licensed professional.

Buying an AC unit can make you feel like Goldilocks looking for the right bowl of porridge. Get one that’s oversized, and your air conditioner will constantly turn on and off. Get one that’s undersized and it’ll wear itself out quickly. Not only that, it could lead to temperature inconsistencies, insufficient cooling, low airflow and a higher energy bill. Because every home is different, one of the more important steps is determining how much cooling capacity your house needs. Ask your service provider to do a complete load calculation by factoring in square footage, layout, insulation and load-generating appliances. It’s kind of like most things you buy for your house, always measure beforehand.

As cooling devices go, ceiling fans are underrated. They’re designed to work in tandem with the HVAC system to keep cool air or heat circulating throughout your home so you can save more on your energy bill. Just remember this simple rule, counterclockwise during the summer, clockwise during the winter (yup, they’re useful in the cold seasons too).

Where is your thermostat sitting? Is it right under a big beam of sunshine? Is it covered by a heavy curtain? Is it next to a lamp? Next to a door? Is it in a room where you often open the window? Is it inside a cabinet so that no air can get out? A lot of these things are unintentional. Well, except for the cabinet. But blocking AC vents or confusing its readings with other forms of heat can make the thermostat signal for more cooling unnecessarily. Find an interior wall without any pipes or ducts running through, ideally in a space you use frequently at a height of 52-60 inches. Note: avoid the kitchen and bathroom as too much heat fluctuation occurs in those areas.

Lastly (but not leastly?). Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. Have your system serviced annually to keep your system running efficiently to get the most out of your equipment. You might be thinking, “Oh, I’ll check it out myself.” But then again, are you really going to read that textbook of a manual? Leave it to the professionals to get your equipment running according to the specifications.

To avoid excessive maintenance, you can easily clean or change your filters once every three months yourself. First, take your thermostat off heating or cooling mode and set the fan to auto. Then, remove the furnace filter, note the size and buy a replacement filter that matches, or clean and dry it if you have a plastic reusable one. Finally, find the direction of airflow printed on the frame and follow the markings when placing it back inside the furnace.

Actually, one more thing. Don’t be tempted to make your house feel like a fridge. Setting your thermostat higher is ideal for multiple reasons. One, your body is capable of adapting to seasonal temperatures within a week or two. Two, you’ll cut up to 3% off your energy bill for every degree you raise the temperature. Three, think of the planet! It’s a win, win, win.