How to use your air conditioner to save money and energy

If you’re fortunate enough to have access to home air conditioning (AC), perhaps the recent sweltering temperatures across Canada haven’t been too unbearable.

The downfalls to using AC include increased electricity demand, especially when everyone cranks them up at the same time, which presents a challenge for electricity systems, according to Brendan Haley, director of policy research at Efficiency Canada, an organization housed at Carleton University’s Sustainable Energy Research Centre working towards an energy efficient economy.

“This creates peak demands that electricity systems must supply, and often this requires use of polluting fossil fuels or expensive imports from outside the province,” he said in an email to

There are a few ways to use air conditioners more efficiently and effectively though, according to Haley.


If you’re looking to buy a new air conditioner, Haley suggests looking for units with ENERGY STAR labels and high seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) ratings, to ensure you get the most energy-efficient and cost-effective machine.

The ENERGY STAR label is an internationally recognized symbol on products, homes, buildings or industrial facilities to show that it is certified to use less energy and reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.

Air conditioners on the market today have SEER ratings that range from 13 to 25. The SEER rating determines how much energy and money an AC unit needs to effectively run in a single year. A higher the SEER rating means the unit uses less energy.

Instead of an air conditioner, consider buying a heat pump, which provides both AC for the summer and heating during the winter, according to Haley.

“You’ll save energy during the winter and help the environment by using less fossil fuels or less efficient electric heating,” he said.


Don’t ever run your AC when windows and doors are open, letting in outdoor air inside, Haley said.

“You should prevent that cool air from escaping your building with good air sealing and insulation,” he said, adding an energy audit of the building can help determine how insulated it is.

On days with a breeze, he suggests taking advantage of “nature’s cooling technologies” by cracking the windows on cooler nights, and closing blinds during the day to block the sun’s heat.

“Your comfort is not only based on temperature, but other factors such as humidity, air circulation, and heat from the sun. To keep cool, reduce humidity in your home by perhaps not cooking that meal that requires a lot of water boiling on a hot day,” says Haley, who also suggests using a dehumidifier or fans to boost air flow.


Electricity costs in some areas, such as Ontario, are more expensive during the day than at night. Because of this, it’s a good idea to strategically time when your air conditioner works its hardest, says Haley.

Canada HVAC, an online air conditioning and heater retailer and installation company, also suggests using a programmable thermostat which has smart features to adjust the temperatures based on daily routines and needs. As a result, this can improve the AC’s efficiency.

To encourage people to time when their AC turns on, there are incentivised programs, such as Peak Perks, where Ontarians get rewarded for saving energy and reducing their AC use on the hottest summer days in Ontario.

The federal government also suggests calculating how much your overall energy usage costs are before buying a new unit of any kind.

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