A home’s energy efficiency depends on the choices homeowners make when it comes to their cooling unit, home size and lifestyle factors. To save on your home’s energy costs and significantly reduce your bill, these factors must be closely aligned.

Mrs. Cate Bacon discovered for herself what a difference consciously addressing the true energy sinkholes in her household could make on her family’s financial costs.

For Mrs. Bacon, the largest power-grab was her pool, air conditioner and clothes dryers. At first, it seemed like a matter of simply having moved into a bigger home. But she observes that the reality is, most homeowners simply ‘have no idea what it costs’.

She adds, ‘[Homeowners] set it and forget it the whole year; they’re unnecessarily spending all this money on it. People really need to do quite a lot of research…you could save a fortune.’

This article aims at helping you do that deliberate research so you can pick the right unit, with the right features for your home’s size and your family’s lifestyle needs.

Size Matters!

It’s easy to become quickly overwhelmed when shopping for the right unit — let alone trying to research the various options.

First off, you’ll want to choose a model that runs at either equal or slightly greater capacity for the room. We’ll show you below what your calculations should include but essentially, a room that calls for a 6kW model can be installed with a cooling capacity up to 6.5kW.

Anything lower than your calculated threshold and your room remains underpowered, causing your cooling unit to run more often and at maximum output. Besides excessive wear and tear on the unit, this results in air that is far too dry and a bill that is far too high.

The first thing to do is calculate what size or capacity of cooling unit a particular room will need. Cooling and heating units are measured in kilowatts or ‘kW’. Naturally, small, enclosed rooms will require a unit with fewer kWs than one that is larger or designed in an open-concept style.

Things to consider:

  • The dimensions, in length, width and height of your room
  • The type of room you’re installing the unit within (example: kitchen, bedroom, bathroom — these will all have their own needs)
  • The insulation of the floor, ceiling and walls in that room, including what material is used for flooring (example: tiled floors in the bathroom will remain cooler longer versus carpeting in a living room)
  • The climate of your region
  • The size, placement, orientation and number of windows and glass doors the room you’re focusing on has. North- and west-facing windows, for example, will naturally absorb heat in the summer.

How Can I Save on Energy Costs?

Quick tips

If your model comes with an ‘economy’ setting, make sure to use this, especially when you’re not home. And set the thermostat to a steady and consistent temperature so it’s not forced to blast cool air constantly.

Star-rating labels

The star-rating system helps consumers keep their energy costs low. It also keeps power grids across Australia from being overwhelmed in peak seasons. This ‘Energy Rating’ initiative across Australia and New Zealand also has rules for air conditioners and their efficiency.

There are now also new regulations and labels for portable and ducted models so that consumers have greater flexibility in purchasing options. Look for a high star-rating on your chosen model for the greatest efficiency.

Working with temperature settings

It’s important to keep track of the temperature outside and then gauge accurately just how cool you need the room to be. For example, a hot day at 35°C does not necessarily call for a temperature setting on your thermostat of 20°C. Instead, set your thermostat temperature to 25°C or 26°C to start.

Then, as it hits later afternoon, you can start to place the temperature one or two degrees cooler. Doing so saves you not only on your bill but also on the wear and tear that comes from running a system at its maximum for long periods of time. This is a more sustainable way to decrease the temperature and your energy costs.

Note that the most efficient way to use your cooling unit is to set it for a differential of 8°C between the internal and external temperature. Anything more than that will increase your costs to about 10% by each degree. You might also consider the thermal efficiency of your home, through insulation or double-glazed windows, to help remain in the region of this differential.

Choosing the right features

Besides these practices, can choosing the right unit make a difference?

Absolutely. Many models come with their own ‘smart’ features that help the unit situationally respond. Or, you can program is to kick in at certain times and shut off at others.

Human presence sensor: As the feature states, the human presence sensor is designed to detect when someone is actually in the room. At this point, it can increase and work to keep a room cool. Once it senses the room is empty, it can return to economy mode.

Wi-Fi control: Another way to ‘remotely’ control your cooling unit, this feature allows you to hook up your model to the Wi-Fi network in your home.

Then, through an app on your smartphone, you can control the flow of temperature, turn it on and off, pre-cool a room or the house before you return (while turning it off through the day) and more.

Some apps will also give you updates and diagnostics on the unit itself so you can perform preventative maintenance or repair before it becomes a problem.

Sleep mode: Intended specifically for times when the house is occupied but when everyone is sleeping, this function sets the temperature down in steps, allowing the room to be optimally cooled for sleep while keeping the air conditioning unit working more quietly during the nighttime hours.

Using PeakSmart: Also known as ‘DREDs’ or ‘Demand Response Enabling Devices’, new air conditioning models often include a ‘PeakSmart’ feature, allowing homeowners, in conjunction with participating energy companies, to remotely control the unit during periods of peak electricity demand. It’s not about shutting off your unit but, rather, switching to ‘Economy’ mode, reducing a household’s overall energy demands and the demands on the electricity grid at large.

When you run a home, there’s no reason why you can’t be running efficiently, consciously and effectively. It all starts with an honest evaluation of your temperature needs and careful research of your chosen model. Use these tips by Staycool or contact us to learn more about how you can make your home in Melbourne more energy-efficient and cost-effective.