Welcome to our blog! At SmartCentralSolutions our goal is to make the smart home more accessible and affordable for people to adopt, because as it becomes smarter, it should become easier. Today, we live in a great time where innovation and technology are moving so fast, keeping up is a challenge but also exciting.
To kickstart us off, since we (down here in Australia) are about to head into summer we thought a great first piece should be about something all people heading into this season will inevitably be doing… and that is to try to stay cool in the often unrelenting Australian summer heat.
On those extra warm days, for a lot of Australians they cool off by heading to the beach and the water, or hanging out in the local air conditioned shopping centre. Things may be different this year given our new way of living under the COVID conditions. People and families are staying at home more and that means relying on air conditioning, if you’re lucky to have one.
It’s very easy to turn on your air conditioning unit and leave it on during the day (and sometimes overnight on those sweltering days). But this comes at a literal cost at the end of summer or even during should you suffer a unit breaking down at the worse possible time. This is a guide to getting the most out of your unit while ensuring you’re saving as much energy (and money) as possible.
IS IT CLEAN
Before even getting into the operation of your air con unit, the most important basics need to be covered off. Cleaning and general maintenance of your unit. Depending on the type of unit you have, most unit manufacturers recommend a yearly service of your system to ensure everything is in working order ahead of time. There are however general cleaning you can undertake yourselves regularly.
Most units have removable air filters around the air intake/return. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on cleaning them, usually with water and possibly light soap. Since this is a source of air for the cycling of the air conditioning unit it directly affects the efficiency. An inefficient system not only makes your system work harder and therefore cost you more energy and money but it can lead to system failure and costly repairs.
If you have and external compressor unit, usually sitting outside your house, ensure it is clear and clean of any debris around the fans and radiator blades. Impediments to these components again affect your system’s efficiency.
DO WE HAVE A LEAK?
By a leak, it can come in a few forms. If you find your unit is not cooling as well as it used to despite having already performed the above cleaning step, then it is possible you may have a coolant leak. Coolant is the gas/liquid that is responsible for the direct cooling of the air. If this is occurring then it is definitely time to call in the professionals to diagnose and resolve the problem.
Another kind of leak can be with the ducting if you have a ducted air system. The ducts are responsible for carrying the conditioned air from the main unit to a room in your house. Again, if you notice a drop off in the cooling to a particular room then it is possible there is a leak or perforation in the duct along the line and you’re losing precious air before it reaches your room. If it is accessible and you are so inclined, you may elect to make the repair yourself, but patching up the leak if possible or replacing the portion that has been damaged.
KEEP IT SERVICED
Just like you wouldn’t ignore the servicing of your car, your air conditioning unit follows the same principle. There is a motor and involves a lot of moving parts, which can wear away over time. Best to have it checked out and serviced by a specialised technician familiar with servicing your brand of unit.
Now that the boring cleaning and maintenance stuff is out of the way, onto using it in the most optimal ways possible.
SETTING THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE
While most of us during the heat would like to turn the temperature right down and keeping the home frosty cool, this will obviously consume great amount of energy and ultimately land you a high electricity bill. Recommendations from experts on the optimal temperature will vary but as a guide aim for a cooling temperature of 25-26 deg Celsius. In general, each degree decrease will consume approximately 10% more energy.
Your home conditions may vary as well as your comfort levels but aim for the highest temp level that you and your family can comfortably tolerate.
REDUCE YOUR COOLING SPACE
Look at how your air conditioning unit is set up, is it by rooms or zones? Where possible, reduce the number of zones/rooms you occupy during air conditioning operation. Cooling a small space is more efficient than cooling the whole house, especially when it is not necessary. Close off doors/partitions to spaces not being occupied or actively cooled to further increase efficiency.
Eliminate air drafts door snakes, close up windows just as you would in winter to reduce heat escaping, it works in the same way with your precious cool air.
It should go without saying, close off any windows to the outside of the house. Where there is a significant temperature different, the environment will naturally try to equalise that difference.
To further preserve your cooling (and heating during winter) is to take another look at the insulation you have in your home. You may need to engage specialists to come in and examine with thermal equipment where your problem areas to address or improve.
During operation, where possible, keep your blinds/shutters closed on windows with direct facing sun. You may be sacrificing natural light but during the hottest parts of the day, the heat coming through those windows can have a dramatic difference in heating up your interiors.
GETTING SMART WITH AIR CON
In most cases one would switch on the air con, set the temperature, enable the appropriate zones and then walk away. We would then trust the unit to maintain that steady temperature throughout the day. Easy right?
Often we get quite lazy, perhaps not switch off a zone when we leave an area or maybe a cool change has come in. We can be slow to react and that may end up costing us more energy and money.
With an adequately equipped smart home, it does not require much overhead to add some extra intelligence into the system. Motion sensors are common home devices these days and are used in an assortment of scenarios like security systems, night lights and general lighting. Integrating strategically positioned motion sensors with your home automation system will allow you an additional layer of intelligent control over your air conditioning system (provided your unit supports home automation integration).
With motion sensors, your home automation effectively has “eyes” around your home can with the detection of movement or the mere absence of it, can then be a trigger to turn on or off particular zones it believes are not being used after a period of time. Now one can do this manually but who would be inclined to do this consistently?
With a weather internet service, your home automation system can even notify you when the environmental temperature has reached comfortable levels or take that extra step to back down the air con levels or completely switch it off.
Or the opposite, on detection of a high temperature event, notify you that air con is coming on automatically and remind you to close up windows.
Another common drain on energy is heating/cooling overnight. Since we are asleep we may not require the same level of cooling. Pre-programed schedules can be employed to control the air con to come on at certain times over the course of the night or you can again rely on weather service or internal temperature sensors to trigger the air con when needed.
There are simply no limits to the number of scenarios that you wish to define to make your life easier and more comfortable.
OTHER ENERGY EFFICIENCY TIPS
Electricity prices in Australia in general are high. But even though we might be able to afford it, cutting our electricity usage overall is a good thing while the bulk of our power production still comes from non-renewable sources.
If you’re setting out to buy a new air con unit, take the time to research the most suitable type of unit for your home that meets your cooling/heating requirements. Aim for models with high energy saving modes. Don’t just look for the lowest retail price but considering its energy requirements to factor in the total cost of ownership.
Other ways to offset your energy usage is via installation of a good quality roof-top solar PV system which is popular with a large proportion of Australian homes. For the majority, heating/cooling represents the biggest portion of consumers’ energy bills so to have a solar PV system goes a long way to reduce and sometimes come out in front. Do the maths based on your needs to then figure out what you’ll need.