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Energy-saving guide for Northern Australia

Top tips for running your air conditioner

To stay cool for less, begin by taking advantage of the climate-friendly features that your home can provide.

Before putting on the air conditioner, follow the climate-specific tips in this guide, including seeking out shady, elevated verandahs and outdoor living areas, and making effective use of adjustable vents, louvres and blinds to manage comfort levels.

Wall mounted air conditioner blowing cold air and being operated by someone with a remote control.

When things get too hot and you need to turn on air conditioning, follow our tips to get the most out of your cooling system and minimise your energy costs.

Fans

Fans are a great first choice for cooling as they can improve comfort levels so you feel about 3°C cooler. They’re also much cheaper to run than air conditioners. As fans cool you (not the room) by creating air flow, arrange seating and other furniture to take advantage of their effect. Pedestal fans are useful in areas where ceiling fans don’t reach.

Running your fan at the same time as your air conditioner may increase it’s effectiveness by boosting the circulation of chilled air in the room. Running the air conditioner at a higher setting for less time will save you energy.

Don’t run your air conditioner too cold

Each degree of extra cooling increases energy consumption by 5 to 10%. To save money, operate the air conditioner at a higher temperature setting, between 25 to 27°C and use a timer to avoid running it when you don’t need it.

Weather monitors

Check outside conditions (you can use a temperature gauge or weather station with an indoor display or alert system) to help decide when to switch off and open up windows, doors and louvres as temperatures cool. The next morning, don’t forget to maintain the cool by closing up again, before the outdoor temperature heats up.

Digital household weather station

Beat the heat

When high temperatures are forecast you can stop your home heating up by turning on your air conditioner before it gets really hot—the system won’t have to work as hard when the outside air temperature is cooler. You can then maintain these cooler indoor temperatures more efficiently by using a timer and by combining the air conditioner’s operation with a fan.

Close the doors

When using your air conditioner, close all doors and windows and shut off doors to adjoining rooms that are not being used. When deciding where to install your air conditioner, choose an easily sealable room that has been insulated. Not only will that help you feel its impact sooner, but you won’t be paying unnecessarily high energy costs by trying to cool your entire home and having the chilled air leak out vents, windows and doors.

Keep it clean

Cleaning your air conditioner filters with a brush, hose or vacuum every two weeks during use, as well as cleaning and dusting fans, will help these appliances operate more effectively, saving you money. Don’t forget about maintaining and servicing your system as outlined in the manufacturer’s instructions. Regular cleaning of fly screens on windows and doors can allow more breezes into your home.

A woman cleaning an airconditioner

Manage for mould

Before opening up your house after using an air conditioner, allow the inside temperature to rise to the same temperature as outside to avoid condensation forming leading to problems with mould. See our mould tips under ‘Tropical’.

Products for cleaning mould

Power off

Appliances use standby power and create heat even when not in use. This includes lights, ovens, dishwashers, computers and entertainment equipment. To reduce the indoor temperature and your energy bills, turn off lights when you leave rooms, cook outside where possible and run dishwashers and washing machines overnight or set a timer to run them in the early morning. By turning off appliances at the wall you can reduce your electricity use by up to 10%.

Go with the stars

When it's time to purchase or replace your air conditioner, look for the most energy efficient system you can afford. Systems are rated from 0 to 10 stars—the more stars, the better.

Cooling and Heating Energy Labels star rating

Cool the room, not the entire home

Non-ducted split systems are the most efficient air conditioning option. These avoid the energy loss that comes from pumping air through the ducts, as well as the wasted energy used to cool your whole house, rather than just the rooms you’re using.

Choose for your climate

Select cooling-only units for tropical climates and reverse cycle (sometimes called heat pumps) for hot arid where both heating and cooling functions are needed. For hot arid climates consider alternatives such as evaporative cooling.

Size is important

Ensure you select the correct-sized system for your needs, taking into account local climate conditions, house and room design and lifestyle. It pays to get a professional to assist you as an incorrectly sized unit will be very inefficient and cost more to run.

Look for inverter technology

Inverter technology enables an air conditioner’s compressor to operate at variable speeds, depending on the output required. It’s now available with most reverse cycle air conditioners, and can reduce running costs, particularly over longer operating periods. Inverter air conditioners generally maintain more even temperatures.

Choose an efficient fan

Fans are cheaper to run than air conditioners, and you can make them even more so by choosing an energy-efficient model (note: fans don’t have star ratings). Power consumption rates of different units vary widely (from 50 to 100W). Those with a lower wattage save energy over time. The amount of airflow is also important. An efficient fan producing 140 cubic metres of airflow a minute typically has a power of 75W. Regular cleaning will help a fan to operate at its best.

Man in a red shirt installing a household ceiling fan to reduce energy costs.

Go solar PV

While installation of a solar PV system requires a considerable upfront investment, it can provide significant ongoing savings on your energy bills, allowing your air conditioner to be powered by renewable energy.

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