Is It OK to Leave the AC Off Upstairs?

With energy costs continually on the rise, many people start to cut costs by taking a look at the way they heat and cool their homes. If you have a multi-level home, you may want to consider just how much money you could save – or lose – by shutting off the AC to your home’s upper floors.

The Type of AC You Have

Most people run one of two different air conditioning systems in their homes. Some people use window units distributed around the house in the areas they use the most often, while others use central air conditioning, which uses the house’s ductwork and registers to cool the home.

Shutting off the AC on just one floor or area of the home makes an impact, depending upon which type of AC system you have.

Window Units

If you have window units, and you primarily stay in the lower level of your home, there is nothing wrong with turning the AC off upstairs. Heat rises, so turning off the AC on the upper floor (or floors) will not affect your comfort level downstairs, nor will it affect how much the units downstairs have to work. Keep in mind, however, that if the rooms upstairs do become overheated during the course of the day, it could take an AC unit longer to cool down upstairs rooms in the evening before bed, which leads to the use of more energy. You can often feel the heat even in your mattress or bed sheets.

When the weather cools off in the evenings, open up all of the windows upstairs before you turn on the AC units at night, in order to maximize your energy savings. The sun warms the walls of your home all day, and that heat will slowly transfer both inside and out, raising the temperature upstairs in the evenings. Opening the windows lets the heat out so your window units don’t have to work as hard when you turn them on.

Central Air

If you have central air in your home, you have two ways of shutting off the AC to specific parts of the home. You can opt to have your home zoned so that the thermostat only controls specific portions. If this is the case, then there is nothing wrong with leaving your AC off upstairs, provided you open up the windows at the end of the day to let the warm air escape before turning it on.

If you only have one zone in your home, however, the only way to turn off the AC for the upstairs portion of your home is to close the vents. Unfortunately, closing the vents will not save energy. And it will actually force your system to work even harder, which will cost you more money each month. Closing the vents and causing your system to work harder will also overload and eventually damage your AC unit, which will end up costing even more in repairs.

Therefore, if you have central AC in just one zone of the house, your best bet is simply to run the AC through the whole house at once. If you want to lower your energy costs, consider combining your AC with ceiling fans, and raising the thermostat a few degrees to decrease the amount of air conditioning you use.

Make Smarter Energy Choices

By examining the way that you use the air conditioning units in your home, you’re taking the first step toward making better choices about how you use energy. Make the right choice based on what type of unit or system you have in your home and keep cool while saving money.