Your house is getting warm on a hot day, so you set the thermostat to switch on the air conditioning system. Soon, your house begins to feel comfortably cool, and the AC runs for as long as necessary.
At least, this is home cooling is supposed to work. If your air conditioning in Lake City, FL was professionally installed so it has the right cooling output to provide comfort to your house, then you can expect to have few problems staying cool during the summer.
But you might wonder if there’s an upper limit to your air conditioning system, a level of heat that it can’t beat. You look at the thermostat and see the lowest setting is 60°F, which is pretty cold and not a temperature you’d normally want to be at during the summer. But it does make it seem like the AC can always get the house down to that low a temperature if necessary.
It’s not true, however. Yes, your AC has a cooling limit because of its temperature differential. Understanding this can help you better manage settings for the air conditioner during the summer.
The Temperature Differential and Cooling Capacity
An air conditioner is sized when it’s installed to ensure it has the cooling capacity to handle the size of the house and overcome heat sources (such as windows, appliances, etc.). Cooling capacity has to match a house, neither too big nor too small, and you can’t opt for an oversized one without running into massive energy waste.
The temperature differential is unrelated to cooling capacity: it’s the measure of how much an AC can lower the indoor temperature compared to the outdoor temperature. The differential is the same for most central air conditioning systems, regardless of their cooling capacity: they can lower the indoor temperature a maximum of 20°F. That’s the limit of how much heat an AC can pump out of the home.
Consider a 85°F day—a standard warm summer day here in Florida. The air conditioner in your house could lower the indoor temperature to 65°F at the most, although we wouldn’t recommend a setting this low. But on a blistering hot 100°F day, the AC won’t be able to lower the house temperature below 80°F. If you set the thermostat lower than that, the AC will run constantly trying to get to a temperature it can’t reach.
In general, you want the thermostat temperature raised higher, not only to avoid pushing the AC farther than it can go, but also to conserve energy and slow down how fast the house gains heat. (The bigger the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures, the faster heat moves indoors.) A recommended daytime temperature for when people are home is 78°F, which most people will find comfortable if they have light clothing on. When the outdoor temperature rises above 98°F, you can move up the thermostat to avoid putting too much strain on it. Following these guidelines will not only help the AC avoid overheating, it will also lower your cooling bills.
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