Blog Post Thursday 21 May 2020
Winter is great for a lot of things - curling up with a good book and coffee, or playing board games with the family. Movie nights and all the popcorn you can eat. But one thing that winter makes difficult is sleeping. After all, the last thing you want is to wake with a cold because you’ve let your body temperature drop while asleep.
The temptation can be to set that air conditioner to “toasty warm,” but if you do that night in, night out, and the power bill at the end of the season will be a real shock. Making the most efficient use of air conditioning in winter is the best way to balance things out and find the happy middle ground.
Say you don’t use an air conditioner or heater at all in the depths of winter. You’ve got your warm pyjamas on, of course, and plenty of blankets. But imagine that you throw those blankets off at some point through the night (or your partner steals them to wrap themselves up more warmly… we’ve all been there!). By the time your body has woken up from the cold settling in, it’s too late and you’ve picked up the sniffles.
That’s putting aside the fact that being woken up in the middle of sleep is itself a problem. One of the main reasons that it’s important to make sure that the ambient temperatures in the home is kept at a comfortable level is that cold temperatures can disrupt sleeping patterns, making you feel lethargic and making it harder to concentrate on work or study the next day.
Another issue with the cold is that it becomes easier to develop muscle tiredness and pain – it’s actually harder for the body to relax when it’s cold, and that means that not only will your sleep be less restful than it should be, but you’ll wake up the next morning with aches and a bad mood.
All of this may tempt you to throw the temperature right up. The problem is that this can be unnecessarily expensive and a complete waste, especially if it simply causes you to throw off the blankets and sleep like it’s summer. In extreme cases, it can even be dangerous, with incidents of stroke and heart attack being linked to elderly people overheating at night.
The first thing you need to know is that there isn’t a “perfect” temperature for every person. If there are babies or the elderly in the home, then you’ll likely need a warmer environment. If someone has come down with a cold or other illness, they too are going to want to stay warm as they sweat it out. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people that feel uncomfortably hot when other people are perfectly comfortable.
The general guideline is that 21°C - 22°C is the “magic number,” in that it’s the temperature that many agree is ideal year-round, but you may need to tweak that number a couple of degrees in either direction to find what’s right for you and your household.
The trick is to set the thermostat at the lower end of the range that everyone finds comfortable. If someone is feeling particularly chilly that night they can always “rug up,” but ultimately you don’t want people in the household stripping down or even getting a sweat going, either.
If you’ve got a reverse cycle air conditioner, it can be an ideal way to warm the house in winter efficiently. A reverse cycle air conditioner pulls warm air out of the atmosphere (yes, there is warm air even in the depths of a winter’s night), and pushes it through a refrigerant to warm the interior. In comparison to a heater, which works by consuming energy to warm something out, which then radiates heat into the space, an air conditioner is far more power-efficient.
The most effective way to use an air conditioner in winter is to allow it to slowly ease off over the night. Say, for example, your household sets the “base temperature” at 21°C:
If your air conditioner doesn’t have those features, simply set the temperature to that lower point before turning in. If you close doors and seal the rooms that you want to keep warm the additional heat will linger to allow you to sleep, with the air conditioner only cutting in again once temperatures drop below your sleeping “minimum.”
Using your air conditioner intelligently is the best way to keep the house comfortably warm and your family healthy and safe through winter without blowing the budget on the power bill.