What Is ECO Mode on Air Conditioner?

Eco Mode is a common energy-saving feature on modern air conditioners (ACs). It is especially common on window AC units, which tend to run in Eco Mode by default. Eco Mode is short for Economy Mode.

The main benefit of using Eco Mode is that your AC will lower the room temperature to the programmed temperature, then it will shut the system off when the programmed temperature has been reached.

Inside your  window AC or other AC type, the compressor works at a slower pace, using no more than 70% of its operating capacity. This is done to protect the AC’s condenser and motor from excessive use. You will find the room temperature rising between cycles, but your AC system will function more efficiently than when Cool Mode is enabled.  

Something to keep in mind: Eco Mode does not completely shut off your AC. Instead, it puts the system on pause, letting it rest until the room temperature rises. Your AC only shuts off entirely when you manually press the Off button.  

How Does Eco Mode Work on an Air Conditioner?

When setting your AC to Eco Mode, the system will cool your room as it normally does—but with a catch. Once the programmed temperature has been reached, the system automatically turns off. It does this to save you energy and money and to prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your AC.

When the system shuts itself off, you will not need to turn it back on manually. To ensure the room does not get too warm, the AC fan will run every few minutes and the unit will monitor the temperature. If the room temperature is above the programmed temperature, your AC will automatically turn on and cool down the room. (Note: How long it takes before the fan turns on will differ depending on your AC model and type.)

Depending on your specific AC unit, the Eco Mode may also have one or both of the following sensors: 

  • Motion sensor
  • Sunlight sensor

The purpose for the motion sensor is to detect movement in the room. If the sensor detects movement, the system will lower the ambient temperature to the programmed temperature. Once people leave the room and no motion is detected, then the system will automatically raise the programmed temperature to reduce power consumption. 

The sunlight sensor gauges how much sunlight is in the room. The more sunlight warmth the sensor detects, the harder the AC system will work to cool the room. If the sensor detects little sunlight warmth, then the system will lower its output. 

eco model on ac

When to Use Eco Mode in AC?

It is best to use Eco Mode on warm summer days when the temperature is between 65°F (18°C) and 78°F (25°C). In this temperature range, the outside air will not be overwhelmingly hot, so you will still feel comfortable inside when the AC system turns off between cycles. 

While Eco Mode can be useful any time of the day, there are specific circumstances in which it is most beneficial:

  • At night when you do not need the AC running at full throttle. 
  • When away from the house. Whether you are gone for a few hours or a few weeks, your home does not need to be as cool inside when no one is home. 

Due to Eco Mode working in cycles, it removes less humidity than Cool Mode or Auto Mode. As a result, if you live in an especially humid region, Eco Mode may not keep your home as cool as you prefer. This does not mean there is no benefit to using Eco Mode in humid regions, however. Since Eco Mode shuts off the system between cycles, the moisture left on the AC’s evaporator coil or in the drain pan will be able to drip outside, preventing mold from growing inside your AC. 

Does Eco Mode in AC Save Electricity?

Yes! Because Eco Mode in AC turns the system off when the programmed temperature is met, the system does not use as much electricity over time. It is the only AC feature that does this. 

Eco Mode also saves you money:

  • Less energy usage means less spent on monthly bills. How much money you save depends on how often you use your AC and what you are charged per month. However, you will notice an expense difference.
  • The compressor lasts longer. Eco Mode runs your compressor at a slower pace than Cool Mode, keeping it at no more than 70% capacity. Eco Mode also shuts the compressor off between cycles. Both aspects of Eco Mode prevent unnecessary wear and tear on the compressor, allowing it to have a longer lifespan and keeping you from needing a new AC.

Which is better: Eco Mode or Sleep Mode?

While Sleep Mode sounds similar to Eco Mode, it functions differently. Sleep Mode is intended for nighttime usage. When enabled, it increases the room temperature by 2°F (1°C) every half hour and maintains the increased temperature for 7 hours. After the 7-hour period, the system resets to the programmed temperature.

Sleep Mode uses less energy than most AC features, but since it does not run the compressor at a lower capacity or turn the system off throughout the night, Eco Mode is more energy-efficient.

Eco Mode vs. Auto Mode in AC

There are several differences between Eco Mode and Auto Mode:

  • Fan settings: When Eco Mode is enabled, you can manually change the fan’s settings to Low, Medium, or High according to your preference. Auto Mode, on the other hand, changes the fan speed automatically and does not allow any manual adjustments.
  • Proximity to programmed temperature: You may notice that Eco Mode is less consistent at maintaining the programmed temperature than Auto Mode. This is because Eco Mode’s purpose is to reduce energy consumption, but Auto Mode’s purpose is to maintain optimal comfort. 
  • Noise: Eco Mode makes less noise than Auto Mode since it runs the compressor at a lower capacity (70% maximum) and shuts the system off for periods of time. On the flipside, Auto Mode runs constantly and works the compressor much harder. When the compressor is working at full capacity, the AC makes a lot of noise. 

Written by

Rene has worked 10 years in the HVAC field and now is the Senior Comfort Specialist for PICKHVAC. He holds an HVAC associate degree and EPA & R-410A Certifications.
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