A common argument we hear all the time is whether it is more fuel efficient to run the A/C or is it better to just roll the windows down. With fuel prices as high as they are now, everyone is looking for ways to save at the pump but here’s the truth of the matter:
“The assumption that running your air conditioner burns way more gas is somewhat untrue. Leaving your air conditioner off makes barely any difference in the amount of gas you burn. With the advent of modern, more fuel efficient cars, this myth is busted!”
Automobile air conditioners get their power from the vehicle’s engine but with the efficiency of today’s engines this gas usage is minimal in most vehicles. Driving with the air conditioner is more fuel efficient than rolling the windows down due to the drag created from the wind coming into the car. This of course causes the engine to have to work harder to overcome the wind drag in order to maintain a certain level of speed which burns more fuel than operating the air conditioner.
Under most conditions you will find that utilizing your air conditioning is the better choice unless you happen to be stuck in traffic when there is no drag on the car from wind, yet most will just deal with the drain on fuel economy than sit in the heat, that’s the whole purpose of having A/C in the first place right?
As temperatures heat back up in the Spring and early summer remember before you try to get into a hot car to roll the windows down and let some of the heat out, it’s always best to leave them cracked a little just to keep from overheating when it gets really hot out. When you first turn your air conditioner on, turn it to recirculate and let the vehicle cool off before forcing yourself inside!
The bottom line is that sometimes you just feel like riding around with the windows down, it isn’t a huge difference on gas mileage either way. If you are the type that enjoys the analytical aspect it would be fun for you to test it, keep track of your fuel economy both ways and see what holds true for you.