Windows Down or Air Conditioning Up?

Posted by Motorama in Motoring Tips

As Queenslanders we are truly blessed to live in a state where the sun is often shining and the temperatures are usually high - there's a reason they call this the sunshine state after all! 

However one of the downsides of living in such a warm climate is that sometimes you might find yourself stuck in a hot car and dying for a bit of cool breeze or fresh air. If you found yourself in this situation, what would you do? Would you reach for the air conditioning knob and crank up the AC?

Or would you wind down the window and let the cool, fresh air from outside rush in? It's one of the oldest driving questions around, with everyone having a different opinion about which option is more comfortable and, most importantly, which one is more fuel-efficient! 

One of the most commonly cited studies on this issue was conducted by scientists from the Society of Automotive Engineers in 2004, who used an aerodynamic wind tunnel in order to compile their final results. 

They found that while rolling the windows down in a vehicle will significantly increase the drag of that vehicle, it will not increase fuel consumption as much as using the air conditioning will. Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of the popular TV show Mythbusters have also devoted some time to this hotly debated issue.

Both busters took an SUV to the Altamont Raceway in Northern California and drove around at 72 km/hour. Savage rolled down his windows, while Hyneman relied on having his air conditioning system to keep himself cool, and Savage's car ended up running for 24 kilometers longer than Hyneman's! 

So how can I reduce my fuel consumption?

The general consensus today is that driving with your windows down is more fuel efficient than driving with the air conditioning cranked up to maximum, particularly if you are travelling at speeds lower than 70 km/hour. 

However this may not always be true, and the actual efficiency of your car will depend on many different factors. Furthermore, you don't really want to be worrying about how much petrol you're using while driving in the heat, do you? 

You’d much rather just be comfortable and cool, and have the freedom to use whichever cooling system you prefer.

For that reason, people really looking to reduce fuel consumption would be better off considering other options, such as reducing the amount of weight they carry in the vehicle, and using more efficient driving techniques. You can check out our tips for improving your fuel-efficiency here.

You might also like to come down to your local Motorama dealership, to discuss with an expert whether you might benefit from upgrading to a more eco-friendly and fuel-efficient model than you are currently driving.