Technology – Isn’t it great?!
When the rubber hits the road

The breeze or the freeze: air versus air-conditioning

Windows up? Windows down? Air conditioning cranked?  What’s a driver to do?

Dog head out car window

My 16 year old daughter (new driver) and I got into quite an animated discussion last week on how best to stay cool when driving.  We are fortunate enough to live in a climate where plus 30 degrees Celsius is considered a heat wave (and no humidity) – so we do have choices as far as either rolling the windows down or putting the AC on. But what about the impact on fuel efficiency?

So I googled the words “Windows versus AC” and wham!  63 million hits later…..and everyone seems to have an opinion! Personally, I like to have the windows down when driving around the city – and then rolled up on the highway with the AC on low – but that’s just me – or so I thought. After reading various articles and blogs, I headed to the Consumer Report website to get their take on this.


Some people advise you not to run the air conditioner because it puts more of a load on the engine, which can decrease fuel economy. But others say that opening the windows at highway speeds can affect gas mileage even more by disrupting the vehicle's aerodynamics. In our tests in a Honda Accord, using air conditioning while driving at 65 mph reduced the vehicle's gas mileage by over 3 mpg. The effect of opening the windows at 65 mph was not measurable.


And so, like the Kennedy assassination, the windows-versus-air conditioning question continues to defy any attempt to lay it to rest.

Bottom line? Do what's most comfortable when driving on the highway since you're not going to save a whole lot of gas either way, say experts.


If you're driving around town on errands, you might save some gas rolling down the windows instead of using the A/C.


If anyone else has words of wisdom on the subject, I’d love to hear it.

Photo credit: sighthound

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